It’s your day off, gorgeous outside, and you’re stoked.
Ready to rip up some roads when you get the bright idea to start your bike while you gear up so the oil can warm to riding temp.
Helmet in one hand, gloves in the other, you lean over your motorcycle to press the starter button… but your bike won’t start with the kickstand down?
Here’s Why Your Motorcycle Won’t Start With the Kickstand Down:
If your motorcycle won’t start with the kickstand down but starts as soon as you lift the kickstand up, it’s likely due to the kickstand switch or “side stand sensor.” The side stand sensor prevents the bike from starting, preventing collisions when riding with the stand down.
Working in unison with your bike’s clutch lever and neutral switch, your side stand sensor is designed to prevent your bike from starting while the kickstand is still down unless the motorcycle is neutral.
Even if you just had your motorcycle up and running, the bike will die if you try to put the side stand switch down while the cycle is still in gear.
The inclusion of the kickstand switch is a safety feature required in most countries, albeit not in the U.S., to keep riders from riding with the bike’s kickstand extended, which can cause collisions with road debris and interfere with the bike’s clearance in sharp curves and turns.
Even though it’s not a legal requirement in the states, many international manufacturers include them on all models, regardless of where they’re shipped.
This way, moto-manufacturers avoid going through the hassle of wiring some models with and others without and trying to keep track of which are shipping to where.
To understand how the presence of a side stand sensor can make it so your motorcycle won’t start while the kickstand is down, let’s explore how the sensor switch works.
- A side stand sensor is a two-piece assembly that can work in multiple ways.
- One of the most common ways a side stand sensor works is through a contactless magnetic process.
- Another standard kickstand switch design uses a plunger system.
For more info on how these two processes work, check out my article on How Does a Kickstand Switch Work? (Explained).
The short version is that your side stand switch prevents the bike from starting in gear while the kickstand is down, either by:
- telling the ECU to stall the engine and prevent it from restarting the kickstand is down, or
- when the kickstand is engaged, it pushes on a plunger that interrupts the starter relay’s current
- Sometimes the side stand switches use a magnet to achieve this function
Sometimes they use a plunger or pivot screw.
The switch kills the bike to prevent riders from scraping the kickstand across the pavement while riding, which can easily cause a single-vehicle collision, or worse.
Many American riders shame manufacturers for forcing a governing sensor onto their bike that prevents the motorcycle from starting while the kickstand is down.
That said, the side stand switch and the laws requiring it were all fashioned after a few pretty severe accidents caused by riders unknowingly riding with the kickstand down.
The sensor is integrated into your bike’s electronics. When you flick down your side stand, the switch is activated, killing the bike and preventing it from starting with the side stand down unless it’s neutral.
The moto should fire up just fine as soon as you kick up the side stand.
Furthermore, you should be able to start your motorcycle while the bike is in neutral, even when the kickstand is down.
If the bike fails to start in neutral when the kickstand is down, you likely have one of the following problems on the list:
Side Stand Sensor Fail
If your side stand sensor fails, it may read like the kickstand is down and the bike is in gear even if it isn’t.
In some cases, the bike won’t start in gear even if the clutch is pulled in and the kickstand is up in its ready-to-ride position.
The side stand sensor is low to the ground, towards the bottom of the motorcycle frame. In its vulnerable position, the side stand sensor can incur grime buildup, corrosion, or damage from road debris and potholes.
As we mentioned earlier, there are different styles of side stand sensors.
That said, whether it’s plunger-operated or magnet-controlled, your motorcycle starter circuit is impeded if your kickstand switch gets stuck or dislodged due to road grime and debris.
When this happens, your motorcycle won’t start regardless of whether the kickstand is up or down, as your sensor is stuck in the “active” position as if the kickstand is down permanently.
There are two ways to fix a failing side stand sensor:
- You or a trusted moto-mechanic can replace the broken side stand sensor with a new one.
- You can bypass the sensor by soldering the sensor’s circuit closed.
While the most thorough way to bypass the side stand sensor is to close the circuit, that’s not always an option in an emergency where your sensor is dislodged or damaged and you’re stranded on the side of the road.
In this situation, you can cut the sensor out and close the circuit with thoroughly applied electrical tape.
Note: In some countries, motorcycles are required by law to equip side stand switch sensors; bypassing your sensor can render your motorcycle illegal.
Also, bypassing your kickstand safety sensor creates a safety hazard, as you’re risking taking off with your side stand still down, which can cause a collision, injury, or even death.
And finally, interfering with your motorcycle’s wiring in any way can void your motor manufacturer’s warranty.
Soldering and tampering with electrical systems is a complex job requiring a particularly specialized skillset. If you are unsure of the effects bypassing your side stand switch could have, consult your dealership technicians.
Faulty Neutral Sensor
The neutral sensor is a safety sensor switch equipped by many modern motorcycles that alerts the bike’s ECU to whether or not your motorcycle is in neutral.
The neutral switch comprises a sensor switch and wires integrating it into your bike’s electrical system.
When you attempt to start your motorcycle, the neutral sensor switch lets your ECU know if the bike is in gear or in neutral so that the bike won’t start in gear.
Starting in gear is hazardous, as it causes the bike to jerk forward and then stall out.
That said, if the neutral switch fails, either due to corrosion, damage, or grime buildup, it can read as if the bike is in gear and stop the bike from starting while the kickstand is down, even if the motorcycle is indeed in neutral.
You’ll know a faulty neutral switch is a reason your motorcycle won’t start with the kickstand down because your neutral light will fail to activate even when the motorcycle is in neutral.
It could be the neutral sensor’s wire that’s bad—it’s a ball and spring device that slides into a roller plate on the shifter to detect which gear the bike is in and when it’s in neutral.
If the wire is disconnected, you know what your problem is—if it’s not damaged, try reconnecting it.
- If it’s plugged in and seems to be where it’s meant to, unhook the sensor’s wire and test it with a test light.
- First, be sure the bike is neutral.
- Then, see if the test light activates.
- If the test light lights up, it might be your neutral light that’s out, and another item in this article is likely the reason your bike won’t start with the kickstand down.
- However, if you are sure the bike is in neutral and your N-light isn’t illuminated, your motorcycle starts with the kickstand down even when the bike is in neutral, and your test light doesn’t light when it’s hooked to the neutral sensor’s wire, your neutral switch is probably the reason your bike won’t start with the kickstand down.
If a faulty neutral switch is a problem, you or a trusted mechanic will have to replace the bike’s neutral switch.
Motorcycle Is in Gear; Clutch Not Disengaged
A motorcycle won’t start with the kickstand down unless the bike is in neutral or unless you bypass the motorcycle’s side stand sensor switch.
That said, if your motorcycle is in gear, but you’re not disengaging your clutch by pulling in the left-hand clutch lever, your motorcycle won’t start with the kickstand down even if you’ve bypassed your side stand switch.
If you’re attempting to start your bike while it’s in first gear and your side stand is down, you’ll have to pull in the clutch lever to disengage it, or your motorcycle won’t fire up.
In fact, some motorcycles won’t even start in neutral unless the clutch is disengaged, significantly when the kickstand is extended.
Some bikes have clutch sensors that function similarly to the neutral sensors explained in the earlier section.
If the clutch switch is worn out or its wires are frayed, you’ll have to replace it to get your motorcycle running.
In emergency situations, you can bypass a busted clutch switch by pumping your clutch hand lever over and over again to reset the sensor.
You’ll have to consult the owner’s manual of your specific make and year model to see if:
- A) Your motorcycle has a clutch switch
- B) Your clutch switch has a pump-action reset feature that works as described above.
Still, conducting the pump clutch switch-reset is a temporary fix. You’ll need to replace the faulty clutch sensor switch with a new one ASAP before it shorts out and causes more significant damage to the rest of your bike’s circuitry.
Kill Switch Still Activated
After a hearty road-roasting session, it’s easy to jump off your bike and forget to flip the kill switch back to its RUN position.
I myself have unknowingly flipped my kill switch into its engaged position during mirror adjustments, only to be baffled when my bike wouldn’t start with the kickstand down, despite the fact that the motorcycle was neutral.
First things first, your kill switch is a safety feature that you can press on the fly to kill your engine in an emergency. Your bike won’t start up again until you flip the switch back to its RUN position.
If your motorcycle’s kill switch is activated, it won’t start with the kickstand down, even if it’s neutral and the clutch is pulled in.
Your motorcycle equips fuses for all of its electrical circuitry, at least one per circuit.
The fuse’s immediate fun action is to absorb the excess amperage generated by an atypical power surge within its circuit.
To prevent damage to your bike’s wiring, your fuse will sacrifice itself and blow to shed the excess amperage. Once blown, the fuse needs to be replaced with a fuse of the same rating, or the circuit will remain disconnected and dysfunctional.
If the fuse associated with the circuitry of any of the sensor switches mentioned in this article blows, your motorcycle will fail to start with the kickstand down until the fuse is replaced.