Testimonials and Reviews

Motorcycle Electrical Book

Motorcycle Electrical Book

Wing World, November 2007

Wing World magazine, November 2007 issue,
by Stu Oltman, Senior Technical Editor

Of all the potential maintenance or repairs one might face, electrical problems are usually the most difficult and time consuming. This happens because unlike broken mechanical parts, one can’t normally look at wires, switches or other electrical devices and see why they’re not functioning correctly. Diagnosing electrical faults isn’t an intuitive thing. In fact, many professional mechanics would rather run for cover than be assigned the task of diagnosing and repairing these problems, and lots of home mechanics have accidentally “let the smoke out of the wires” after installing an electrical accessory. As a young mechanic, I came to realize my own shortcomings in this area and sought out material to bring myself up to speed. Unfortunately, most books on the subject back then were intendedas college or trade school texts and assumed a level of knowledge not possessed by most high school grads. Further, the math involved quickly convinced most novice readers that the subject was beyond their understanding. I wish this book had been available back then.

Tracy Martin is not an electrical engineer. He’s a fellow who started out as a lab technician for a turbocharger manufacturer and was often faced with the need to repair prototype ignition and fuel injection systems – systems for which no official repair literature was available. So, one might say, he was dragged kicking and screaming into the world of electricity and electronics. Applying what he’d learned to his own vehicles progressed to teaching other technicians when electronics became common on cars and bikes. With that background, and because of his ability to make the complex simple, Tracy found himself in demand as an instructor with corporations such as Sun, Allen, Nissan, and Snap-on Tools. Now, home mechanics and professionals alike can benefit from Tracy’s experience as he covers such subjects as tools, test procedures, batteries, ignition, fuel injection, and charging systems. He even shows the reader how to decipher faults without becoming hopelessly entangled in the maze of spaghetti known as wiring diagrams. They’re easy to navigate – once one knows how. Speaking of knowing how, it’s much easier to determine when a component isn’t working correctly when one knows how that component is supposed to operate. Tracy takes care of that with discussions of ignition coils, points, starters, regulators, relays, etc.

Math? Don’t sweat it. Mr. Martin uses only the most elementary math, and purely for the purpose of describing the relationship between voltage, resistance, and amperage – knowledge without which no mechanic, pro or not, has a prayer of actually diagnosing a fault by means other than trial and error. You say you don’t even know what the terms voltage, resistance, and amperage mean? Then this book is for you. With plenty of clear diagrams and photos, Tracy brings the reader slowly and painlessly up to speed; each chapter builds on knowledge presented in the previous one. Those who already have a reasonably good understanding of electricity will enjoy the discussion of modern Electronic Engine Management Systems – the sensors involved, how they interact with the bike’s computer, how they work, and the tools necessary to diagnose faults through waveform analysis.

Will this book make the reader an expert? No. What it will do is provide the reader the essentials necessary to gain diagnostic skill through understanding and practice. Practice doesn’t make perfect, unless it’s perfect practice. I recommend this book highly for both the home mechanic and professional technicians.

Motorcycle Consumer News, October 2007

Motorcycle Consumer News, October 2007

Electrical troubleshooting and repair is the one area of motorcycle repair that stymies DIY types the most. Whether due to failed attempts to diagnose electrical gremlins or conjured up notions about the dangers of dealing with volts and amps, most owners would rather stick needles in their eyes than work on their electrical system. Tracy Martin's book on motorcycle electrical systems attempts to remove the trepidation most owners have by logically explaining the components in the electrical system on a motorcycle.

Motorcycle Electrical Systems, Troubleshooting & Repair provides a sound foundation for any enthusiast to work on their electrical systems. The chapters are designed to build on themselves. First, Tracy explains Ohm's Law with color diagrams and a clear explanation of electricity fundamentals. He then provides chapter coverage of voltage drop testing, testing equipment, batteries, charging and starting systems, ignition systems, fuel injection systems and how to read wiring diagrams. The 159-page book culminates with chapters on troubleshooting and electrical accessories. It is unfortunate that most riders only consider their electrical systems when they fail. Likewise, electrical troubleshooting books are usually purchased when a bike breaks down. Tracy's book, if read by enthusiasts, would go far to both prevent electrical problems and diagnose problems once manifested.

His explanations and illustrations are both clear and concise, and the flow of the book is geared towards building the confidence level of the reader. The overall goal of the book is to be a resource for DIY types to troubleshoot and maintain their own bikes. While Tracy's book is what I'd consider to be a comprehensive book, it's hard to read cover to cover without frequent recharges to one's brain. I've found that nothing wears out the mind so much as technical explanations, and although Motorcycle Electrical Systems Presents complicated topics as clearly as I've seen, it's a lot to digest in anything more than small bits at a time. Still, the best time to read about your electrical system is before you need the skills the book you're stuck on the side of the road with an electrical problem.

My favorite parts of the book were the chapters on fuel injection systems and wiring diagrams. Tracy demystifies fuel injection and explains the inherent components logically and concisely. After reading that chapter, readers are likely to ditch their old carbureted bike and upgrade to the beauty of fuel injections. In the wiring diagram chapter, the author explains how to read what most of us consider best left to engineers-reading electrical schematics. I've found that knowing how to read an electrical diagram instills confidence, at least insofar as simplifying troubleshooting.

Tracy's 25 years of experience in the automotive field resonate through the pages of the book, and give credibility to his explanations and assessments. I'd recommend it for both the library and the workshop of any enthusiast, and can't voice strongly enough that the best time to read it is before you need it.

LT Snyder

Motorcycle Consumer News

Kawasaki Concours Owners (Concourier)

"Just when a ham-fisted wire puller like this reviewer fries the insulation off some wire trying to force too much amperage through too little copper, along comes a brand new publication explaining in easy-to-understand language how electrical systems work in motorcycles. I can only wish I had a copy of the book before I made my own mistake. The best part of the book is that though much of the subject itself applies to all 12 and 6-volt electrical systems everything covered in the book is specific to motorcycles. Thus, in explaining charging systems, for instance, you won’t find a lot of material about the alternator on the family SUV, but you will fully understand how a one or three-piece alternator on a motorcycle operates. Whether you have a “classic” Connie or a new C14 in mind, this book will be enormously useful."

Bob Burns,

Editor Concours Owners Group Newsletter.

City Bike, December 2007

"Unless you have several electrical and electronic theory courses and years as a mechanic under your belt, this book will teach you things you didn't know -- and will very likely pay for itself not long after you finish reading it."

Adam Wade,

City Bike

Yahoo Store

"This guide was exactly what I was looking for. I have an 80 sportster that was having generator problems and nobody would look at it because of the age of the bike. Tracy's troubleshooting methods walked me right through everything I needed to do. I was amazed at how easy it was to diagnose the problem." Thanks Tracy.

Kris Mayes


Tracy Martin is a motorcycle Renaissance Man. He's a regular contributor to Motorcycle Consumer News, RoadBike and Friction Zone magazines. He was the co-author of the Motorcycle Safety Foundation's training book "Motorcycling Excellence".

When he's not writing, Martin is teaching advanced motorcycle riding skills through Lee Parks' "Total Control" workshops. On top of all that, he's a National Institute for Service Excellence (A.S.E.) Certified Master Technician, a service writer and an automotive consultant.

So let's just say that he knows motorcycles, he knows how to ride them and he knows how to fix them.

Motorcycle Electrical Systems Troubleshooting and Repair is a follow-up to Martin's first book, “How to Diagnose and Repair Automotive Electrical Systems”, also published by Motorbooks International.

Mr. Martin sent us a copy of the new book, just published in January 2007, probably because he has discovered from visiting webBikeWorld that I'm an electrically challenged motorcycle mechanic. Give me a problem involving metal and grease and I'll fix it, but when it comes to electricity, I get that weird stumbling numbness in my brain -- the exact same one I got during High School Algebra class.

Anything that can help me overcome this disability is welcome. In his preface, Martin states that he hopes that the reader of the book will be "able to gain some practical skills and knowledge which will help increase your confidence when ... faced with motorcycle electrical challenges." Doesn't that sound exactly like the cure?

So let's get to the bottom line here: I think Martin's goals have been met; that is, I do think I now have some practical skills at diagnosing motorcycle electrical problems; I do understand more about motorcycle electrical systems and how they work; and I do have more knowledge about electricity in general. Whether or not this will increase my confidence is another matter...

But I have to admit that none of this came easy. Although I consider myself to be pretty sharp on many subjects (for example, I finally struggled through the math I needed in High School and beyond), my brain is just not wired to easily comprehend topics like the relationship between Volts, Amps and Ohms. In the end, these relationships are something I must first memorize, then turn them over and over in my head while talking myself through the words until I feel comfortable with the concepts and understand how to apply them.

Motorcycle Electrical Systems Troubleshooting and Repair is loaded with information, color photos, diagrams and sketches that definitely helped me. But this isn't lightweight reading, at least for me. It takes some dedicated time and focus to absorb it all.

The first chapter covers the basics of electricity -- or at least the background topics that are necessary to understand motorcycle electrical systems. Chapter 2 starts the motorcycle-related information, with Voltage Drop Testing. We then learn about Electronic Testing Tools in Chapter 3; Batteries in Chapter 4; then Charging and Starting Systems, Ignition Systems and then Fuel Injection Systems (hey, they need electricity too you know!).

Chapter 8 has something I've been wanting to see for a long time: how to read a wiring diagram. Finally, after all that, we get into the real meat of the book with Troubleshooting Electrical Systems in Chapter 9 and the fun starts in Chapter 10 with Electrical Accessories, probably the real goal for any motorcyclist reading this book.

My advice is to buy a copy of the book and read through it slowly, taking the time to study the illustrations and understanding the concepts. Since most of us have only an occasional need for motorcycle electrical troubleshooting or repair, I don't think we need to be full-time experts in the topic, with all of the facts and figures at our fingertips.

What's important is to use the book to develop a basic knowledge of electricity, how it works and how it helps our motorcycles live and breathe. Then when the time comes, I think it's reasonable to expect that with a little brushing up, you'll be able to solve many of the electrical mysteries that would have stumped you in the past.

Motorcycle Electrical Systems Troubleshooting and Repair is a tool that can be used to improve your breadth of knowledge regarding motorcycle maintenance and repair. It's the best book I've read so far on understanding electricity as it relates to motorcycles, and for that reason, it's highly recommended.

By Rick K.

Cycle News, March 7, 2007

“Martin simplifies the complex language and operations of electrical systems of motorcycles so that the diagnostics and repairs can be done with ease.”

Reader Review

"Can't say I have ever written an author before....BUT after reading HTU Auto Diag Scanners I felt I had to send you a note on how good this book was! I grew up rebuilding antique Ford's and Muscle cars in the 70/80's. I work in technology but had come to the conclussion we can't touch these new cars due to the proprietary nature of their control systems. I found your history of OBD very interesting. Loved your techniques for troubleshooting and your overall style of writing is awesome. I TOTALLY enjoyed reading this book!

I wish I had read it sooner as I bought an Actron Code reader last year after I saw how the local autoparts store used it to reset a MIL light and troubleshoot a problem with my girlfriends car. In the end we kept getting random mis-fires in a 98 Jetta. I replaced everything ignition and gave up when it didn't solve the problem. Ended up being a plugged cat-converter and you so acurrately describe the symptoms. Didn't need a code reader to fix this one just a compound meter. I learned a lot from this book. LONG story short THANKS, great work!" Scott LeWand (received via email)

Automotive Electrical Book

Automotive Electrical Book

Reader Review

E-mail from a Reader

I recently purchased your automotive electrical book and from the bottom of my heart sir I cannot thank you enough for writing it.

It’s my own fault that I have spent almost 18 years in the automotive repair field working for a national repair chain that likes to talk about wanting vehicles fixed right the first time, and how much yearly training they provide for their techs, even though most techs in the stores haven’t been to more than one training class in ten years.

I have tried to pick up books from time to time and figure it out on my own but I see now that those books and articles were written for people with who already had an understanding of electrical systems. I just did not have the time to get to that level using what was available.

So while I was off for some minor knee surgery I decide to buy a book or two to keep my brain working while healing and yours was one of them. Tracy, I know I’m “getting it” when I can come up with my own questions about the subject at hand—in this case automotive electricity. My grey matter has rarely shown more activity since reading your book. I have been back to work for two days now and have left other employees at work staring at me with blank faced after rattling off some new words and using a jumper wire to power a GM fuel pump circuit. I was able to voltage drop test it at the fuse box instead of back at the fuel tank saving lots of diagnostic time. I guess all I had to say in this e-mail is thanks, but wanted to share my experiences with you.

Rob Lauckner (website email)

Amazon Review

I have always been able to fix electrical problems on cars but sometimes at much wasted expense and effort. Tracy Martin's book is simply the best book I have ever read on this subject. It is a "nuts and bolts" book that tells you why and how to test a certain way. Suddenly automotive electrical systems make sense to me. This book will save much wasted effort. My father was an electrical engineer and he figured out electrical problems for me. When he died I had to figure this stuff out for myself and I wish I had paid more attention. Tracy Martins book is great, not only do I recommend it ... if Tracy Martin ever writes another one I will buy that too.

Fred Rawls (Amazon)

Amazon Review

I am a graduate of highly-recognized aircraft maintenance college, and have achieved above-average grades in electrical/electronic systems courses. However, during my education we hardly covered "practical" part of our profession as certified technicians. This book cleared up some of my questions and was definitely better than any book I've read on electricity.

There is simply no better book than this one. On his next book, I would like to see more info on imported vehicles, as well as more up-to-date systems such as skid control, traction control, electronic climate control, navigation, discharge-type headlight bulbs, LED's, Optitron clusters, and engine-to-transmission data-link systems.

JPN (Amazon)

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