man checking why motorcycle won't start
June 17, 2024

Ever walked up to your motorcycle, excited to hit the road, only to be greeted by silence when you turn the key?

Frustrating, isn't it?

We're here to arm you with knowledge and tips to tackle this issue head-on.


Here are some of the most common reasons why a motorcycle won't start:

  • Dead battery: A discharged or faulty battery is one of the most common reasons for starting issues.

  • Fuel issues: Problems with fuel delivery, such as a clogged fuel filter or stale fuel, can prevent the engine from starting.

  • Ignition system issues: Faulty spark plugs, ignition coils, or wiring can disrupt the ignition process and prevent the engine from firing.

  • Starter button problems: A malfunctioning starter motor or starter solenoid may prevent the engine from cranking.

  • Faulty run/off switch: If the engine run/off switch is engaged or faulty, it can prevent the ignition system from receiving power.

  • Electrical issues: Wiring problems, blown fuses, or a faulty ignition switch can disrupt the electrical system and prevent the motorcycle from starting.

  • Carburetor issues: Problems with the carburetor, such as a clogged jet or incorrect adjustment, can affect the fuel-air mixture and engine performance.

  • Engine mechanical issues: Serious issues such as a seized engine, lack of compression, or valve problems can prevent the engine from starting.

  • Safety interlock issues: Some motorcycles have safety interlocks, such as kickstand switches or clutch switches, that must be engaged for the engine to start.

  • Incorrect fuel or oil level: Low fuel, incorrect fuel type in the gas tank, or oil levels can prevent the motorcycle from starting or cause engine damage if started.


First, let's examine the heart of your motorcycle's electrical system—the battery. Just like your morning coffee gives you the jolt you need to start your day, your motorcycle relies on its battery for that initial spark.

Is The Battery Charged? 

Grab a multimeter, and let's get scientific! A healthy, fully charged motorcycle battery should read around 12.6 volts or higher. If the voltage dips below 12.4 volts, it's like your battery is saying, "I'm not feeling it today." This is your cue to charge it up and bring that energy back.

Look At The Battery For Defects 

Sometimes, it's not just about the charge. Give your battery a once-over. Notice any bulging, cracks, or battery leaks? These are tell-tale signs of a battery that's seen better days and you may have a defective battery on your hands.


So, your motorcycle's battery is charged, yet your bike still won't start? Don't throw in the towel just yet! There's a whole checklist of potential culprits we can investigate together. So, let’s take a look…

Is The Starter Switch In The “On/Run” Position? 

It might seem obvious, but sometimes the simplest solutions slip through the cracks. Double-check that your ignition switch is indeed in the “on” position.

You may feel a little bit silly if you see that you’ve not had the ignition on, but hey, it’s better than there being a bigger problem, right?

Confirm There Is Gas In The Tank 

Running out of gas is a common oversight. Check your fuel gauge or open the tank to visually confirm there's enough gas for the engine to run. Remember, motorcycles can consume more fuel than expected, especially on spirited rides.

Engage The Clutch

Some motorcycles require the clutch lever to be engaged (pulled in) to start, even when in neutral.

When the clutch lever is pulled in, it activates the clutch assembly switch, which sends a signal to the motorcycle's electronic control unit (ECU) or starter circuit. This signal indicates that the clutch is engaged, allowing the motorcycle to start safely.

This safety feature prevents the bike from lurching forward if it's accidentally in gear.

Put The Motorcycle In (The Right) Gear 

Ensure your motorcycle is in neutral before attempting to start. An illuminated neutral indicator or a gentle nudge of the bike (while off) can confirm it's not in gear. Starting in gear with the clutch engaged can still prevent some bikes from starting due to safety interlocks.

Look For Loose Wires

A loose connection can disrupt power flow to the starting system. Inspect the battery terminals, ignition system, and starter motor for any loose or corroded connections. Tighten and clean as necessary for a reliable electrical connection.

Ensure The Fuel Control Valve Is Set To “On” 

If your motorcycle has a manual fuel valve (petcock), ensure it's set to the "on" or "reserve" position to allow fuel to flow from the tank to the carburetor or fuel injection system.

See If The Fuel Injection System Is Functional 

For fuel-injected motorcycles, listen for the sound of the fuel pump priming when you turn the ignition on. A silent fuel pump could indicate a problem with the pump itself, the motorcycle's electrical system, or a blown fuse.

See If The Spark Plugs Are Good 

An inline spark tester can be used to check spark plugs for fouling, wear, or damage.

This ‘hands free’ device connects in-line between the spark plug and spark plug wire allowing you to quickly troubleshoot engine ignition issues.

A healthy spark plug should have a light tan or gray insulator and no major wear on the electrodes. Be sure to follow safety precautions when performing this test.

Determine If The Petcock Is Clogged 

For motorcycles with a carburetor and manual petcock, or petroleum cock, a clog can result in poor fuel delivery.

Remove the fuel line from the carburetor side of the petcock, turn the valve to "on" or "reserve," and observe if fuel flows freely. No flow may indicate a need to clean or replace the petcock.

Check For Blown Fuses 

A blown fuse can interrupt power to essential systems needed for starting. Find your motorcycle's fuse box and inspect every fuse for a broken wire within the fuse. Replace any blown fuses with ones of the correct amperage.

Check For Damage To The Vacuum Hose 

A damaged or disconnected vacuum line can prevent your motorcycle from starting by disrupting the air-fuel mixture needed for combustion. Inspect the lines for cracks, holes, or loose connections.

A compromised vacuum line can lead to a range of issues, from poor engine performance to a complete inability to start.

Put The Side Stand Up 

Many motorcycles have a safety feature that prevents the engine from starting if the side stand is down. This is particularly true if the bike is in gear. Always retract the side stand before attempting to start your motorcycle, even if you're sure it's in neutral.

Set The Choke Properly 

For motorcycles with a carburetor, properly setting the choke is crucial, especially in cold weather. The active choke enriches the fuel mixture, making it easier for your engine to start when it's cold. If your motorcycle has a manual choke, ensure it's in the correct position for starting.

Think About Past Maintenance 

Reflect on the last time your motorcycle received maintenance. Regular maintenance is crucial for reliable performance. Neglecting oil changes, filter replacements, and other routine checks can lead to starting issues over time.

If it's been a while since your last tune-up, consider whether maintenanceor the lack thereofcould be the reason your motorcycle won't start.


When your motorcycle won’t start, it can be easy to get frustrated and make hasty decisions. While it's tempting to try anything to get back on the road, some actions can do more harm than good.

Here's what you should avoid doing:

Don't Jump The Battery (With A Car) 

Jump-starting a motorcycle battery using a car seems like a quick fix, but it's risky. Cars have much stronger electrical systems, and using one to jump-start your motorcycle can overwhelm and damage the bike's battery or electrical components.

If you must jump-start, use another motorcycle or a portable jump-starter designed for motorcycles, and ensure both vehicles are off before connecting the cables.

Don't Overlook The Simple Things 

In the eagerness to solve the problem, don't skip over basic checks. Ensure the run/off switch is in the correct position, the fuel valve is open, and the motorcycle is in neutral. Overlooking these simple factors can lead to unnecessary troubleshooting.

Don't Buy Replacement Parts (Without Consulting A Pro) 

It might be tempting to start replacing parts you suspect are faulty, but this can be a costly mistake. Without proper diagnostics, you risk replacing parts that aren't the cause of the problem.

Consult a professional mechanic who can accurately diagnose the issue before investing in parts and labor. This approach saves time, money, and ensures the correct fix.


When faced with a motorcycle that won't start, patience and a methodical approach are your best allies. Avoid taking shortcuts that could lead to further issues down the road.

Remember, sometimes the best action is to seek professional help, especially for complex problems or when in doubt about the solution.