Electricity and wiring are among the most complicated systems on today’s motorcycle. So what we thought we’d do is attempt to shed some light on this potentially complex topic by defining some of the common terms used when dealing with electricity. These terms are basic Electrical 101 that you’ll hear whenever you’re dealing with any motorcycle electrical system.

Ampere — The practical unit of electric current flow. If a one-ohm resistance is connected to a one-volt source, one ampere will flow.

Circuit — A complete path over which an electric current can flow.

Circuit Breaker — A device designed to open and close a circuit by non-automatic means and to open the circuit automatically on a predetermined over-current without injury to itself when properly applied within its rating. Circuit breakers can be reset. 

Coil — An assemblage of successive convolutions of a conductor. A unit of a winding consisting of one or more insulated conductors connected in series and surrounded by common insulation, and arranged to link or produce magnetic flux. 

Current — The movement of electrons through a conductor; measured in amperes, mill amperes, and microamperes.

Diode — A two-electrode electron tube containing an anode and a cathode. Diodes are used as rectifiers and detectors.

Electromagnet — A magnet produced by passing an electric current through an insulated wire conductor coiled around a core of soft iron, as in the fields of a dynamo or motor.

Fuse — A strip of wire or metal inserted in series with a circuit which, when it carries an excess of current over its rated capacity, will burn out. Also called a cutout.

Generator — A general name given to a machine for transforming mechanical energy into electrical energy.

Ground — A conducting connection, whether intentional or accidental, between an electrical circuit or equipment and the earth, or to some conducting body that serves in place of the earth. 

Insulator — A device for fastening and supporting a conductor. Glass and porcelain are employed almost universally for supporting overhead wires.

Ohm — The unit of electrical resistance. Resistance is one ohm when a DC voltage of one volt will send a current of one ampere through.

Resistance — The opposition offered by a substance or body to the passage through it of an electric current that converts electric energy into heat. Resistance is the reciprocal of conductance. 

Solenoid — A spiral of conducting wire, wound cylindrically so that when an electric current passes through it, its turns are nearly equivalent to a succession of parallel circuits, and it acquires magnetic properties similar to those of a bar magnet.

Volt — The practical unit of electric pressure. It is the pressure that will produce a current of one ampere against a resistance of one ohm. 

There you have it.  We’ve defined some of the common electrical terms. Next time, in Part II of this series, we’ll define and show you some of the common tools used when troubleshooting electrical issues on your motorcycle and give you basic tips on how to use these tools.