Modding versus moving on.... - Ex-500.com - The home of the Kawasaki EX500 / Ninja 500R
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post #1 of 28 (permalink) Old 12-4-2019, 1:32 PM Thread Starter
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Modding versus moving on....

General question here... Just looking for stories and experiences, personal rules of thumb, for points of comparison.

Few bikes perfectly suit us as they are. Most of us modify them if only a little bit. But at what point does modding go too far for you? At what point do you tell yourself, "I would be better off moving on to a different motorcycle"--one does not require so much modding for your purpose, or that is easier to mod because of availability of aftermarket options and so on?

Here I see ex500's turned into streetfighters, dual sports, race bikes, bobbers, all sorts of things. I find myself turning mine bit by bit into a long distance tourer. I keep adding luggage. I made some rear foot peg extensions for long legged passengers. I experiment with grips to reduce vibes over long freeway rides, tinker with the windscreen. I find myself thinking about adding highway pegs, bar risers, heated gear, which woudl be limited and involve switching to all LED lights. Easy to spend a good bit of money on a bike that has a market value of maybe a thousand dollars. And that makes me wonder: should I switch?

So far I stick with the ex500 because I like so many things about it--the weight, the size, the simplicity (relative to a lot of newer bikes anyway), and I confess the idea of getting to know a new bike, riding wise, maintenance wise, and no doubt modding that to some degree, makes me very lazy. It's easier to stick with what I know, and so far I do.

Do you mod? or move on? At what point?
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post #2 of 28 (permalink) Old 12-4-2019, 2:37 PM
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the term "reductio ad absurdum" applies here, you never know when you've finished.

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post #3 of 28 (permalink) Old 12-4-2019, 3:17 PM
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For sport, tour or distance tour.... a Honda VFR750 or 800 would cut right to the chase. I'd suggest a 5th or 6th generation 800 FI model.

Legendary V4 engine, Honda reliability. Many approach and surpass 100K miles. Sporty, yet comfortable. Affordable these days.

If their reputation is not known to you...do some internet research on them.

www.vfrworld.com and www.vfrdiscussion.com

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post #4 of 28 (permalink) Old 12-4-2019, 4:55 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the suggestion. I've looked at them. I think maybe it was Fog who mentioned them in an earlier post I did. No doubt a fantastic motorcycle, but way too much for me--more hp than I need, more cylinders than I need, and, because I have been known to let my bike fall over from time to time, way too much plastic too. If I did "move up" it would be to a more old school standard fitted out for touring, which is part of the reason I'm always reluctant to "move on": I feel like there's a bit of old school standard in the ex500--at least as much as sport bike.
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post #5 of 28 (permalink) Old 12-4-2019, 6:09 PM
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Ya don't know what you're missing, man!

Too much HP? simply be conservative on the throttle

More cylinders? yes...be aware in 10 years of ownership, I've performed a full, complete service just 1X on my 21 year old '98. Amazingly resilient, reliable motor. 43,000 on it and I ride it...rarely work on it, excepting normal chain, tires, oil/filter routine poop.

Too much plastic? all part of its smart Honda aerodynamic design, slanted towards touring

Don't stunt your own growth....underestimate or sell yourself short....keep your EX and add a VFR! Nothing wrong with becoming a multi bike owner. Different tools for different jobs.

I'd suggest exploring a test ride someday. All that said nope, mine is NOT for sale.
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post #6 of 28 (permalink) Old 12-4-2019, 7:11 PM
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hi, I know exactly where you are coming from, how much is too far. I think we all feel the devil you know is better than some unknown beast. so Fog is correct once you start the hard part is knowing when to stop but this can be difficult when you believe the next mod will do it. but it never is. the second GPZ/EX I built is so far away from a stock bike it no longer resembles what Kawasaki built back in 1996. it is more like a different model altogether.

but it does do what I set out for it to do, something the stock gen 1 [1990] does not. it's a completely different animal but in some ways it's quite familiar. @ducatiman is also correct the VFR is a fine machine comfortable on long rides and 100% reliable and I would say probably the best bike I ever rode. although to be brutally honest it's was a bit boring, brilliant for the riding non mechanic but for the tinkerer in me rather stale as there was nothing ever to do to it save keeping it in top shape. one hour riding 3hrs cleaning was the norm, I almost cried when I sold it. but circumstances at the time I had no choice.

and yeah those plastic bits are expensive if you drop one. and like the GPZ/EX these bikes are also now a bit long in the tooth. you only buy one if you really wanted one.

Last edited by yorkie; 12-4-2019 at 7:16 PM.
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post #7 of 28 (permalink) Old 12-4-2019, 11:52 PM
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Yeah, I dunno how much is too much in the modding department. I mean, if the bike is still capable, why screw around and move on?



I'd say, once you've reached the limits of the design in what you are trying to do, then maybe think about moving on. I would think, the only real necessity to continue on using it as a long haul touring bike, would be replacing the rear shock with something more capable and that would be it. Aside from fitting hard bags maybe.



I can't comment with real accuracy here because I bought my EX for my wife. It wasn't a planned kind of thing, like we went looking specifically for an EX for her, it was completely random. A guy she worked with had one he used to commute on. He rode a flat spot into the rear tire while doing so. When he changed jobs and didn't need it, it sat in his garage until he sold it to us. It was 5 or 6 years old when we got it in 1997. It was a 1st Gen from 1991 I think.



My wife learned to ride with it, and rode it for around a year before she moved up to a Yamaha YZF600R. Which, if you are planning on moving up, I'd suggest as the bike to move to. It's very much like a slightly bigger, much more capable EX. The seating position is almost exactly the same. The only thing I didn't like was the transmission. Shifted like crap.



Her's was a 1997, in blue with the white speed blocks. Sometime after that, and I foget what year, Yamaha did away with the YZF600R and made the FZ-6 with the same engine. I can't remember exactly but I think it only lasted one year before Yamaha used the 1st Gen R6 engine. Maybe it was 2 years. I don't remember....it wasn't like I discussed it at length ever.



That was gonna be my next suggestion. Still an easy bike to work on. Comfortable seating position, plenty of power but not too much. No body work, so if you were to allow it to fall over, not too much there to damage. I dunno how well it would function as a touring bike...but one of my riding buddies has an FZ1 and he's ridden that thing all the way from California to Nova Scotia and back. Happy hunting....sean


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post #8 of 28 (permalink) Old 12-5-2019, 10:51 AM Thread Starter
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Ducatiman, thanks for the pic. It is a beautiful bike and I have no doubt it is everything you say. I just don't think it's for me. You're probly right that I need to consider owning multiple bikes. I do like the simplicity of one though (and we have a small garage).

Yorkie, have you ever posted pics or written up what you've done to your ex500? I should search. I'm always interested to see what can be done with them.

Sean, thanks for the suggestions. I'm sure the those yamahas are great bikes. I just don't think they're for me. It's like the Honda mentioned above. I really don't need 4 cylinders or a hundred horsepower.

To put it another way, I have been riding the ex500 about 60k miles now and I have never once thought, "I wish it had more power." I have thought many times, "I wish I didnt' have to take the whole bike apart to do the valve check again," or "Or here we go again with another chain and sprocket replacement" and occasionally I have wished it was more dirt capable. And I have often wished for more after market options, more power for gear, more tire options.

If I did move on, it would be to a bike that
--has lots of options for big aftermarket windscreens that are detachable (because I ride long distance when it's really cold and when it's really hot)
--has lots of power for heated gear
--is even easier to service than the ex500 (easier to get-to valves, outside rear shocks rather than monoshock with all the linkeage, maybe belt or shaft instead of chain,)
--zero plastic to break when I let it fall over (and I will).
--lots of aftermarket options for passenger accommodations
--is not too excessively heavy
--is not too terribly awful when I wind up on a dirt road (not that often, but more than I woulda thought).


So, if I moved on, it would be to something like a sportster, probably the 883 XL, with rubber mounts, fitted with a bigger tank (dirt in the belt worries me). Or one of the smaller guzzis (the Italianness, parts, etc worries me). I have even considered going with some dinosaur dual sport like the KLR or a DR: not everything I want on several counts, though the off road capabilities are appealing. And at the other extreme, one of the midsize metric touring cruisers might work--though I doubt because of the weight, because I just dont' think I could handle the forward pegs.

Nothing is perfect, but those are the general directions I would consider.
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post #9 of 28 (permalink) Old 12-5-2019, 11:29 AM
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Looks like you think a lot like me, I would just stick with the EX.

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post #10 of 28 (permalink) Old 12-5-2019, 1:18 PM
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SUnds like your staying with the 500 or moving backwards rather then movingg on, swithing over to led lights is not hard or costly if you go the amazon route and add a relay for the heated gear to insure its off when the bike is off (I recomend tapping the license plate light 12v as a trigger) and you get to keep all the things you love while getting what you want.

My $0.02

I like the VFR and if after some time with m new to me ZX600E i dont end up with a ~98 ZX1100/ZZR1100 I will likley go the Honda way.

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post #11 of 28 (permalink) Old 12-5-2019, 7:48 PM Thread Starter
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BPE, that's what I've been doing, sticking with it... But doubts do crop up every so often. That's why I wondered if any of y'all have gone through similar dilemmas, how you handled it.

Kevin, I was wondering about the led conversion. I believe there used to be an article on the wiki about it, explaining how much power you can expect to get for gear, but I never can find stuff on the wiki anymore. Someone did a recent post/write up but the terminology is greek to me. When I get time I'm going to start looking up all the things I don't understand in the write up, trying to figure it out. But if you or anyone knows off hand how much power I can expect to get with the conversion I would like to know. It is one of the major factors in the decision. I believe I would be satisfied with a heated vest and heated gloves but I don't know if the ex500 has enough juice even with the conversion for both. Actually heated socks would be nice too, now that i'm thinking of it...
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post #12 of 28 (permalink) Old 12-6-2019, 8:36 AM
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hi there. several answers to several questions there bud. I try and go through them as quick as I can.

yes there is a couple of photos of the cruiser I built being posted on the forum. the easiest to find is in my profile. look in my garage there is a pic of both my bikes the stock [term used loosely] blue gen 1 and the black modified cruiser.

power output of the EX generator is I believe around 120ish watts if you count up all the bulb wattages used on the bike and consider it uses around 15w to keep the thing running. there is a spare capacity of something like 15w [note it was never designed to run anything extra with a big current draw] so perhaps the most you could run would be may be a set of low wattage heated grips. or a phone charger. or power take off for a satnav. changing all the bulbs to LEDS depending on the actual size of the new bulbs should reduce the power consumption to more than half of what it was. so you would gain around 60w of power. it is just a matter of then calculating the draw from anything else you put on the bike after that. mind you as US models have running lights and a always on headlight [we have a light switch] these will have to be calculated as permanent draw on the power.


on a general modding note, it is far easier to do the mods while your still using the bike then you can establish what works or doesn't how far you want to go and how much it's costing. then if it seems to be getting out of hand you can stop at any point.
however if you plan to do a full on radical one off build this is not possible.

so you have to be aware of the pitfalls. namely it always going to cost far more than you think. it's going to take far longer than you think it will.
it is going to take up a lot of space while doing it. and when it's finished probably will not be worth in cash value the amount of money and effort you put in to doing it. often the net worth is less than the original bike was. BUT you will in the end have a bike like no other. no one else will own one and the pride and confidence in riding a bike you built yourself, in measurable.

however the more radical the design the harder it is to pull off. these bikes are born in the head from an idea. in practice the design will change during the build as somethings don't work well with other stuff you designed. you will find that once one mod has been done it requires further mods elsewhere, you will also make costly mistakes that have to be re-engineered later. the longer it goes on the more you question if it is really worth continuing during the hard times, of which there will be many. you think of giving up many times. but are spurred on by the finish line that gets closer. it's not something anyone should take lightly. give yourself a breather now and again and come back to it a new.

because once it is finished and you can ride it turning heads wherever you go with crowds gathering around it when parked wondering what the hell it is. is actually priceless. never think of selling it unless someone makes you an offer you cannot refuse. because you will never get your money back. but then that wasn't the idea in the first place was it .
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post #13 of 28 (permalink) Old 12-6-2019, 12:04 PM
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Alternator max output is 14v/17a @ 5600 rpms. Thatís 238 watts

Better than MOSTFET shunt RR is MOSTFET open/phase-control design. Rather than running alternator @ max-power full-time and shorting excess, it selectively adjusts power-output based upon demand (like car alternator). This has been shown to improve gas-mileage 3-4mpg as power's not being wasted dumping unused alternator output to ground. Keeps your stator cooler and not fry coil-connectors.

I'm thinking even more advanced design with more efficiency and precision would use DC-DC buck converter.

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post #14 of 28 (permalink) Old 12-6-2019, 5:15 PM
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Alternator max output is 14v/17a @ 5600 rpms. Thatís 238 watts

Better than MOSTFET shunt RR is MOSTFET open/phase-control design. Rather than running alternator @ max-power full-time and shorting excess, it selectively adjusts power-output based upon demand (like car alternator). This has been shown to improve gas-mileage 3-4mpg as power's not being wasted dumping unused alternator output to ground. Keeps your stator cooler and not fry coil-connectors.

I'm thinking even more advanced design with more efficiency and precision would use DC-DC buck converter.

not sure about that. put meter across battery note residual voltage. start bike run at idle speed turn on every light on the bike [tie band on front brake] both headlight elements [pass light taped down] heated grips on full. leave running see how long it takes for the charge rate to drop until it reaches the residual value you had before. at that point the bike is no longer charging. and you have reached the capability of the of the charging system to top up the battery. it doesn't take that long.
in the early days all I did was fit a xenon 120/100w headlight bulb fitted heated grips a front and rear mounted camera and monitor. went out for a ride in the dark to test the new bright headlight and cameras. got about 20miles out and the bike started to misfire. pulled in for some gas as I thought that was the problem. and the bike wouldn't start [flat battery] started with a push and I got home. without headlights using side lights only. did the above test and it ran the battery down in 15mins.
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[pass light taped down]
We don't have a pass light out here.

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post #16 of 28 (permalink) Old 12-6-2019, 6:09 PM
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Watts are watts . Voltage increases load diminishes but there's always a price to pay for it. 27 years in the electrical field a old timer told me that I call him dad .
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post #17 of 28 (permalink) Old 12-6-2019, 7:49 PM
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We don't have a pass light out here.
no of course you don't or a light switch either. sorry I keep forgetting the Euro models are wired differently.
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post #18 of 28 (permalink) Old 12-6-2019, 8:25 PM
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EX aside....curiously enough, my new '19 Honda 650 and '95 900SS each have a "dip switch" (proper name for the momentary contact high beam flash)

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post #19 of 28 (permalink) Old 12-6-2019, 9:37 PM
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not sure about that. put meter across battery note residual voltage. start bike run at idle speed turn on every light on the bike [tie band on front brake] both headlight elements [pass light taped down] heated grips on full. leave running see how long it takes for the charge rate to drop until it reaches the residual value you had before. at that point the bike is no longer charging. and you have reached the capability of the of the charging system to top up the battery. it doesn't take that long.
in the early days all I did was fit a xenon 120/100w headlight bulb fitted heated grips a front and rear mounted camera and monitor. went out for a ride in the dark to test the new bright headlight and cameras. got about 20miles out and the bike started to misfire. pulled in for some gas as I thought that was the problem. and the bike wouldn't start [flat battery] started with a push and I got home. without headlights using side lights only. did the above test and it ran the battery down in 15mins.
You canít make any conclusion by just measuring battery voltage. Need to measure power-draw of each component and add them up. Due to inefficiencies, 100w lights actually draws more than 100watts (volts * amps). Also resistance across old corroded connectors and wiring causes resistance and heat, further wasting power that never makes it to your components.

Just because your particular bike canít match factory specs out of manual, doesnít mean factory design is bad. You just need to R&R your bike until itís restored back to factory-fresh condition. Or upgrade wiring with pre-tinned silicone wiring and weatherproof connectors. Every connector is crimped, soldered and heatshrink-wrapped. Itís done this way in pro-motorsports, military and aerospace applications for a reason.

Thatís probably one of reason I hang onto my bikes for long time. I usually have upgrades thatís way above anything new coming out of factories, that it would be lots of work upgrading new bikes to be comparable to my old ones.

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EX aside....curiously enough, my new '19 Honda 650 and '95 900SS each have a "dip switch" (proper name for the momentary contact high beam flash)
I thought most of the bikes in the States (600cc or above) had that feature.

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post #21 of 28 (permalink) Old 12-7-2019, 8:48 AM
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You canít make any conclusion by just measuring battery voltage. Need to measure power-draw of each component and add them up. Due to inefficiencies, 100w lights actually draws more than 100watts (volts * amps). Also resistance across old corroded connectors and wiring causes resistance and heat, further wasting power that never makes it to your components.

Just because your particular bike canít match factory specs out of manual, doesnít mean factory design is bad. You just need to R&R your bike until itís restored back to factory-fresh condition. Or upgrade wiring with pre-tinned silicone wiring and weatherproof connectors. Every connector is crimped, soldered and heatshrink-wrapped. Itís done this way in pro-motorsports, military and aerospace applications for a reason.

Thatís probably one of reason I hang onto my bikes for long and time. I usually have upgrades thatís way above anything new coming out of factories, that it would be lots of work upgrading new bikes to be comparable to my old ones.

hi, yes you can upgrade the wiring and connectors to make them more efficient. I dare say there are some clever people out there that could upgrade some or all of the components to 21st century spec making it even more efficient. but by enlarge we talking 40yo technology on a 30yo bike. I was just trying to answer the OP's question "how much spare capacity is there in the bikes system for extra electrical equipment" the answer is not much. in order to gain extra power you have to loose some elsewhere. LED's are a good start. also not trying to use everything all the time will help. the more power you use the less there is left.

@ducatiman. you will have to pardon my use of English - English instead of American - English [I know there not always the same] but the pass light is the switch that gives a flash of the main beam when pressed this works independently of the rest of the lighting system and is clearly marked [PASS] on the handlebar control unit [screen shot below] the dip switch is the switch that changes the headlight beam from low to high and is situated below the pass light. you will also note it also says "choke" on the bar lever. even though we know it's not really a choke at all.
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post #22 of 28 (permalink) Old 12-7-2019, 9:43 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks to you all for the information.

Yorkie, that cruiser is incredible. I didn't believe at first it was an ex500. And as I look at it I have no idea how you did some of it, a lot of it. Also I found your message about the chains you wrote from way back in October, I think. Somehow I missed it before. Thank you for helping me there too, and sorry about the delayed reply.

Yes, I am figuring out that modding always seems to cost a lot more in time and money that it seems it will. I've done only very minor things really so far but it's enough to give me some experience with this. And that's one of the reason why I post on this question.

I'm going to make notes of the watts and other numbers y'all are giving me. I've also been reading older posts on this subject. I'm still trying to figure out what exactly needs to be done to swap out this or that bulb to LED and about how much power is gained from each. (I don't know which if any are just a matter of swapping incandescents for LEDs, which if any require new fixtures, devices to make LED fixtures work, etc). I'm working on it. But judging from what I'm seeing here I'd be pushing it to run more than a single item of heated gear at at time. That or maybe I can rig a switch so that I can use a heated vest while doing long interstate stretches and flip the switch to off when I have to slow down for whatever reason.

Thanks again.
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post #23 of 28 (permalink) Old 12-7-2019, 10:21 AM
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sorry to veer off course but want to address @yorkie

Google the phrase "classic motorcycle dip switch" or "vintage motorcycle dip switch".

I've always known your "pass" switch as the "dip" switch since working at a dealer in the 70's. As I learned the name from an old British man in his 70's at the time...he was actually from your Sherwood Forest area and emigrated here! If I remember, the infamous Mr Lucas was somehow behind it all! We were Triumph dealer at the time.

While on low beam, additionally pressing and holding the dip switch adds high beam (both beams then on) letting go of switch....back to low beam only. Dip switch must be held to ON = momentary contact (thats what its called here at least)

Perhaps "pass" switch somehow replaced the old phrase somewhere along the line?

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post #24 of 28 (permalink) Old 12-7-2019, 7:24 PM
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sorry to veer off course but want to address @yorkie

Google the phrase "classic motorcycle dip switch" or "vintage motorcycle dip switch".

I've always known your "pass" switch as the "dip" switch since working at a dealer in the 70's. As I learned the name from an old British man in his 70's at the time...he was actually from your Sherwood Forest area and emigrated here! If I remember, the infamous Mr Lucas was somehow behind it all! We were Triumph dealer at the time.

While on low beam, additionally pressing and holding the dip switch adds high beam (both beams then on) letting go of switch....back to low beam only. Dip switch must be held to ON = momentary contact (thats what its called here at least)

Perhaps "pass" switch somehow replaced the old phrase somewhere along the line?
yes my apologies also. but just try and clear this up. yes Lucas invented some cool stuff. there was a time when cars
had little arms that stuck out to indicate you were turning left or right [semaphore arms] that came from the flags used to signal between ships. but Lucas had the idea that a flashing amber light one on the left and one on the right would be more effective. this changed to two on either side one front one at the back. a system still used today.

the term DIP means to lower or reduce, according to the OED. not to raise or lift so the action of dipping the lights is to lower them not flash a high beam. once upon a time cars only had one element in the bulb [back from a time when oil lamps were used] these were called driving lights as for the first time ever. they were meant to enable you to see where you were going in the dark not just to warn someone you were coming.
but this could blind oncoming traffic so Lucas came up with a duel element bulb so you could dip the lights when other cars were coming, reverting to driving lights when the road was clear. the dip switch was thus invented. but to lower the lights not raise them. the pass light or what you refer to as the dip switch was added in order for you to flash the car in front to warn him you were about to pass or overtake him and being a high beam could be used day or night.

as far as I am aware this has always been the case.
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post #25 of 28 (permalink) Old 12-7-2019, 8:35 PM
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What you call a dip switch, we call a dimmer switch. Neither term would make a flattering nickname.
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