15 Reasons Your Motorcycle Won’t Start: Diagnosed Problems & Solutions

man wiping motorcycle helmet by motorcycle

So you’ve got this motorcycle. It’s in the garage, all shiny and ready to be ridden. But there is one problem: it won’t start! There are many reasons why a bike might not be able to turn over. The fuel tank, kill switch, ignition coil, kick starter, fuel injection systems, engine spark, dead battery, faulty spark plugs, clutch switch, faulty battery, starter fluid, kick start, ignition switch, fuel system, electric starter and other components affect the bike’s ignition. A weak battery, engine kill, poor fuel filter, electrical issues and other factors contribute to a motorcycle dying. The starter motor, fuel line, fuel injectors and other electrical components affect the air intake of the motorcycle through the air box. A motorcycle needs enough gas to pass through the combustion chamber to avoid fuel problems. A completely dead battery is one of the primary reasons why motorcycles fail to start. The air mixture in the head gasket affects push starting. A trickle charger is effective to solve minor electrical issues and supporting electric start. If the kill switch is frequently used, it can affect the ignition coil. Effective spark plugs can help to avoid such problems. A new battery, new starter, new plugs and other objects can help in case of trouble starting a motorcycle.

Here are the top 15 reasons why your motorcycle won’t start & what you can do about it!

15 Reasons your motorcycle won’t start

  1. The battery is dead
  2. The fuel pump is out of gas
  3. There’s dirt in the gas tank
  4. Faulty or warn spark plug
  5. Faulty starter relay
  6. Faulty solenoid valves
  7. A shorted wire
  8. Dirty oil and broken rings (oil seal damage)
  9. Incorrectly set idle screws
  10. Broken valves
  11. Motorcycle battery terminals are corroded
  12. Broken timing chain
  13. Dirty/old air filter
  14. Broken valve springs
  15. Faulty ignition coils

The battery is dead

motorcycle won't start

To check to see if your battery is dead turn the key and see if it starts. If the battery is dead, then none of the lights will turn on and it won’t start. The only thing you can do is charge the battery. If your bike has a smart charger, then you’re all set! Simply hook it up and let it charge for 2-8 hours. Usually, this will be enough time to ensure that the battery is charged and ready to go.

The fuel pump is out of gas

If the bike has been sitting in storage and doesn’t start, then it’s possible that there is not enough fuel in the bike. To check this, open up the tank and have a look inside. If your motorcycle is out of gas, get a few gallons of gas and try to turn your bike over. If it starts right up, you were just out of fuel! Otherwise, it might be something else.

There’s dirt in the gas tank

If you’ve been riding a while, it’s possible that your carburettor might not have enough time to drain out all of the gas. That little bit of fuel can get contaminated by water or other debris. If this is the case, try draining some gas out of the tank. Then, get yourself some fuel injector cleaner and flush that carburettor!

Faulty or worn spark plug

If your motorcycle is not starting, then one thing you can do is check the spark plug. There are a few things to consider here. If it’s an older bike with points, replace the spark plug. If you have over 40,000 miles under your belt and it starts really hard, then replace the spark plug as well. It’s possible that there is a lot of carbon buildup! Otherwise, if you’re not sure about either, contact an authorized mechanic or ask around.

Faulty starter relay

If the bike doesn’t start, the first thing that you might want to check is the starter relay. The starter relay controls the flow of electricity from your battery to the rest of your motorcycle. If it’s faulty, then there won’t be any electricity getting to where you need it to go!

Inspect for a blown fuse in the fuse box under the seat or behind the dash. If the fuse is blown, replace it with a new one of the correct rating.

If there’s no blown fuse, try the next issue.

Faulty solenoid valves

Inside the engine, there are 4 solenoid valves. Each one controls a different function:

  1. The fuel pump
  2. The ignition system
  3. The oil pressure display and sending unit
  4. Securing the wheels when you turn off your motorcycle

If any of these functions malfunction then it’s possible that there could be an issue with your solenoid valves! If any of your indicators are constantly on or if all 4 indicators are constantly blinking, there’s a problem.

To check these solenoid valves, you’ll need a multimeter. Check the resistance on each valve-it should read 0 ohms. If it doesn’t, then that solenoid is bad and needs to be replaced!

A shorted Wire

If the motorcycle is not starting, it might be possible that the wire has shorted out. Inspect the wires carefully. You can do this by touching one end of your multimeter to the ground (the frame) and then placing the other end on each of the wires in turn. If you get a reading for each wire, there’s no problem. If you get a reading on just some of the wires, then it’s possible that there’s a short!

If you don’t have a multimeter, or if for some reason your bike starts after identifying the problem, then it might be time to take it to an authorized mechanic.

The issue with wire shorting is that it is really hard to find exactly which wire has shorted and where.

Dirty oil or oil seal damage

If you’ve been out riding for a while, it’s possible that your engine has old dirty oil running around in there or oil seal damage. This will leave a film of sludge all over your engine. Running this oil could cause problems in the long run, so it’s best to drain out the oil and get rid of that sludge!

If you want to do this yourself, check out the manual for instructions on how to remove the oil filter and take everything apart. Then, clean off all of that sludge by hand or with a shop rag dipped in solvent. When you’re done, put the bike back together again.

Incorrectly set idle screws

There are 2 screws that determine the idle speed of your bike-one on the carburettor and one on an adjuster near the throttle grip. If you turn these screws and nothing happens, try adjusting them again. It’s possible that they’re set incorrectly! You can do this by turning one screw clockwise and then the other counterclockwise until you find a good balance. This should solve the problem if it is indeed incorrect settings.

Broken valves

If you’re having major engine problems, it might be possible that one of the valves is broken. This could cause your bike to misfire, lose oil pressure, or run very badly.

Valve damage can come from a variety of places-an an incorrectly set idle screw, faulty solenoid valve, or pretty much anything else on this list! It’s really hard to say exactly what caused it because of how many different things are involved. If there are no other problems after replacing all of these parts, then this might be an issue with your valves.

Motorcycle battery terminals are corroded.

When the motorcycle does not start, it might just be a matter of cleaning and tightening the battery terminals. Remove the caps and clean the terminals with sandpaper or use a wire brush to remove corrosion and dirt from where the wires touch. Make sure that they’re very tight so there’s no chance of them coming loose!

Broken timing chain

It’s possible that your timing chain is broken, which can cause a variety of issues. The only way to check is by removing the timing chain cover and doing a visual inspection if you see damaged or missing internals then it’s time for a new timing chain!

Broken timing chains can cause a variety of problems for motorcycles. The only way to see if this is the problem is by inspecting the internals, which can be dangerous. If you find this damage, it’s best to get a new timing chain.

Dirty/old air filter

If you have very old air or gas filters, then they might be clogged up. This can cause bad running conditions that are impossible to diagnose because it just looks like a normal issue with the engine! While you’re in there replacing the filters, it’s wise to check out all of the other parts-it might be time for some new spark plugs or brake pads!

A dirty air filter will prevent air from being drawn into your engine, while a dirty fuel filter will prevent fuel from reaching your engine. If this is what’s causing your motorcycle not to start, simply tighten everything up and replace the old/dirty parts.

Broken valve springs

The valves in your engine open and close thousands of times a minute, which is why they need to be surrounded by spring energy. If these springs break, the valves won’t make full contact with the piston and this can cause major problems!

This problem occurs when an incorrect idle speed is set or if the valve is misadjusted. This will be very difficult to diagnose because it might look like something else entirely such as a dirty air filter or poor running conditions.

Don’t rush into things just yet though! Try replacing all of the parts listed above-it’s possible that any one of these issues could be causing big problems with your motorcycle not starting! If you do indeed have broken valve springs, then you’ll need to get a new timing

Faulty ignition coils

The coils are part of the ignition system, which sends high voltage to the spark plugs. They’re responsible for creating a spark that ignites the fuel in your cylinder. If these coils aren’t working, then you won’t be able to start your motorcycle!

Change the ignition system if needed. This is an easy fix but might also show up as problems with misfiring or poor engine performance.

About The Author

daniel and sarah on motorcycle

Want to Receive Exclusive Offers, Tips & Freebies