Most Common Reasons Why Your Motorcycle Won’t Start | Simple Solutions

Most Common Reasons Why Your Motorcycle Won’t Start | Simple Solutions

  • Updated: 2023-08-05

Dead battery

The most common reason why a motorcycle won’t start after sitting is that the battery is dead. This is also one of the easiest problems to diagnose. If the battery is dead, the bike won’t make any noise when you try to start it. When there’s a little voltage left, you may be able to turn the key and the blinkers on, but starting the bike may prove slow and sluggish.

A battery is more likely to die if your motorcycle is not used and just sits in your garage. The solution to this problem is, however, very simple. You will need to get a multimeter, and if the instrument reads close to or slightly below 12 volts, you will need to charge the battery. If the reading is lower than 9 volts, then you will need to purchase a replacement.

If your battery tends to lose voltage consistently, then you may want to think about purchasing a battery tender that can keep the battery charged even when you’re not using the bike.

The motorcycle won’t start but the battery is good

One of the worst problems you can have is getting no action at the starter motor, and in this case, the bike won’t start even if you have a working battery. If your Harley has power but won’t start, you will have to do a bit of troubleshooting.

The best approach is to start with the simple things and look at the common trouble spots, such as the kickstand safety switch, clutch/starter interlock switch, and the fuses. If any of these components malfunction, then your bike won’t be able to start even if the battery is in good health.

If the problem is caused by a blown fuse, the solution is to replace it and then try to start the bike again. There’s only one fuse that can prevent your bike from starting, and that’s the main fuse, which is usually located off of the positive battery wire. You can check your bike’s owner’s manual for the exact location.

You can tell if the fuse is blown just by looking at it. If the fuse is covered in a black residue, or if the wires inside it are disconnected, then this means that the fuse is toast.

If there’s a dead short somewhere on your bike, the new fuse will blow again, and in this case, you will need to repair the dead short first. On the other hand, if one of the switches is to blame, you will need to bypass them with a jumper wire.

Dirty carburetor

If you have an electric starter, there’s a simple method to test if the carburetor is dirty. You will need to start by taking the air intake off followed by pushing the starter and squirting some starter fluid right into the carburetor. If the bike starts and revs up for a couple of seconds, this is a symptom of a dirty carburetor.

So how do you fix it? You will need to clean it, and for this, you will first need to take the air intake off and detach the carburetor from the engine. If this is your first time performing this task, you should take pictures and label parts using tape so that you can remember how to put them back together.

For this step, it is highly recommended to refer to your owner’s manual so you won’t have problems reassembling the carburetor after you are done cleaning it. To clean it, you should use an ultrasonic cleaner. Immerse all the parts in the cleaner and do a few rounds in it. This will break down all the fuel and dirt that has built up over the years.

Ultrasonic cleaners can be found in most home improvement and auto stores and are quite inexpensive. If you can’t get an ultrasonic cleaner, you can clean the carburetor by hand in hot soapy water and then rinse. However, you should be aware that cleaning it by hand won’t remove all the dirt from those hard-to-get places.

It may be too cold

If your Harley doesn’t start, the cause can be as simple as the weather being too cold. However, this will only apply to motorcycles that have a carburetor, and it won’t affect those that use a fuel injection system.

You can identify if the cold is preventing your bike from starting by listening to the sound it makes while you’re trying to start it. If the sound is slower than normal and the temperatures are below freezing, you will need to consider the weather as a possible cause.

In this case, the solution is to take the bike into a shed or garage that is equipped with an outlet and bring a space heater close to the engine and carburetor. You should leave the bike warm up for at least 20-30 minutes.

This should make the engine warm enough to get started. You can also prevent this problem in the future by storing the bike inside or by covering it so that it can stay out of the reach of the elements.

Fuel pump or injector problems

It is not common for fuel injectors to fail, and in most cases, it is the pump that’s causing the issue. To identify if the pump is to blame, you will first need to get in the habit of listening to your bike when it is working properly. If you can’t hear the pump run when you attempt to start the bike, you should check the pump fuse.

One word of caution, troubleshooting a fuel-injection system requires a lot of care and expensive and specialized equipment. This is why if you suspect that the fuel injector is the component that’s preventing your motorcycle from starting, it is better to take a trip to your favorite mechanic.

You can prevent the injector from getting clogged in the first place by never letting your motorcycle sit for too long. Moreover, since fuel injectors aren’t very expensive, you can purchase a new one instead of wasting a lot of time and money on tools to clean it.

The spark plugs gave out

Electrical problems are very common and quite frustrating to troubleshoot for the average rider since most of us forget to consider that something might be wrong with the electrical system. A good place to start is with the spark plugs.

If your motorcycle sounds louder than usual, is running poorly, and seems gutless, the cause may very likely be due to spark plugs that are about to give out. There are many ways in which the spark plugs can go bad, but the solution is the same: buy new spark plugs.

There’s no reason to attempt to repair a bad spark plug since this component can be purchased for just a few dollars each at most auto stores. When replacing a spark plug, it is recommended to remove all the other ones as well, even if they work well.

To ensure smooth operation, spark plugs need to be changed about every 30,000 to 90,000 miles. When one goes bad, it is better to replace all of them instead of keeping track of the mileage on each one.

Bad ignition coil

If the spark plugs are working fine, you have enough fuel, and the motorcycle lights work, but the motorcycle won’t start, then you may be dealing with a coil issue. This problem is caused primarily by poor stalling and idling. In this situation, the motorcycle can turn over, but it will not stay on.

It is also possible to turn over the motorcycle but be unable to achieve a full start since the bad coil won’t be able to support the startup. The coil can also go bad over time due to heat and vibration damage, but this is less common. The most common cause is an overload in voltage caused by the spark plugs.

The good news is that fixing this problem is fairly easy, seeing as all you will need to do is purchase new ignition coils. They’re inexpensive, and replacing them is very easy.

The starter has malfunctioned

This issue can only be considered if you’re having difficulties starting a motorcycle that has an electric starter. A bad starter can be identified by the strange sounds that it makes. The sounds vary from starter to starter, and you can experience a clicking or whirring sound. It is also possible to get no sound at all.

The main reason why starters can begin to malfunction is old age since most models are rated for about 80,000 starts. Overheating and poor wire connections can also lower the expected lifespan of this component. There’s no way to fix a bad starter, and the only solution is to replace the old one.

Bad airflow and fuel problems

If your motorcycle won’t start, but it turns over, you should make sure that the air filter in the air box is not too dirty. If the filter hasn’t been cleaned or replaced in a long time, then you will need to purchase a new one.

It is also important to check on the fuel, particularly if the bike won’t start after sitting. With time, gas can start to break down, and it won’t be able to combust anymore. In this case, a fresh tank of gas is all you will need to solve the problem. You can also consider using a bit of starter fluid.

The intake or exhaust may be blocked

If your Harley Davidson won’t start, you should take a moment to consider the possibility of something blocking the exhaust and intake system. This can happen for a wide range of reasons, from a foreign object getting stuck in the exhaust while driving on the road to kids pranking you.

The solution here is to check the intake or exhaust and see if there is anything stuck inside. If you find something there, you will need to remove the foreign object. Before inspecting the exhaust, you will need to ensure that it has cooled down completely.

How do you force start a motorcycle?

“My motorcycle won’t start, and I have no one to help me” is not something that you ever want to be thinking about, but it can happen, and in this case, knowing how to push start a motorcycle is a skill of great value.

If the battery has died, the easiest method is to sit on the bike and have another person push you. However, this is not always possible, and here you can find a quick guide on how to start a motorcycle with a dead battery on your own.

First, you will need to insert the key and turn the ignition. Keep the bike into second gear to prevent it from jerking once you get it started. Because you will need the bike to move at a speed of at least 5 mph, you will need to find a hill and use it to gain speed.

Walk on the left side of the bike and push it until you get to a good jogging speed. Once you’ve reached the desired speed, jump on the bike, and immediately drop the clutch and push the starter. When the engine starts, pull in the clutch and give it a bit of gas to keep the RPMs up. You can now take the bike on a ride for at least 30 minutes to give the battery enough time to charge.

Why is my motorcycle clicking when I try to start it?

If you’re looking for solutions to this problem, there are three possible reasons that you will need to consider. The first one is a dead battery, and in this case, the clicking sound you’re hearing is caused by the magnet trying to magnetize the gear.

The second culprit is the starter, which, as we mentioned earlier in our article, can lead to a series of different sounds, including a clicking noise. Lastly, the less likely cause out of the three is a seized engine. This is caused by the piston rings, rod bearings, and pistons getting too hot and welding together. In this case, the clicking noise is caused by the flywheel being unable to turn.