Hit the start button and…silence, what a pain in the jacksie. Don’t sweat it, you’re in the right place and we’ll get her figured out shortly.
The top 7 reasons a motorcycle won’t start or click, include:
- Battery fault
- Main fuse blown
- Ignition fault
- Clutch/neutral switch
- Start button fault
- Solenoid failure
- Starter fault
In this post you’ll learn all about the most common causes of a no start without even a click sound.
I know you know how to start your bike, but it’s worth pointing out to those who aren’t aware of the safety systems built into the starter circuit.
All bikes have a start procedure that must be followed or the starter motor won’t engage, not even a click sound, nothing.
Models and makes may differ slightly, so you’ll need to google your model, but here’s some of the common ones:
- Kill switch set to “RUN” position (most bikes will still crank over with the kill switch at “Stop” but some may not).
- Transmission set to “N” neutral
- Clutch lever pulled
- Kickstand in the “UP” position
- Crankcase oil level – OK
Battery power is the business end of getting your bike running, so our diagnostic journey begins there.
A battery that’s just low should as you know offer you at least a click of the solenoid, since you don’t hear a click, well expect the battery to be totally discharged, disconnected or we’re looking at a different cause altogether.
Begin by checking lights or dash lights. If you’ve got power there, the battery may not be the issue, but we’ll check voltage anyway.
Go ahead and gain access to the battery. Check the cables are in good condition, tight and free from corrosion.
Bad connections will cause high resistance to the flow of power.
A DVOM (Digital Volt Ohm Meter) is useful here for checking available power at the battery. Borrow or buy a meter, you’ll find a ton of uses for it here in this post.
Set the meter to 20v dc and check the reading. A healthy battery will show min 12.5 volts, 12.65 is fully charged.
If you have a value below 12.4 volts go ahead and charge the battery or connect a set of jumper cables with a donor vehicle and try starting.
The main fuse protects and powers the ignition switch, start button and solenoid.
If the main fuse is loose, corroded or blown, the start circuit will be without power.
The fuse, commonly located under the seat close to the battery (usually 10 amp). Check size, using a smaller ampere fuse will cause it to blow and a larger ampere fuse could damage components.
Try the wiggle test, with the ignition on – Wiggle the fuse, holder and loom, sometimes the fault presents itself.
The ignition switch powers up the start button, so a fault at the ignition circuit will prevent power flow to the solenoid and starter motor.
Ignition switches while electrical, contain mechanical components. Turning the key turns a barrel with copper contact points.
Switches just wear out, contact points suffer from corrosion and contact points become loose.
Ignition looms can also become damaged from steering movement. Try turning the key to the on position. Wiggle the key in the barrell, try moving the wiring connectors behind the ignition and the loom. Broken wiring may reveal itself.
The clutch or neutral switch must be engaged before the starter motor will engage, your bike won’t have both. It’s designed to prevent surging forward accidentally on crank.
Typically the clutch or neutral switch provides a ground for the starter solenoid.
The wiring for the clutch switch can be seen at the clutch lever, check for any signs of damage, loose or broken wiring. Try the wiggle test.
Usually also has a dash neutral warning light. It’s a simply on off switch. With neutral selected, the switch grounds out providing a path for the starter solenoid. Neutral switches have a mechanical component that does wear out.
An easy way to test both the clutch and neutral switch is to remove the wire, ground it and test start.
The kickstand on some bikes may not allow a start when the stand is in the lowered position. A simple on off switch is employed to complete a ground circuit. If the kickstand isn’t striking the sensor and activating it fully, the bike won’t start.
The start button, as you know receives power from the ignition switch when ignition is in the “Run” position. They’re pretty durable, but wear on the contacts is common.
Accessing them can be a little fiddly, it’s easier to check voltage at the solenoid.
The starter solenoid is one big relay, it uses a light current to control a heavy current. The solenoids job is to connect battery power to the starter so long as the start button is held.
Solenoid give a ton of trouble, but this doesn’t sound like it’s your problem as when they fail they offer a definite click sound when the start button is pressed.
Solenoids can be tricky to locate, but follow the positive battery cable and you’ll find it.
Check that both heavy power cables are tight. A fused ignition power supply is sometimes coupled, battery side of the solenoid.
Two low current solenoid control wires are fitted to the solenoid also. A power direct from the start button and a ground path from the clutch/neutral switch.
To test the solenoid,
Go ahead and remove the control wires (may be one block connector) Using two jumper wires we’ll be testing the solenoid side wiring loom.
Note the engine may crank over.
- Using a battery jumper wire, connect to either of the two solenoid wires
- Using a ground jumper, connect to the remaining solenoid wire first
- Connect the loose jumper ground wire off chassis ground briefly
Two outcomes are likely:
- Engine cranks over – a cranking engine means your solenoid and starter are good and your problem lies upstream.
- Solenoid just clicks – this most likely means your solenoid has failed.
The starter motor is the last on the list and it is the least likely components to cause issue. Starters are tough and they have to be, cranking over an engine is tough work.
A starter will usually give intermittent trouble before just failing, at the very least you’ll hear some attempt by the starter motor to turn the engine. But of course it is possible for it to fail.
Check the cable on the starter motor, it needs to be secure and corrosion free.
To test the starter motor, go ahead and cross the solenoid posts. If the starter motor is good, the engine will crank over.
If the engine fails to crank, remove the spark plug and crank over the engine by hand using a socket and ratchet. (Turn the flywheel anti-clockwise – remove the flywheel cap to gain flywheel nut access).
If the cylinder is filled with gas, check out this post on Hydro-locking.
If the engine still won’t crank, a seized starter motor or engine is to blame, remove the starter motor for inspection.