How To Start A Motorcycle With A Bad Starter

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Key Takeaways

  • A faulty starter motor will be a pain for most motorcycle owners.
  • It is possible to push-start a motorcycle with a malfunctioning starter.
  • The average cost of a new starter is $75 - $350 and takes 2 - 4 hours to complete the repair.
  • A bad starter motor can affect other electrical systems.

You hop on your bike, but nothing happens as you turn the ignition. It might be the starter. Let’s explore how to jumpstart a motorcycle with a faulty starter.

Cranking a motorcycle with a faulty starter can be done with patience and legwork. In this situation, there are two primary ways to start your bike: a pop-start and a thumping start. A faulty starter should be replaced immediately to prevent critical damage to your bike’s key systems.

Nothing is worse than hopping on your motorcycle, anticipating hitting the open road, and finding out your bike won’t start. While a non-start can result from many issues (from bad batteries to faulty wiring or even a blown main fuse), sometimes it’s the starter motor. A motorcycle won’t start without a functioning electric starter. A faulty starting system can create all kinds of issues in an electrical system. Despite this issue, you can still get your motorbike rolling down the road. (We don’t recommend starting your motorcycle this way, but we understand that sometimes a biker has to do what they have to do). Let’s explore what a starter does and how to start a motorcycle with a malfunctioning starter.

In this article...


What Is The Function Of A Starter On A Bike?

During the days when your father rode his Harley, most motorcycles had kick-starters that simply required a strong leg to get the bike rolling. Since the mid-1970s, motorcycles have replaced the kick starter with more generic electric starters. These newer motorcycle starters work at the push of a button. An electrical current from the ignition alerts the battery to send current to the starter motor, which engages the gears on the crankshaft to start the bike’s engine.

Why Do Starters Go Bad?

Just like any other component on your motorcycle, parts wear down over time. A starter motor is engaged every time you ride your bike, so the electrical circuits inside wear down over time. Many motorcycles over five years old are in danger of having a bad starter motor. If your battery is working fine, and holding a charge, then chances are you have a bad motorcycle starter.

How To Start A Motorcycle Using The “Push” Method

There are a few things that you need to do to be able to get your bike rolling. You need some open space, effort, and good hand and leg coordination.

Position Your Bike With Room To Run

You will need a hill to roll down, a steep driveway, or an open space like an empty street. The street should be free of obstacles or impediments.

Turn on the Ignition With the Kill Switch Off

The ignition must send a spark to the plugs so the electrical and fuel systems can function correctly.

Put Your Bike in 2nd Gear With The Clutch Lever Held In

The second gear will allow the bike to roll with enough speed. You need to hold the clutch lever in to disengage the gears.

Push the Bike Forward

This step is the point where you need some leg power. You need to get up to between 5 - 6 mph. If you have a long hill, you can push off of the top of the hill, jump onto the bike and start the bike from the roll. If not, you will have to push the bike yourself or enlist some poor sap to push from behind, which is not easy.

Release the Clutch Quickly.

The speed and movement of the bike will crank the engine and engage the second gear. You should feel a shudder, but it will get you going. As the engine starts, engage the throttle to give the engine more gas, and you should be off and running.

How To Start A Motorcycle Using the “THUMP” Method.

Here are the instructions for starting a motorcycle without pushing down the hill. This method is harder than the push or pop start, so you might want to enlist someone to help you.

Place the Bike Up On The Kickstand

This method involves “turning” the rear wheel to start the motorcycle. As long as the wheel is sitting on the pavement, this method would even begin to happen.

Turn on the Ignition, and Pull the Clutch Lever In

Turn on the bike’s ignition, make sure the kill switch is off, and pull in the clutch lever.

Shift into Fourth Gear

This method requires a higher compression to work, so you must be in fourth gear.

Rotate The Rear Wheel As Hard As You Can

The rear wheel needs to be spinning at a good amount of speed. You may have to use a lot of effort or have a buddy help you spin the tire.

As The Engine Engages, Shift Into Neutral

With the bike running, shift the bike into neutral. This allows you to lower it off the kickstand and gives you time to get on the bike. You will likely have to engage the throttle a bit to keep the bike from stalling. Shift out of neutral and start down the road.

Will a Pop Starting Damage My Motorcycle?

Despite what you might think, pop-starting your motorcycle will not damage your engine or any electrical components. However, a bad starter can drain a battery affecting other electrical components.

One of the biggest reasons to get a starter replaced is because it is an awkward way to start your motorcycle. All you have to do is fall once while pushing your bike to send your motorcycle skidding sideways across the pavement. (Not to mention what might happen to your body or your self-esteem. If you have ever tripped or slipped while push-starting your bike, you know why we recommend getting a bad starter replaced as quickly as possible).

What Are The Symptoms Of A Bad Starter?

There are several common symptoms that could indicate that the starter motor is in need of replacement.

The Motorcycle Will Not Start

The most apparent cause of a motorcycle not starting is a bad battery which is the easiest thing to check. Press your horn and see if there is any sound. If the sound fades or doesn’t function at all. Check the battery to see if it is holding enough voltage to power the starter.

There are other reasons why your motorcycle might not start and they can be checked before diagnosing a starter issue. For example, a blown fuse can prevent the ignition system from working correctly. Added accessories or add-ons may draw too much power from the battery. A bad stator is likely the issue if the bike’s battery does not charge while riding. A certified technician can identify the issue easily, but it will require you to take your motorcycle to them for repair.

A Clicking Sound When Start Button Is Pushed

A faulty starter solenoid can cause a bike not to engage. If you press the ignition button and hear a buzzing noise, then chances are the solenoid may be malfunctioning. If the connections to the solenoid are secure (not loose or frayed), then the solenoid will need to be replaced.

What Does A New Starter Cost?

The amount of money you will pay to replace a faulty starter will depend on the make of the bike that you have. The repair of a starter can vary from a couple of hundred dollars to several hundred. Don’t forget that most motorcycle service shops charge an hourly labor fee of $140. The time that the repair takes is anywhere between 2 - 4 hours.

If you decide to have the starter repaired by a local shop but do the installation yourself, you can choose that alternative. There are several videos on YouTube and online that can help guide you on how to remove the starter and replace the unit with a remanufactured one or a brand-new starter motor.