Friday, March 1, 2019

Replacing switch lights up my Royal Enfield brake light

Brake light at back of Royal Enfield is illuminated.
My brake light now lights up when front brake lever is applied.
The front brake lever on my 1999 Royal Enfield Bullet now makes the brake light go on. Again!

For years I've been riding around without being able to make the motorcycle's rear brake light go on except by pressing the foot pedal that operates the rear brake.

So what?

Surprisingly, this does matter, because there are moments when coming to a stop that my foot is not on the rear brake pedal. Instead, that foot is busy pressing on the gearbox neutral finder so that I will be in "neutral" when I come to a stop.

This only takes a moment, but it has meant that I am coming to a stop without the rear brake light glowing. Not scary, in most traffic, but not ideal.

Old and new handlebar brake light switches.
Old front brake switch, left, new on on right.
Now, finally, I have replaced the worn-out switch behind the handlebar brake lever. The replacement switch makes the rear brake light glow just as intended.

Why did I leave the switch broken literally for years and tens of thousands of miles? Actually, I didn't. I recall taking the switch apart at least twice and getting it to work again. Soldering was involved, I dimly recall.

But there were 60 stop lights — by actual count — on my daily commute and, although I didn't hit them all, the brake lever got a real workout.

Old and new brake light switches.
Old nub on brake light switch, left, fresh nub on right.
Looking at the original switch, now removed, I can see that thousands of applications wore down the tiny plastic nub that pressed against the lever. Incredibly, the nub still moves back and forth, the spring inside the switch apparently still doing its job. Probably the contact points inside the switch are broken or worn down past the point they can make contact.

Lloyd Gibbs of the UK is the reason I finally got around to replacing the switch with a new one. He messaged me letting me know that he had replaced the levers on "Old Clunky," his Royal Enfield Bullet. He was selling his original Magura front brake lever on eBay.

The Magura levers were used on Royal Enfield Bullets produced before June, 1999, and they have been near impossible to find just forever. I didn't need the levers, but I sure needed the brake light switch behind the front brake lever. Did he have the switch?

Light switch and wire with Enfield "genuine parts" package.
New switch and lead wires for the front brake lever.
Yes! In fact he had a new one still in its Royal Enfield parts bag (apparently Lloyd replaced his switches as needed instead of getting by without).

He was kind enough to ship me the switch. No mechanic, I was delighted to see that this would be a case of "plug and play." The new switch even had the same color lead wires as the original, running inside a black plastic tube.

This was important to me because the horrible spaghetti bowl of wires inside the nacelle of a Bullet of that era is daunting. It is a witchy-tight knot of wires. I knew if I started disconnecting them I would never be able to get them together again.

Jumble of wires inside motorcycle headlight nacelle.
Tight, jumbled knot of wires inside nacelle.
See the dab of white paint I used to mark the old brake wire tube?
I managed this job by first cutting the old blue and green lead wires and then, one-by-one, gently pushing on all the various blue and green wires in the bundle, watching to see which ones moved the remaining lengths of my loose wires. Those would be the ones I needed to connect to my new switch.

It was a touchy job, but I was lucky and the brake light came on the first time I tried it.

My thanks to Lloyd.

UPDATE: I remain grateful to Lloyd, but the sad fact is that the new switch stopped working by June 1, 2019, a short four months of life since its installation. Connecting (with a jumper wire) the two wires downstream from the switch does trigger the brake light. So the problem does appear to be the switch itself. Something more robust is needed!


  1. Hello David,
    Glad to hear the brake light is up and running.

    All the best.


  2. Let there be (brake) light, said David. And there was (brake) light. This is cool, he said, and LG agreed. Let us not be rear-ended, they concurred,heads bowed, by a texting Jetta driver.


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