Thoughtful Motorcyclist

You know the old saying: There are motorcyclists who have gone down, motorcyclists who are going down, and motorcyclists who are going to go down again – down to their garage only to find that their bike won’t start. Even with today’s improved batteries, if it hasn’t happened to you yet, it will. So, before you pull out your phone and call Uber or your buddy with a pickup truck (You have one of those, don’t you? Every rider should have a buddy with a pickup truck.), check these 10 common causes to assist you in troubleshooting your no-go woes. After all, wouldn’t you rather ride than spend the time explaining to your friend why picking you and your bike up is actually more fun than the date that had to be canceled in order to retrieve you.

  • Alexander Pityuk

    And what to do if you have a XR400?

    • DickRuble

      sell it… if you can find takers

  • Ozzy Mick

    Hmmm…using the flashlight on your smart phone to check the fuel level? What if there’s an incoming call? KABOOOM?!? Or maybe not?
    Why take the risk?

    • Alexander Pityuk

      There are no sparks in LED and no high temperature by definition. It is totally safe. Especially on mobile phones, while on LED flashlights you can get a spark from pressing the “on” button to get in contact (though pretty damn safe too if turned on away from the tank).

  • Mark Penrice

    Hmm, mine’s been parked for a week while I’ve been away… in a garage, with slightly damp but not particularly cold conditions. Ran fine before being put away. Has fuel, battery was enough to turn starter which usually means there’s enough to fire the ignition if bump-started, spark plug lead is firmly connected, compression seems to exist from the rhythm of the starter and how the rear wheel locked if bumped on the slightly loose surface outside the garage in too low a gear…

    Simply would not go this morning. Totally refused. Seemed that it was almost-maybe-sorta firing every second or third full cycle (1-cyl 4-stroke) but not enough to run by itself. Tried choke on, choke off, full/part/no throttle, and various combinations of such, as well as getting it rolling in-gear downhill before turning the ignition switch on… had to give up after 10-15 minutes and take the car instead, partly because I was getting worn out.

    First time I’ve not been able to get it to run at all in 6 years of ownership, including previous incidents of dead battery, seized starter motor, dying big end bearings etc. Only thing which might be a contributor is that it seemed slightly smoky at idle just before I put it away, but can’t be sure if I was just imagining that.

    Any ideas?

    Obviously I haven’t yet tried all the things in the article as that’ll have to wait until I get home – water in the float bowl, checking for a definite spark etc. But if either of those are the cause it’ll also be a first…

    (Only other thing I can think of is HT lead, and I’m a bit stuffed if that’s the case as I have no real idea how it’s routed or whether I can get a replacement with any speed)

  • Moto Ergo Sum

    This list would have been better if the points were in order of likelihood.

    1.Kill switch by starter button? (oops)
    Battery charge and connections (if the bike’s lighting is dead or dims when starter is pushed)
    2.Clutch pulled in? (unless you can start in neutral with clutch lever out)
    3.Kickstand up? (unless you can start in neutral with it down)
    4.Bike in gear? (unless you can start with kickstand up and clutch pulled)
    5.Got fuel? (if it cranks like mad but never fires)
    6.Fuel lines, carb/injectors, and filter? (might be pinched or clogged)
    7.Spark plugs and connections? (cylinders flooded? Plugs fouled?)
    8.Intake and exhaust? (I’ve heard stories of rat nests in airboxes)
    9.Clutch, kickstand kill switches, and starter button? (might have a loose wire or other damage)
    10.Keyed Ignition switch? (might be dirty, corroded, or have a damaged wire)

    • Evans Brasfield

      Thanks for the feedback.

  • dbwindhorst

    Chasing electrical gremlins is the worst.

    My 20-year-old KTM Duke wouldn’t start last week; no spark. Got out the multimeter, checked all the usual suspects for continuity and spec resistance; still no spark. Put everything back together after pulling the ignition cover to check the pulser and stator (which were in spec); Got Spark! Figured one of the connectors must have been a little oxidized, even though they looked okay, and simply unplugging/plugging yielded continuity.

    Put the gas tank back on (which has to be removed to check the plug and ignition coil) — won’t start. Remove tank again; no spark again.

    I’m gonna have to check continuity in all the ignition circuits’ wiring; it almost has to be a bad connector or broken lead somewhere.