You step outside into the warm sun, and you’re all geared up and ready to feel the wind on your face. You sit on your bike and adjust your weight until you are comfortable and balanced. Then, you hit the switch, but nothing happens. Your motorcycle won’t start. As your heart sinks in anticipation of not being able to hit the road on your bike, you start wondering if the problem is something you can quickly and easily fix yourself. There is a good chance you can still salvage the day when you follow these troubleshooting tactics:
1. Verify The Starting Drill
Without trying to sound condescending, the first thing you should do is make sure you followed the right procedure to start the engine. Every motorcycle has its own starting drill. Sometimes you have to hold the clutch in, whether the bike is in gear or not. Some bikes need to be in neutral when their engines are turned on. So the first thing you should do is dig out your motorcycle’s owner manual and make sure you are doing the right things in the proper order to start the bike successfully. If this isn’t the problem, keep reading.
2. Check The Battery
One of the most common reasons why a motorcycle won’t start is that it has a bum battery or something is preventing the battery from doing its job. Look for dim lights, slow or no starter activity, and a weak horn. These are all signs of a dead or low battery. If this seems to be the problem, you’ll need to recharge or replace the battery on your machine or bring it to a motorcycle repair shop for them to do it for you.
Also look at the battery connections. A terminal could be loose or corroded. If this is the case, a good cleaning and/or tightening is all you need to do to get your bike running again. After you clean and/or tighten the terminals, grab a voltmeter to read the battery terminals. If it reads less than 12.5 volts without any load, or 10.5 volts with the lights on, you’ll need to recharge the battery. You can recharge your battery by jump-starting your bike from a buddy’s bike or your car.
3. Examine The Trouble Spots
If the motorcycle’s battery is in good order, then you may be looking at an issue with one of several common motorcycle trouble spots. These include:
Malfunctioning clutch/starter interlock switch – Take it to the professionals for repair.
Blown fuse – Replace it with a new fuse of the same amperage rating.
Broken kickstand safety switch – Have a motorcycle mechanic repair this for you.
4. Consider Your Recent Motorcycle Activities
Think about the last few things you did to your bike, which could have caused a problem. For example: If you’ve recently power washed your bike, water may have gotten into the ignition switch, kickstand safety switch, or the kill switch. A few squirts of a moisture-displacing lubricant will probably solve the issue. These lubricants can be found in motorcycle shops, hardware stores, and also most department stores.
5. Look At The Fuel
Let some of the fuel flow out into a small container by loosening the float-bowl drain screw. You are looking for water, which appears as little globules; dirt, which will look like small particles; or other debris. If these things are found in your fuel, you’ll want to drain the tank and fill it with fresh gas. If there is little to no fuel in the float-bowls, then it’s a sign that there’s an issue with the fuel delivery system. You can try and prime the engine, but in most cases this problem will need to be fixed by a professional motorcycle repair technician.
Today’s modern motorcycles are extremely reliable, but problems do creep up sometimes. In most cases, a bike that won’t start has a minor problem, like no fuel or a bad connection somewhere. You just have to find the issue so you can fix it. If you have a problem with your motorcycle and you can’t figure out what’s wrong, call your local motorcycle repair shop and they’d be happy to take a look at it for you.