If every motorcycle dealership got a dollar for every time they heard the words “My motorcycle won’t start,” there'd be a lot of very rich dealerships in the world. A motorcycle that won't start is a massive pain, but by no means uncommon. But just as every rider is different, so are the reasons for a motorcycle that refuses to start. It could a lack of fuel, faulty wiring, a dead battery, or even a dirty carburetor. Sometimes, it could just be a sign of general wear and tear. Fortunately, many of the problems are pretty common (not to mention easy to identify), making the process of working out exactly what's causing your own motorcycle not to start that little bit easier. Here are ten of the most common reasons why your motorcycle won't start.
1. Dead Battery
Of all the reasons why your motorcycle won't start, a dead battery is the most obvious. As motorcycle.com comments, a typical sign of a dead battery is very dim running lights that get progressively dimmer or even go out completely when you try starting. If the battery is no longer able to hold a charge, it's unlikely you'll be able to crank it up for more than a second. Numerous factors go into determining the lifespan of a motorcycle battery, including its type and composition, its age, and your riding style. As even the best riders who put minimal strain on their motorcycles can still wind up with a failed battery, it pays to watch out for warning signs of your battery weakening so you can take preemptive action.
2. No Fuel
As bikedekho.com notes, a low fuel level is a common reason for motorcycles failing to start. When the fuel level plummets, gauging its availability via the fuel gauge can be difficult. Fortunately, there are a few tried and tested ways of telling whether your motorcycle still has any fuel left or not. Gently shake the motorcycle when on the main stand. Pay attention to the sound. if you hear nothing, you've identified the problem. If you hear the swoosh of fuel, you'll need to check for alternative sources of the problem.
3. Blown Fuses
If the motorcycle sounds fine when you start it but keeps spinning without result, you could be dealing with a blown fuse. Typically, this happens as a result of a faulty grounding wire - a common enough problem, especially if you've tried fitting aftermarket lights or a horn without paying too much attention to which wires you're putting where. Try spraying starter fluid in the carburetor. If it makes no difference, it suggests the fuse can't send a spark to the spark plug. Simply replacing the fuse will only give you a short reprieve before you face the same problem again. The only way to tackle the problem once and for all is to address the faulty wiring.
4. Faulty Clutch Switch
If the instrument lights are on but the starter won't click, let alone crank, it could suggest a problem with the clutch switch. To get the motorcycle to start, squeeze and release the clutch lever a few times. If that doesn't have the desired effect, you could try jumping the leads with a staple instead.
5. Too Much Air
Too much air intake into the engine is just as bad as too little. If there is an intake or vacuum leak that's sucking air into the combustion chamber without fuel to mix with, the engine will splutter, run at a high idle, or not start at all. Usually, the problem is caused by a disconnected or broken vacuum line or a badly installed carb or intake manifold.
6. Off Timing
If the motorcycle doesn't even turn over when you try to start it, its timing could be off. Typical signs include a ticking sound when you try to start. If you do manage to get it started at all, it's likely to backfire before stalling. The problem is usually caused by people tinkering with the engine without professional guidance. Otherwise, it could be a sign of a very old electronic control module.
7. Dirty Carburetor
Unless you keep your motorcycle purely for show, it's normal for dirt and grime to make their way to your fuel system. Over time, the deposits can build up to such an extent, they can end up blocking fuel passageways. As the jets in the carburetor are so small, they can become affected more quickly and easily than other passageways. Although the problem can affect any motorcycle, it's particularly common if you neglect to use a fuel filter.
8. Bad Ignition Coil
Poor idling and stalling can, over time, both lead to a bad ignition coil. Typically, it's either the result of excess vibration and heat (both of which can eventually cause damage to the winding of a coil) or a voltage overload resulting from poorly functioning spark plugs. Either way, bad ignition coils can cause poor spark circulation. In this kind of scenario, it's likely your motorcycle will turn over but quickly lose momentum and stall. Otherwise, it may turn over but fail to achieve a full start.
9. Too Cold
While motorcycles with fuel injection systems aren't usually affected by the cold, low temperatures can stop motorcycles with carburetors from starting. The cold can stop combustion by preventing gasoline from evaporating. It can also cause ice to build up in the carburetor, again stopping normal combustion. If cold temperatures are to blame for your motorcycle's refusal to start, you'll probably notice that the vehicle sounds like it's about to start, but that the turning sounds are more sluggish than usual.
10. General Wear and Tear
As youmotorcycle.com notes, general wear and tear will eventually catch up with any motorcycle. If you've been playing it fast and loose with maintenance, your motorcycle may eventually grind to a shuddering stop. To avoid the problem, don't skip basic maintenance requirements: use an app to keep a check on your motorcycle's fuel performance, follow the maintenance schedule in the owner's manual, and keep an eye out for any red flags like dimming lights, difficulty in starting, or a lackluster horn.
Written by Benjamin Smith
Read more posts by Benjamin Smith