And then, just as suddenly as it broke down, it works perfectly again.
I fiddled around with the bike a bit yesterday. I was trying to get to the ignition switch so I could see if anything was wrong there, but after removing lots of bodywork I realized pretty much the whole fairing had to come off. So, on a whim just to be sure the bike was truly broken, I hooked up the battery, plugged the starter relay switch back in, and turned the key. The lights turned on. They didn’t before. I got even more daring and tried starting the engine. It worked.
I got out the voltmeter and poked around a bit. One possible cause of the melted plastic was a failing voltage regulator supplying too much voltage. But watching the meter while revving up the engine disproved that theory – 14 volts all the way. It could be as simple as a dirty connection added resistance, which added heat, which melted a little plastic, which added more resistance, more heat, etc. until the chain reaction left me stranded on Cape Cod.
The next test was a difficult one – take it for a ride on a warm sunny day! I got out the mesh jacket for the first time this year and rode a few loops that kept me close to home, so that if it broke down again my tow would be free. The bike ran flawlessly. I also got chatting for a while with a guy on a Royal Enfield. He was as interested in my PC800 as I was in his antique British bike.
I would say my entire Cape Cod adventure was ruined by a simple bad electrical connection. For now, since it’s working, I plan to clean the connections the best I can, add some dielectric grease, and keep rebuilding my confidence in the bike before any more long trips. I may also replace the wiring harness (if I can find one) and the starter relay switch anyway, just to be sure. Fortunately, I have no longer trips planned yet, so no schedule is affected while I go through this process. My hours at work just went essentially full time, plus I’m off to the Empire State Performance Rally in two weeks to ride shotgun in the sweep vehicle. (The ham radio will temporarily come out of the bike for this.) I’ve got a couple of day trips I can do, including Cape Cod again, and I can start planning some weekend getaways. Once I settle into the revised job situation a bit I can start negotiating time off extending some weekends for some longer trips.