/6 Series, 1975-76 Electrical Components

This document is part of a series of airhead electrical systems documents. You can find the others here.

This document describes the various electrical components used in the /6 Series of BMW “airhead” motorcycles and summarizes how they work.  The /6 series was manufactured from 1974-1976. I include a number of references in the Resources section containing much more detail about how the /5 and /6 Series components work and the differences compared to later airhead series.

The /6 series is an evolutionary step forward from the /5 series. Consequently, many of the /6 series components function in the same way as the /5 series. For this reason, this document includes links to the appropriate section of the /5 Series Electrical Components document referenced above. For each component, I’ll indicate if the /6 series component is the same as the /5 series, or what modifications occurred in the /6 series. Where new components were added in /6 series, I’ll discuss their function.

Resources

Here is a list of resources I used to help me prepare this material.

NOTE:
As a convention, I use BOLD CAPITAL LETTERS to indicate a solid wire color and use the same color for the letters. If the wire has a stripe, I use bold Initial capital letter for the stripe color with the letters the same color as the strip, e.g., REDGREENRed.

Links to sections in this and other documents are shown with Blue Bold Underline.

Here is a Haynes Manual wiring diagram with the wires removed showing all the major components. Some of these major components include other components such as resistors, capacitors, relays and transistors.

6 Series 1975-76-Electrical Components

6 Series 1975-76-Electrical Components [SOURCE: Haynes Manual]                                                      –> CLICK TO ENLARGE

NOTE:
It’s easier to follow along if you click the picture above to enlarge it. Move your mouse around to scroll across the enlarged image.

As mentioned earlier, I provide links to the relevant section of the “/5 Electrical Components” document and describe any differences in the component in the /6 seriesl

Capacitors, Coils (aka, Inductors), Diodes, Resistors, Transistors

There is no difference in how these fundamental components work, so click the link to the section of the /5 document to learn all about them.

Capacitor

Coil (aka Inductor)

Difference Between a Coil and a Straight Piece of Wire

Coil Construction

Induction

Magnetic Field Interaction with Coil Magnetic Field

Diode

Resistor

Transistor

Switches & Relays

The functions of switches and relays are quite similar for the /6 series compared to the /5 series. However, there are some additional switches used on the /6 listed below.

Here is a link to the /5 information about switches and relays

List of Switches 

Many of the switches used on the /6 series are the same as those on the /5 series.  Here is a list of the differences.

  • The combination switches on the handlebars have a different form factor than those used on the /5 series.
  • The ignition switch uses a standard ignition key instead of the “nail” style used on the /5 series.
  • There is a separate headlight ON-OFF-PARK switch in the right combination switch instead of being integrated with the ignition “nail” switch used on the /5 series.
  • There is Starter Cut-out interlock switch activated by the clutch lever.
  • The design of the neutral switch change starting 09/1975 for the 1976 model year. See the later note for details.
  • A brake fluid low level indicator switch is added for models having a front disk brake.

Below is a list of switches on the /6 series.

NOTE:
NO – Normally Open, NC – Normally Closed. See the “Switches & Relays” link above for details about the different kinds of switches.

  • Ignition Switch (key actuated switch)
  • Headlight OFF-PARK-ON Switch (flip switch)
  • Front Brake Lever Switch (push button switch on R60, pressure switch on other models)
  • Rear Brake Lever Switch (push button switch)
  • Horn Button (push button switch)
  • Turn Signal Switch (rocker switch)
  • High/Low Switch (rocker switch integrated with High Beam Flash Switch)
  • High Beam Flash Switch (push button switch, NO, integrted with High/Low Switch)
  • Oil Pressure Switch (pressure switch, NC)
  • Brake Fluid Low Level Switch (pressure switch, NC)
  • Contact Breaker, aka “Points” (cam operated switch with spring to close)
  • Starter Cut-out Switch (push button switch, pushed in when clutch lever is pulled, NO)
  • Neutral Switch (push button switch. Switch type changed in 09/1975, 1976 MY)

NOTE:
There was a change in the transmission shift cam plate starting in 09/1975, or the 1976 model year. The 1974-75 cam used a hill at neutral to push the plunger of the switch to close the switch and complete the circuit. So, this switch is a Normally Open switch. When the cam moves from neutral, the switch plunger extends all the way out and opens the switch turning off the neutral light. In 1976 the shift cam plate changed so neutral used a valley and the neutral switch was changed to a Normally Closed switch. When the transmission is in neutral, the switch plunger extends all the way closing the switch and completing the circuit. When the cam moves away from neutral it pushes the plunger into the switch opening the switch turning off the light. If you install the wrong neutral switch the neutral light will not work correctly.

Types of Relays

The relay functions are similar, but some relays have a different internal design. Here is a description of what a relay does and the various ways relays function.

 List of Relays

The following components contain relays which are indicated by the red circle.

  • Starter Relay (NO relay)
  • Starter Solenoid (NO relay)
  • Voltage Regulator (NC relay)
  • Turn Signal Relay (NO relay)
  • Headlight Relay (NO relay but with a special diode)
  • Horn (Mechanical flapper relay)

NOTE:
You probably noticed that the contact terminals of the starter relay have different numbers than the DIN Terminal Code Standards of (85) and (86). If you look at the DIN standard for terminals, you will see that (31b) is negative, or ground from a switch or relay. So, it’s a  better description of the wire that connects to this contact as it comes from the starter button which is a push button switch that creates a path to ground. The power into the relay contacts comes from the ignition switch after the fuse, so labeling it (15) is more specific as to the source of the input current to the contacts. Once again, there is some interpretation allowed when applying the DIN terminal standards.

Battery

The battery size increased for the /6 series compared to the /5 series, but the function is the same.

Charging System

The charging system is the same design using a 3-phase ac current alternator. But, the /6 series alternator generates more power (280 w) than the /5 series alternator (180). Here is a link to the /5 Series Charging System

The charging system is responsible for charging the battery. It includes a 3-phase ac alternator, a diode board, also known as a rectifier, and the voltage regulator. The battery is also part of the charging system since it is the recipient of the output from the diode board. Refer to the [Charging Circuit] section of the [/6 Series Circuits] document to see how these components are connected.

Alternator

The /6 series alternator has an added “center-tap” in addition to the three phases used by the /5 series alternator. The /6 series center-tap provides more current boosting the alternator output. Adding the center tap changes the diode board along with the stator and the stator cover.

Another change that occurred starting in 09/1975, the start of the 1976 model year, is the diameter of the stator increased from 105 mm to 107 mm. The change happened in the last model year of the /6 series motorcycles.

Stator Design

The /6 Series alternator generates 3-phase alternating current. This requires three coils to be wound on the stator. The stator wires are arranged in what is called the “Y” configuration as shown below. And, the center of the “Y” includes a fourth wire called the center tap. This wire is called “Y” in the circuit diagrams.

6 Series-Alternator Terminals With Center Tap (Y) Connection

6 Series-Alternator Terminals With Center Tap (Y) Connection

Each phase is one leg of the “Y” circuit. Note that one end of each coil is connected together at the junction of the three branches. This common connection is called the “center tap” or “neutral” connection. The center tap is also a terminal in the /6 series stator design. The “Y” nomenclature invokes the notion that each phase is 120 out of phase with it’s neighbor.

The other end of each coil and the center tap exits the alternator via a terminal on the front cover as shown on this the Haynes Manual wiring diagram symbol for the alternator.

6 Series-Alternator Symbol

6 Series-Alternator Symbol [SOURCE: Haynes Manual]

The stator cover is different on the /6 series since it includes an extra terminal for the center tap “Y” connection as shown below.

6 Series Stator Cover with Phase Terminals & Center Tap Terminal

6 Series Stator Cover with Phase Terminals & Center Tap Terminal

Rotor Design

The /6 series rotor has the same design as the /5 rotor

Diode Board, aka Rectifier

The /6 series diode board is configured with 11 diodes. Eight of them create a full wave rectifier and there are two more diodes for the center tap “Y” current flow.  These convert the ac current from the alternator into dc current that charges the battery. 

6 Series-Diode Board Showing Center Tap "Y" Diodes

6 Series Diode Board Showing Center Tap “Y” Diodes

The /5 series diode board has nine diodes. Other than the three added diodes for the center tap current, the /6 diode board works just like the /5 board. You can read about how the diode board converts ac current to dc in the links below to how the /5 board works.

Voltage Regulator

The voltage regulator used on the /6 series is an electro-mechanical device just like the one used in /5 series. It operates the same way.

You can read about how the /6 voltage regulator works to regulate the current flow to the battery based on the state of the batteries charge by clicking on the links to the /5 sections below.

Operation of Voltage Regulator Relay 

Engine Off Current Flow

Engine Start Current Flow

Low Battery Current Flow

Almost Fully Charged Current Flow

Fully Charged Current Flow

Starter Relay, Starter Motor and Solenoid

The starter relay, starter motor and solenoid are part of the starter circuit which is described in the  [Starter Circuit] section of the [/6 Series, 1975-76 Circuits] document. This circuit includes the battery, the starter button, the starter relay, and the starter motor and solenoid. This circuit uses one manual switch, the starter button, and two relays, the starter relay and the starter motor solenoid to connect power from the battery to the starter motor. For the starter relay to work, the ignition switch and kill switch must be ON. In addition, the transmission must be in neutral, or if it’s in gear, the starter cut-out switch must be ON which requires the clutch lever to be pulled in to disengage the transmission from the engine.

The /6 series starter motor and solenoid work the same as the /5 series. The /6 series starter relay is different than the one used on the /5 series. The /6 series relay does not include the transistor that prevented activating the starter motor when the engine is running. 

Starter Relay Design

The starter relay used in the /6 series works the same way as the one in the /5 series with one exception. The /5 relay included a transistor that prevents the starter from engaging the flywheel when the motor is running. This was a nice feature, but could lead to a problem when the battery was low and it was cold, known as the “cricket problem”. The /6 relay eliminated the cricket problem, but does not completely eliminate engaging the starter motor when the engine is running. 

The  /6 uses two interlock switches, the neutral switch (also used on the /5 series, but wired differently on the /6) and an additional “starter cut-out switch” which is normally open, but closes when the clutch lever is pulled in (i.e., when the clutch disengages the transmission from the engine). 

On the /6 series, it is possible to engage the starter with the engine running and the bike in neutral. And you can engage the starter when the bike is in gear by pulling the clutch lever in. This can be helpful if the bike stalls in gear as you can pull the clutch and restart without finding neutral.

DANGER
Despite the two starter motor interlock switches, the neutral switch and the starter cut-out switch, you can damage the flywheel and/or the starter motor on the /6 series if you press the starter button while:

  • the engine is running and the transmission is in neutral
  • the engine is running, the transmission is in gear and the clutch lever is pulled in.

Operation of Starter Relay

Refer to the [Starter Circuit] section of the [/6 Series, 1975-76 Circuits] document for a description of the wiring that connects to the starter relay.  Here is a diagram of the /6 series starter relay.

6 Series 1975-76 Starter Relay Internals

6 Series 1975-76 Starter Relay Internals [SOURCE: Haynes Manual]

Terminal (86) gets power from the GREENBlue wire which comes from section (15u) on the bottom of the Connector Block. If the kill switch is ON then the GREENBlue wire has power. When the starter button is pushed on the right combination switch, it completes a ground path using the BLUEYellow wire attached to terminal (85) which energizes the relay coil and closing the relay.

When the relay closes, a fair amount of current from the (+) battery terminal flows from one of the 2.5 mm2 RED wires connected to terminal (30) through the relay contacts to the larger diameter (2.5 mm2) BLACK wire the starter solenoid. 

The starter relay (D+) terminal is used only for connecting two BLUE wires together so they act as a single wire. These wires carry power from the charging indicator bulb in the instrument cluster to provide power to the alternator rotor windings when the engine is off. See the [Alternator] section for more details about how the charging indicator bulb affects operation of the alternator.

Starter Motor and Solenoid

The starter motor and starter solenoid work the same way on the /6 series as on the /5 series.

Engine Ignition System

The /6 series uses the same ignition system as the /5. There were some ATU (advance unit) differences, but both ignition systems function the same way.

Condenser, aka Capacitor 

Ignition Coil

Revisions

2019-01-22 Edited document and section links
2019-08-20 12 volt relay guide

7 thoughts on “/6 Series, 1975-76 Electrical Components

  1. I have been following your posts for a few years. Without a doubt the best documented, researched and presented instructions for all Airhead enthusiasts. Invaluable asset for anyone interested in these wonderful machines. Thanks Brook

    • Hi John,

      Those are very kind words, and I thank you. I’m pleased this documentation of my projects has been helpful to you.

      Best.
      Brook.

  2. Thanks for a fantastic research. I’m looking for help with an intermittent issue with my R75/6 where all of the electrics just stop working and the bike rolls to a standstill. Then after a few moment the electrical system comes back on. I’ve noticed that when this last happened I was pushing the bike home I had left the ignition in the on position and all the power came back on. At my whits end as I have no background with electrics. I’ve been told that this could be a problem with the starter relay used on the /6. Can you give me any directions or advice otherwise I can see this old warhorse become put at the back of the garage and left. I’ve owned this bike for 7 years and am the second owner having bought it of a good family friend who at the age of 82 said it was getting a bit heavy and now at the age of 89 is still using a 125 daily. Any help or direction would be much gratefully received.

    • Hi Neal,

      You are reading the correct document to help you find the problem, assuming your /6 is not a 1974 model as the wiring is a bit different. I show the RED wire path, which I repeat below, so I hope that helps you.

      So, there are two things to trace and look at. I’ll start with the simplest first.
      1. An intermittent battery ground will do this.
      a Confirm your ground cable is clamped to the battery terminal tightly and there is no corrosion on the cable and the bolt securing it.
      b Confirm the other end of the battery ground cable is tightly secured by the transmission bolt.
      c If there is any corrosion on the battery ground cable terminals, that can progress under the insulation, so it’s not visible, and eat through the wires and give an intermittent ground.

      2. The battery (+) power is conducted from the battery by RED wires. If there is a break along this path, you loose power throughout the bike. So, you need to check all the wires and terminals for corrosion, broken terminals or damage. The path from the battery goes as follows:
      a. Battery to Diode Board (B+) terminal. With engine cover off, it’s the large terminal on the right side of the board.
      b. Diode board (B+) terminal to Stater Relay terminal (30).
      c. Internal to the Starter Relay is a wire that connects to the other spade on terminal (30). It it’s broken, you can’t see it, but no power gets past the starter relay. To diagnose that, when the bike looses power, bang on the starter relay (which of course is under the tank, so that’s fun 🙂 to see if power comes back.
      d. Starter Relay terminal (30) to the connector board section (30). This board is inside the headlight relay. The wire from the Starter Relay will have two RED wires on the terminal. The other terminal will have one RED wire and it goes to the Ignition Switch terminal (30). It’s possible the ignition switch is not making solid contact with terminal (30). Again, trying banging on the switch to see if it brings the power back on. Also, try jiggling and turning the key to see if gets the power back on.

      So, that’s the diagnosis road map.

      I hope this helps. Best of success getting to the bottom of your problem.

      Best.
      Brook.

      • Hi Brook. Many thanks for getting back to me. Your clear and concise instruction has given me the get up and go to approach the job at hand. Thanks for the simple step by step approach I was concerned that you may have overloaded me with technical terms as is the case when I’ve tried to read other blogs.
        I’ll get back to you with my findings but for now keep you and yours safe and health in these strange times. Kind Regards. Neal.

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