After all the waiting around I did to get the bike back from the shop, you can imagine how thrilled I was when I couldn’t get it to start the other day.
This has happened to me before – ignition on, kill switch open, everything lights up, squeeze a brake and hit the switch, and the starter doesn’t engage. It doesn’t choke or gasp, just – nothing. Most of the time I was able to get around this by pumping the brake a few times or squeezing it a little harder, or switching and using the other brake, but the other day it simply would.not.start.
The lights turning on indicated it wasn’t the battery. I checked the relays to the brake light and discovered that the front brake wasn’t tripping the light, but the left light was. That ruled out a fuse issue. The brakes themselves worked just fine, so the issue had to be between the lever and the starter.
Between the lever and the starter, I learned, there is a little switch. The default position is a closed circuit, with a knob compressed by the open position of the brake lever. Squeeze the lever and the circuit opens, and this both trips the tail light and allows the starter to engage. If your brake switches are old, gunked-up, or worn down, they can get stuck and one or both of those things might not happen. Some ModernVespa users recommended cleaning the switches, but I figured for the price of a switch ($14ish at Scooterwest.com) and given the fact that the scoot is 10 years old, I’d just order a new pair and replace both.
Switching the Brake Switch
Removing the top of the handlebar unit on the GT200 should be easy. A handful of Phillips-head screws come off, remove the mirrors, and the piece pops off. If you have a windscreen, that has to be removed in order to fully remove the plastic piece for easy access to the entire head unit.
This is where the swearing comes in.
Modern Vespas have mounting holes under the handlebars where windshield brackets with expansion bots just pop in. Snug up the bolt with a wrench and your screen should be nice and solid. Loosen the bolt and give the brackets a wiggle, and the screen should come off. SHOULD come off. It’s not uncommon for those bolts to seize in the mounting holes, and that’s what happened to me the day I tried to change the brake switches.
I got the right bracket off easily, and when I realized how stuck the left one was, I was able to to wedge the head unit open just enough to access the right brake switch. The lever comes off with a flathead screwdriver, and then you can see the little switch plugged in behind it. Switching the switch was a simple plug and play operation. I tried to turn the bike on with the new switch compressed – and nothing happened. I tried it with the switch off, and the engine roared to life immediately. I momentarily panicked thinking I had done something backwards… until I remembered the way the circuit worked, smacked myself on the forehead, and proceeded to put the lever back on.
One down. So now I have a reliable starting brake and the tail light works correctly again. But I really wanted to get that left one switched too, so I went back to work on the stuck bracket. I tried hammering it backward a little bit to get the expansion bolt to release – nothing. Tried greasing it a little – nothing. Pried the head unit as far back as I thought I safely could and stuck a wrench in there to try and torque it a bit – nothing. That bracket wants to live in there till the end of time.
I posted on ModernVespa today asking for tips on doing a better install next time, thinking if I ever get this thing out (or sawed off and replaced), I don’t want to have the same issue if I can help it. My post included a little humor about how much I was cussing at the %$^@(&#!ing thing, and one of the members on the forum said it would be funny to see the video of me cussing out a windshield bracket.
Hey, I’m a good sport. So I thought I’d head out there today and give it one more try before I just cave and put the thing back together without the new switch. I figured the frustration would give us a colorful explosion of profanities and unladylike epithets to enjoy. And then this happened.