Motorcycling - Knowledge

Motorcycle Won't Start? - Here are the Common Issues and Fixes!

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So, you finally get past a hectic week at work and get up on a bright, sunny Saturday morning. The weather is just perfect for a ride and you hurry up through your morning rituals and get ready for a day of some outdoor adventure on your motorcycle. With your riding jacket and helmet in place, you try to kick start your bike but find that your motorcycle won’t start. You try again and again but your beloved motorcycle just refuses to start. It is indeed a heart-breaking scenario and with your expressions and frustration, you can almost imagine yourself to be one ‘motorcycle won’t start meme’. We can really feel your agony, and thus we have prepared a list of possible reasons that your motorcycle won’t start. Reading these will definitely give you an insight into what all issues can prevent a motorcycle from starting and how to start a motorcycle when it refuses to do so.

Before you go on to read, let us clarify that we are assuming that you do not own one of those new, fancy, ‘all-electric’ motorcycles. We will cover the basic components that act as motorcycle starters in a non-electric motorcycle. If you find that suddenly, your motorcycle won’t start, you do not have to panic and call the garage. At least not until you check the basic components of your motorcycle.

Table of Content

  • The Three Musketeers that Don’t Let Your Motorcycle Start
  • What to Do When The Motorcycle Won't Start
  • Final Thoughts

The Three Musketeers that Don’t Let Your Motorcycle Start

Not meant to be taken literally, of course. All we want to say is that there are three main factors that need to be checked if you are having a hard time starting the motorcycle. These are:

  • Spark (Ignition),
  • Fuel: Air Mixture and
  • Compression

Checking these, one by one will most likely let you know why you are unable to kick start motorcycle. Read on to know the details.

Spark/ Ignition

Start by checking the spark plugs. Remove them from the head of the cylinder and inspect them. Sometimes, simple wear and tear of the spark render them dysfunctional. Then, you should check the spark for its functioning by laying it over the cylinder, check that the ignition is on, and turn the engine over.

A properly functioning spark plug should create a nice spark. However, care must be exercised while checking this because the spark is created under high voltage conditions and can potentially shock the person. If there is no spark generated, you have found the culprit. Replacing the spark plug will most likely get your bike started.

However, if you see a spark generated, you would have to make sure that when inside the cylinder, the spark plug shoots at the correct time. This varies from model to model and depends on the ignition type.

ignition system
Ignition Wiring

Fuel: Air Mixture

When considering the fuel: air mixture, before you start getting into the details, it is a good idea to check the fuel petcock. If you notice a clogged petcock, cleaning it up a bit would solve your problem. Also, take a quick look at how much fuel do you have in your tank. 

The most common problem with bikes that have been out of action for a long time is that the fuel has broken down during prolonged storage. Sometimes, the fuel is dried out and this is the reason that your motorcycle won’t start. It is a good idea to check the fuel lines and ensure that the passage of fuel is unhindered.

If there is a problem in the fuel lines, there are also chances that the fuel filters may be plugged. For this issue, it is advisable to add a starting fluid that will help draw the fuel into the fuel system. Alternatively, clogged vent tubes may be the reason that fuel isn’t reaching its destination and you are unable to push start motorcycle.

Another reason that your motorcycle won’t start is flooding of the engine by fuel. You could un-flood the engine by turning off the motor, removing the spark plugs and turning off the choke before draining out the fuel. It is advisable to let the motorcycle sit unused for some time so that the fuel evaporates completely.

If your motorcycle is not ready to start even after checking the above-mentioned things, probably the carburetor needs a revamp. Thorough cleaning of the carburetor is required in this case, they are quite easy to maintain and you should consider tuning your carburetor to improve performance when needed. 

The final checkpoint in this section is the vacuum line. In order to work efficiently, the fuel needs to be mixed well with a specific amount of air. This fuel: air mixture is the driving force of your motorcycle. So, you should check closely for damage in the vacuum lines and the filter. 

fuel petcock
Fuel Petcock

Compression

If nothing has worked so far for getting your motorcycle started, the engine is where the problem might lie. One of the reasons that your motorcycle won’t start could be that the fuel: air mixture isn’t getting the optimal compression because of faulty parts like the piston rings, pistons, cylinders, seals or gaskets.

If you notice that any of these parts show signs of damage, you have no option but to replace those parts. This should only be done by an experienced mechanic.

compression for motorcycle
Compression for motorcycle (source)

What to Do When The Motorcycle Won't Start

Let’s hope that addressing one of the three problem-areas discussed above has solved your problem. If not, then it is likely to be a hidden problem that requires the expert eyes of a mechanic. However, do not call the mechanic just yet. We have compiled a list of some other probable idea that may work when your motorcycle won’t start.

Confirm the Starting Procedure

If you have recently exchanged your old motorcycle, it is likely that the two bikes have a different starting procedure. Some motorcycles require that they should be in neutral position before starting them, while others need the clutch firmly pressed.

Look at the Sidestand

Chances that your motorcycle won’t start are higher when your side stand inclines the motorcycle on the ground. Just get your motorcycle up straight, hinge back that side stand and try again. There are chances that your motorcycle will get started this time around.

motorcycle side stand
Side stand of bike

Check Battery Life, Battery connection, and Fuse

A very common reason of the motorcycle refusing to start is the battery with sub-optimal power. 

A fairly easy way to check the battery power is to switch on all the lights and push the horn button and hear the sound. If you feel that the horn is weaker than usual, it is likely that the battery needs replacement. A weak battery will not result in proper ignition and that might just be a reason for your bike not starting.

A friendly piece of advice from our side: Before discarding the battery, please check the terminal connections. Sometimes, the connections go loose or corroded and only require some cleaning and manual tightening to get back in good shape. Having a voltmeter handy helps, you can use that to confirm the battery readings. Sometimes, the battery needs to be charged up again.

If your motorcycle won’t start but the battery is good, then you have to look for a blown-out fuse. If you find a blown fuse, replacing it will solve your problem. A damaged interlock safety switch will most likely have to be replaced by a mechanic.

Find out if You Can Jump Start the Motorcycle

Sometimes when the battery is not supplying enough current to the ignition, a jump-start might do the trick. Jump-starting a bike is quite easy and you can do it yourself with help from a friend. But you might want to read up a bit on how to jump-start a motorcycle of the company and model you have. This is because while some of the popular models of motorcycles are pro-jump starting, other models have clear specifications of the voltage spike range they can withstand. In the latter case, jump starting is not the recommended action. In any case, check out our guide on how to jumpstart a motorcycle, the steps are simple and easy to remember in case you ever need use this trick.

Other reasons why motorcycle won't start

If you find that your motorcycle is drawing power (Switches on) but won’t start, the problem could also be located in the ignition or fuel system. Think about your last ride and recall if you washed the bike or filled the tank. Pressure washing may result in water entering the kill switch, fuel tank, plug caps or ignition switch and cause a delay in starting up. If the tank was filled after your last ride, checking for fuel lines may help, sometimes the fuel is of bad quality and it can block your fuel line or injector.

jumpstart the bike
Check the fuel lines

Check Muffler Exit

It is not uncommon to have the airbox or muffler of the motorcycle blocked. This could be because a rodent has inhabited the muffler during long storage of the bike, or some prankster has purposely inserted a ball or any other blockage in the airbox exit. Sometimes, a simple check on the muffler exit will save a lot of time and effort when your motorcycle won’t start.

Check Plug Wires

If your motorcycle clicks but won’t start, it is worthwhile to check the electric connections like the different plugs and connectors. Sometimes, unplugging and re-plugging the connectors is all it takes to get the motorcycle started. Loose plug wires are a fairly common reason of motorcycle not getting started. 

plug wires of motorcycle
Check the plug wires

Check the Injector System

While this section of the motorcycle requires intervention by an experienced mechanic, you can have a look at the motorcycle’s fuel injection system when trying to locate the reason why your motorcycle won’t start. Most of the time, the problem in the injector system is actually the pump. You will be able to notice a healthy pump in your running motorcycle. If you notice something wrong with this sound, probably it is a time to call the mechanic.

Try to Push Start the Motorcycle

When all other troubleshooting tips fail, sometimes it is advisable to push start a motorcycle. There is a clear guide on how to push start a motorcycle, consisting of the following steps:

  • Put the motorcycle in first or second gear
  • Press the clutch and manually push the motorcycle forward to reach a speed of about 5 mph
  • Release the clutch and hit the starter
  • Pep up the engine to medium in order to prevent the motorcycle from dying down again

Push starting the motorcycle is a skill that has saved may bikers from getting stranded in the middle of nowhere. Even if this technique does not solve the core issue, it is a good way to reach the nearest garage and get the motorcycle examined by a qualified mechanic.

hit the starter
Hit the starter

Final Thoughts

These are some of the common causes that can lead to ignition issues in a motorcycle. Proper and regular maintenance minimises the chances of such problems. Make sure that you keep the parts of your motorcycle in good shape by regular cleaning. Scheduled visits to the garage will definitely prevent an emergency visit. Another point to be noted is that motorcycles are meant for riding. One should avoid prolonged periods of their storage because this tends to damage some parts of the motorcycle. Do contribute to this article if you've come across any other issues and have solved them yourself.

Cover Source!

Team Livingit
Motorcycling - Beginner
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