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BMW Heated Vest

This could have been a great bit of kit. It works really well and the conductive fabric is much more comfortable than the type with cables running through them. A switch on the rather heavy and overlong lead provides on/off and temperature control. It has some thin padding and the fabric seems to reflect heat back to the body and it is quite effective even if not plugged in.

So What's Wrong With It?

One minor issue is that the instruction leaflet warns that the switch is not waterproof so should be placed inside clothing. Great idea. It makes it necessary to stop and unzip jacket every time a temperature change is wanted. Can it be that hard to make a switch waterproof?

Now the major issue. The very heavy lead connects to the jacket via a tiny socket fixed to the jacket lining. So far so good but the damned plug is forever falling out. Even just moving about on the bike is enough to disconnect it and it gets worse with wear.

My first solution was to put a velcro patch near the socket and wrap some velcro around the lead thus providing a strain relief for the plug/socket. Worked OK for a bit but the plug still fell out. Even wrapping insulating tape across the plug socket join was not successful and that was a nuisance anyway as the lead was permanently attached to the jacket.

It was tempting to take it back but it's a bloody long way to the dealer I bought it from and other than the stupid plug I liked the jacket.

The latest solution is a but drastic and detailed below for anyone who has the same problem. So far it works.

The first job was to get rid of the socket in the jacket and solder the lead on instead.

There are four wires in the jacket socket, two red and two black on mine. The same on the lead from the controller to the plug except that on the lead the black wires are heavier and in the jacket they are all the same. As the black wires in the lead are heavier I assume they are the power wires and the red ones are the thermostat. To be safe I made sure that the wires were soldered exactly as they mated in the plug and socket.

First I cut around the two rivets holding the socket in place so the it could be pulled out a little to get to the cable. I then cut one red wire in the cable and using a continuity meter on the cut end checked which pin it led to in the socket and stuck a bit of tape on the wire. I then did the same with one black wire. Then the remaining wires can be cut and the socket discarded.

Now slice off the outer insulation on the cable, just behind the plug, to reveal the wires and again cut one red and one black and again use a meter to check which pin the cut ends goes to. Now you can work out which wires connect together. For example, if the cut red in the plug is the top right pin and the cut wire in the socket is top left you know that cut red should solder to the uncut red. Note that the plug and socket only fits together one way so you can check which pin connects where.

All this probably took longer to read than to do and you can now solder the wires together, insulating each one with tape or shrink wrap tubing.

Now slice off the insulation on the cable midway between the controller and the discarded plug to reveal the inner wires. Cut one red and one black and mark the ends, then cut the other two. Now slide heat shrink tubing over the jacket end of the cable to finish off the joints. I then cut two small slots in the socket base and cable tied the cable in place.

Now solder the wire ends to a suitable inline plug and socket ensuring the matched pairs of leads go on the matching tags and the socket is on the cable side, not the jacket. I used a 4 pin XLR which is a couple of pounds in Maplin. You could use 4 pin DIN etc but the XLR has a latching connection so will not come adrift in use and most have really effective cable clamps taking the strain off the cable. NB Don't forget to slide the plug covers on the lead BEFORE soldering.

Final job is to take the strain off the jacket lead. I already had a velcro patch sewn to the jacket and some velcro on the cable as a strain relief (the red tape is just to stop the velcro sliding) and used that but as the new solution has the plug outside the jacket a permanent fix is possible. A stitched on patch or whatever.

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