My 2007 Honda Goldwing GL1800 came with factory-installed heated handgrips and seats. They are very useful when the temperature drops in the winter. Unfortunately, the gremlins got into the bike’s heating system and both the grips and the seat heaters stopped working. Finding the gremlins has not been an easy task!
In September, the bike went for its routine service at MotoTrofa and I asked them to investigate the problem with the grips. Following inspection, I was told that the bike needed new heated grips. The quote for replacement Honda grips was €470 – and that was just for the replacement parts. In speaking with other Goldwing owners, and reviewing online forum comments, I discovered that problems with the heated grips are not uncommon. Further, when one of the grips becomes defective, it breaks the circuit so that neither the grips nor the heated seats work.
Reluctant to fork out almost €500 for a pair of stock grips, I looked for alternate options. The best deal that I could identify was a pair of heated grips by Show Chrome. Their model 17-382 grips are designed to be a straight replacement for the stock grips, utilising the bike’s existing switch to turn the grips on and adjust the temperature. They also claim to achieve a higher temperature than the stock grips. I actually prefer the appearance and feel of the narrower stock black grips over these wider aftermarket chrome/black grips. But the Show Chrome grips cost €144, offering a significant saving over the high cost of the Honda grips. So I ordered a pair of the Show Chrome grips.
On 29 October, I headed to see João and Paulo at Camelos. In addition to getting the new grips installed, they were also installing some lighting for me, inside the trunk and saddlebags. The first task was installing the lighting. LED strips were fitted inside the trunk and the saddlebags. For the saddlebags, the lights are activated by the latch, so that they automatically turn on whenever the saddlebags are opened. For the trunk, a small on/off switch was installed. As usual, the guys did a wonderful job, and now I can see items in the luggage clearly at night.
Before installing them on the bike, we tested the new grips whilst attached to a spare battery, confirming that they worked and heated up nicely. Then they were attached to the bike. Rather than using the wiring fixtures that come with the new grips, they were soldered to the bike’s wiring, assuring a secure attachment. With the new grips installed, we fired up the bike and waited for the grips to heat up. And then waited some more! Nothing. I hoped that they would heat up once the bike was operating at higher revs on the road.
On the ride from Braga to Porto, the new grips didn’t work. However, my seat heater was working. It seemed that the new grips had resolved the broken circuit in the heating system, thereby permitting the seats to heat again. But the grips themselves were not working. There was clearly another gremlin to be found.
A couple of days later, I returned to Camelos for some more troubleshooting. The heater relay was exchanged for a known good relay, but that didn’t change anything. The rotary switch for the heated grips was also dismantled, cleaned and checked. Again, that didn’t fix the problem.
The next potential gremlin that could be impacting the heating system was the Heater Control Unit (HCU). But a new replacement HCU is a costly item – particularly when we didn’t know if the existing HCU was even defective. However, I was able to get a used HCU on eBay for €50. It was a shot in the dark, and throwing more money at the problem, but I decided to give it a try. When the HCU arrived, I decided to try to replace it myself. As a non-mechanic, the process was a little daunting, as the service manual stated that several pieces of bodywork had to be removed from the bike, just to be able to access the area where the HCU is located. So, on 21st November, with my Clymer service manual in hand, I made an attempt to replace the HCU. I removed part of the tow-bar in order to remove the rear centre panel. Then I had to remove parts of the trunk, so that the left side saddlebag could be removed. Then I unbolted the saddlebag and was able to peer behind it. The next step would be to disconnect the latch mechanism for the saddlebag, as well as the wiring for the recently installed LED saddlebag lighting, so that the saddlebag could be completely removed. But, when shining a light behind the saddlebag, I couldn’t even see where the existing HCU was located. Concerned that I might reach a point where I couldn’t put the bike back together, I decided to button it all back up and hand the job over to the professionals.
I was already concerned about how much money I was spending trying to rectify this problem. But I had already spent money on the grips themselves and the replacement HCU. So I decided to have one more throw of the dice and engaged MotoTrofa to install the HCU. They quoted me for three hours of work but, fortunately, the experienced mechanic had picked up a few tricks of the trade. Instead of removing the saddlebag, as described in the manual, he was able to access the HCU by removing the liner of the saddlebag, thereby shortening the time required. Due to this shortcut, the HCU was installed for the cost of €62. But the grips were still not working!
Most of the components had, by this time, been either replaced or checked. The remaining possibility was the wiring itself, and that could be a nightmare to troubleshoot, as well as being a costly undertaking. Whilst riding the bike, I discovered that my seat heater worked well. However, if I then turned on the switch for the heated grips, it turned off the seat heater. This suggests the possibility of a short circuit or potentially a defective control switch unit. But that is another expensive item to replace, with no guarantee that it will resolve the problem. At what point do you throw in the towel?
Now in December, with the low temperatures biting at my fingers, I needed to achieve some kind of resolution. I therefore turned to a back-up solution – heated gloves. I ordered a pair of Gerbing XRL heated gloves. The gloves come with a battery hook-up cable, to connect the gloves to the bike’s 12 volt power supply. I also opted to buy Gerbing’s Panel Mount Port and Coil Cord Extension Cable, so that I could achieve a neater connection on the bike and have sufficient cable to that I could mount and dismount whilst still ‘plugged in’.
When it comes to electrical wiring on the bike, I rely on the expertise of the guys at Camelos. So, back I went to get the panel mount port and the battery hook-up cable fitted. I can’t say enough good things about the care and attention to detail that João and Paulo put into their work. The power cable was connected to the ignition circuit at the fuse box (not directly to the battery) and was then routed through the bodywork. The panel mount port was fitted to the left side of the ignition area, discreetly tucked away beneath the intercom cable. It looks like it belongs there.
The heated gloves have certainly resolved the issue of cold hands whilst riding. They have three heat settings, controlled by a switch on the cuff on each glove (blue = low, orange = medium and red = high). Over a period of one hour, riding in temperatures of 7C (plus windchill on the Auto Estrada), the gloves held off the cold on the medium setting. When I switched them to the high setting, my hands got toasty warm. On a subsequent ride with temps dropping to 3C (37F), I kept the gloves on the high setting for the duration of the ride, which kept the cold at bay. The warmth provided by heated grips cannot compare to the heat that the gloves put out on a high setting. But there is a trade-off in convenience.
For the gloves to operate on the bike’s 12-volt power supply, they have to be connected to a Y-cable that runs down the inside of each sleeve of my jacket. The bottom end of the Y-cable then attaches to the power supply – in my case via the coiled extension to the panel port. This means that, prior to putting the gloves on my hands, I have to connect them to the Y-cable running down my sleeves. Then I plug the end of the cable extension into the panel port, providing me with heat as long as required. This works okay for longer rides when the rider remains on the bike for extended periods, such as on the Auto Estrada (motorway). But I soon realised that this could become a nuisance on shorter rides, or rides with frequent stops.
On a recent ride, I got everything connected and set off. A short distance down the road, there was an opportunity to stop to take a photograph. To access my camera whilst remaining on the bike, I would have to disconnect at least one glove from the power cable to use the camera. Then I would need to re-connect the glove, turn the glove on and click through the heat settings (there is no memory of the last setting on the gloves). Further, if I needed to walk away from the bike to take the photograph, I would also have to disconnect the cable from the panel port. It’s a more cumbersome process than simply removing a regular glove. But Gerbing has an option to address this.
In addition to being powered directly from the bike, the XRL gloves have a zippered pouch in the cuff that is designed to accommodate a lithium-ion rechargeable battery. With each glove connected to its own onboard battery, any problems associated with cables disappears. Of course, when batteries are involved, the downside is how long they last before needing to be recharged. Gerbing offers three options, each with differing run-times, and price points. The 1Ah battery kit is the cheapest but has the shortest run-time. The 3Ah kit lasts the longest but costs the most. Like Goldilocks, I opted for the middle-option – the 2Ah kit, which sits in the middle on both cost and performance. Those batteries have been ordered and I’m waiting for them to arrive.
Whilst a battery kit adds to the cost, I think that the added freedom is worth the investment. For shorter rides, or when I know that I will be constantly taking off gloves for photo opportunities, I can use the batteries. But the power cables remain available for any extended rides, or for when the batteries run out of power.
At the beginning of this process, had I known the challenges that I would face, I think I would have simply bought heated gloves and left the defective stock grips in place. But I am still hopeful that, one day, I will be able to identify the remaining gremlin that is preventing the grips from working. Should that occur, I will have options. Until then, I must rely on the Gerbing gloves for cold days.