Sunday, June 28, 2020

Playing with a Ducati fuel level sender

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I put a post on my Facebook page a while ago about Dcuati parts not being covered by warranty if not fitted by an authorised workshop.  The part that prompted that was a fuel level sender I had purchased for a mid 90's 900SS.  The dealer I bought it from did cover it for me, but that was what they were being told.

Anyway, in that case my customer needed a fuel sender for his 900SS as the light wasn't working.  Shorting the terminals in the loom tank connector made the light come on.  Pretty easy diagnosis.  I ordered one in, fitted it, made sure the light was on with the tank empty then put the fuel back in it and made sure the light went off.  It did.  Bingedy boom, Bob's ya f--king auntie.

As it turned out, Bob was an imposter.  The owner called to say the light wasn't coming on.  He came back, I ran the test again as above - no light.  I ordered another sender and when it arrived it was fitted and job done - I haven't heard of any further issues.

Which meant I had this dud sender on the bench.  The dealer didn't want it back, and I tend to keep all this sort of stuff just because connectors, etc, can be handy.  And I was also convinced that when I had fitted it, I'd checked it properly.  But, as with most things that end up on a bench, it had sat simply because I'd had no need to consider it further.

Until Friday, when the 400SS hit the road.  Although I've owned this bike since 2012, its never been near the road as a bike, and there were a few things about it that I didn't know.  Given how much of a dud it was when I bought it (imagine an Ebayer not telling the whole truth!) I shouldn't have been surprised when I realised on Friday, while heading over to see the club man for the permit papers, that the trip meter wasn't doing anything and that I should have been quite a bit through the 5 litres of fuel I'd put in the dry tank after it was painted.  Enough that the fuel light should be on.  I made a precautionary fill up on the way back and put over 14 litres into it without trying, so it was low.

The sender in the bike would most likely be the original, certainly it's the old design.


The current sender to suit the carby SS, 59210161A, is one of the typical black plastic tubes types with the correct eyelets for the fuel pump terminals and is around $330 locally.  As such, I was pretty keen to not have to buy a new one.  Hence my decision to pick up the alleged dud and see what happened.  I plugged it into the connector, turned the key on and waited the 20 or so seconds for the time delay and the fuel light came on.  Result!  Turned it upside down, heard the float go clonk, light off.  Turned it up the right way again, wait 20 seconds, light back on.  Ok.  So what's wrong with it you might ask?  I certainly did.  I figured I might as well fit it properly and see what happened.

59210161A, image stolen from Belt and Bevel, who allegedly have one in stock.


Short answer - what happened was, it didn't work.  Things started well - the light was on when the tank was empty.  But it didn't go out terribly convincingly when it was covered in fuel.  I usually find these things like some sort of vibration to bring the light on - I often do these tests with the engine running or, if not, tap the tank gently repeatedly.  In this instance, that developed into me going it perhaps a little more aggressively than ideal with a long screw driver handle and eventually the light went out.  As anticipated, it didn't come back on when the fuel was drained again, so out the sender came.

Taking a step that I usually don't with a new "sealed" electrical component that doesn't work, I thought I pull it apart and have a Captain Cook.  Nothing to lose anyway.

The top has a small metallic stud sort of thing on top, which looked to me like it might be solder.  Applying the soldering iron confirmed that, and the solder shook off.  The plastic cap turned out to not be retained by that though, it just clips in and out


The solder retains the little steel top hat that stops the float.  Once the solder was gone, it pulled off with a little twisting with pliers.






Taking the float out, it looked to me like it had some ridges at the ends that were maybe jamming, so I put it in the lathe and tried to machine it a little.  In hindsight, I wouldn't recommend doing that at all.  It looked like something hard, but it sort of powdered when I hit it with the tool and it's also soft and doesn't hold too well.  I made a bit of a mess of it, and then wondered if the outer was some sort of sealing cover that stopped fuel getting into the float's foamy cell.  I guess if it does fill with fuel the light will just stay on.  Note to self time.  Undesired result is below.


Reassembled and refitted again, it delivered a similar result. This time, after the sender was covered with fuel, the light just wouldn't go out.  No amount of tapping, etc, made any difference.  In an attempt to move it around a little, I lifted the front of the tank and noticed a heap of air bubbles coming out the two little holes in the cap.  I found that a little odd, so drained the fuel and removed the sender again - this time keeping it upright hoping what was wrong inside it might not change.  When I popped the little cap out, the float was up and the unit was still full of fuel - an obvious problem.

The reason that's an obvious problem is because there's a hole in the side.  Well, there's meant to be.  Looking at the "hole" in the side a bit harder I realised that the drill hadn't been leant on hard enough.  


Leaning on a 2mm drill a bit harder, I got this:


With that, I reassembled and refitted again with supreme confidence, confidence rewarded with a fuel light going off then coming back on with variations in fuel level.  Woohoo!  Fixed.

Of course, I then re-entered the living hell of getting the fuel cap carrier rubber surround ring back in place.  When I reassembled the tank a couple of weeks ago I finally managed to stretch the rubber enough to get it to stay in place long enough to jam it into the top of the tank.  This time, I gave up and borrowed a pair of hands.  I haven't done that for at least 11 years.

All I have to wait for now is my molested float to fail.
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1 comment:

Unknown said...

Thanks! I've got dead senders of both types I'm about to have a go at fixing. The early type (aluminium) Has a thermister under the stainlesscan on the top. I understand that these are not reliable so I bought some new ones to replace it with. I'll let you know if I have some success. This NEEDS done as I'm about to go on holiday with the bike and it can be a long way between petrol stations on some of the Norwegian roads I'll be riding.