Evaluation: 2 Ignition Switch Relocator Kits for Kawasaki Vulcan 1500 Motorcycles

Thunder Manufacturing and Pro-One provide kits to move Kawasaki Vulcan ignition switches to more useful positions. We installed and used both of them. From the October 1999 issue of _ Motorcycle Cruiser _ magazine.

We're always amazed when different companies arrive at different solutions for the same problem—at exactly the same time. Case in point: The ignition switch position on Kawasaki's big Vulcan series motorcycles leaves a lot of riders cold. Those with short arms really have to stretch to reach the switch way below the left front edge of the gas tank. And now, on some models, the choke has been moved to that awkward location, too.

Well, Thunder Mfg. and Pro-One and have just released two unique approaches to remedying the problem.

**Thunder Ignition Switch Relocation **Kit

Many people who've ridden Harleys with a tank-top ignition switch have had good things to say about its convenience and the bike's ability to be operated without the key in place. The folks at Thunder Mfg. must have had similar experiences since they've adapted a Harley-style switch to their slickly machined billet plate, turning the dash plate on Classics and Nomads into a beautiful and functional piece. The stock warning lights are retained, so the $159 Thunder Ignition Switch Relocation Kit doesn't come with any compromise attached.

Tools required:

  • Wire cutters

  • Pliers

  • Solder iron (150W or more)

  • Solder

  • Black electrical tape

  • Shrinkwrap (optional)

  • 8, 10 and 12mm sockets

  • 4mm allen wrench

  • No.2 phillips screwdriver
    Installation time: 1.5 hours

The first portion of the installation proceeds in the usual manner-the seat, tank and ignition switch must be removed. The Thunder kit requires the connector for the ignition kit to be moved, but it simply gets pulled through the frame to where the connectors for the instrument cluster reside. However, the wires from the ignition switch itself need to be cut off and soldered to the Thunder switch. The operation is relatively easy, but it does require a soldering iron or gun with some horsepower, or the process becomes an exercise in patience.

Halfway through the installation, when our tired, old iron gave up the ghost, we popped for a $25 Craftsman dual-temperature soldering gun and finished the job in a quarter of the time we had labored over the first half. Since weak connections could cause the ignition to fail at speed, we consider the extra time and money spent to be well worth it. The warning lights also require an OE connector to be cut and soldered onto the Thunder kit's lights. For security and a professional look, we covered the joints with heat-shrink tubing. Finally, just before mounting the relocator kit to the bike, we took the extra precaution of wrapping the connections for the switch with electrical tape to ensure that we didn't inadvertently short any circuits when mounting the kit to the instrument cluster.

The switch assembly looks great and works like a charm, offering on, off and park settings. Newbies to this type of switch be warned: Don't ride off with the key in the ignition. Unlock the switch and pocket the key, or it may become another piece of sparkly garbage on the side of the road. And don't forget to retain the OE key—fuel still needs to get into the tank!

Pro-One Billet Choke and Key Switch Relocator

Special notes: Installation on the Nomad requires the Vulcan Classic's choke bracket (OEM #11049-1888, $5). The choke cable must also be rerouted.

Often the left side of a cruiser looks like it was ignored by the stylists. Pro-One's Billet Choke and Key Switch Relocator (smooth version $130, ball-milled $135) moves the ignition switch to a more amenable location for folks that don't have simian arms. And it dresses up the look of the engine bay!

The heart of the kit is a chromed billet plate that nestles in between the rear cylinder and the frame, just in front of the left side cover. Both the choke knob (dressed in a spiffy billet cover) and the ignition switch mount to the plate, which cleverly mounts to the OE choke-cable bracket. (This is why Nomad owners will need to buy a Classic choke bracket.) Installation is straightforward but it takes a few hours—only because of the care and dexterity required when working with the main wiring harness.

Tools required:

  • Wire cutters

  • Crimping tool

  • Electrical tape

  • 4mm allen wrench

  • 8, 10 and 12mm sockets

  • 8mm wrench

  • 3/8-inch socket or wrench

  • 1/2-inch socket

  • Long (11-inch) extension
  • Ratchet
  • Red Loctite Installation time: 2.5 hours

After removing the seat, tank and ignition switch (You do have a factory service manual don't you?), two tricky tasks present themselves. First, the plug connecting the ignition switch to the main wire loom must be relocated rearward. The space between the frame rails is packed surprisingly tight. To avoid damaging wires, resist the urge to use a screwdriver or some other metal tool to pry the loom away from the frame. The trickiest part of this operation is the unwrapping of the wire loom. Be careful with the wire cutters when making the incision on the tape wrap! Once the tape is cleared from the area, the ignition switch wires—with one exception—can be separated from the loom, gaining the length needed to move the connector far enough rearward to facilitate the new switch location. The kit includes a premeasured extension to crimp to the one wire that must be cut. For an extra measure of security, the connections could be soldered.

The second tricky part of the installation only affects Nomad owners who want to use this kit. Since the Nomad's choke knob is mounted under the ignition switch, the choke cable must be rerouted to the rear cylinder. The left-side air cleaner, filter, backing plate and snorkel going to the top portion of the airbox must be temporarily removed. (Actually, only six screws and one bolt get unfastened, so it's not a lot of work.) After the cable is freed, run it down the outside of the left frame rail with the newly lengthened ignition-wire harness.

Mounting the Classic's choke bracket requires only patience and an 8mm wrench. The two bolts on the fresh-air-induction system mounted on the back of the rear cylinder (Remember that repair manual?) must be removed to attach the bracket. Unfortunately, thanks to some frame interference, the top bolt doesn't slip out unless the entire block is shifted about a half-inch to the left. Be careful not to damage the gasket or annoying, frequent backfiring will occur when you roll off the throttle.

The final stage of the process is the installation of the switch and choke cable to the relocator. We had a momentary struggle when attaching the relocator to the choke bracket, but once we'd constructed an 11-inch extension driver from the various sized extenders in our toolbox, the relocator mounted up perfectly. Operating the ignition and choke is the same as before the modification—only much more pleasurable. Although the stock seat covers it, bikes with aftermarket seats may leave the connecting plug for the ignition switch out in the open. Particular folks may want to lengthen the harness a few more inches by splicing longer wires to the loom.

We like how both of these kits make our Kawasakis more user-friendly. In fact, we like them so much that the only way we could choose which kit to install would be to determine how it fit with the style of the other accessories we'd already mounted to the bike. For nervous do-it-yourselfers, both kits come with easy-to-follow instructions. All that's required is a little patience and a thorough approach. The crowning touch to both of these installations would be to cut off and grind away all remnants of the tab on the frame where the switch used to reside.

RESOURCES

Pro-One Performance Manufacturing, Inc.
2700 Melbourne Ave.
Pomona, CA 91767
(909) 445-0900
[www.pro-one.com/a>

Thunder Mfg.
4210 N. 39th Ave.
Phoenix, AZ 85019
(602) 269-5033
www.thundermfg.com

For additional evaluations of, comparisons of, and shopping advice for motorcycle gear and accessories, see the Accessories and Gear section of MotorcycleCruiser.com.

_The Thunder Ignition Switch Relocation Kit puts the business end of the system right in front of the rider and retains all the functionality of the OE warning lights. _
You should remove the key after the switch is turned on. A flip-up cover keeps out water and debris.
_ Pro-One's Billet Choke and Key Switch Relocator moves the ignition switch and choke to one convenient location, while dressing up what is otherwise a dead space on the bike._