It’s a frustrating enough story, running out of gas during a motorcycle ride.
If you refill your motorcycle’s fuel tank and the bike doesn’t fire up, you may be frustrated and stranded.
This article covers the most common reasons a motorcycle won’t start after running out of gas and how to get it back on the road.
Table of Contents
1. Motorcycle Won’t Start After You Put Gas In It
The most common reason a motorcycle won’t start after putting gas in it is that it was filled with improper or low-grade fuel.
If the fuel in your motorcycle doesn’t have the appropriate amount of octanes, or if it’s contaminated or coagulated from expiration, it won’t ignite or combust appropriately.
You may notice that a check engine light accompanies your post-fuel-up starting problems.
A motorcycle with bad gas often develops a rough idle or engine-pinging sound leading up to the stalling problem.
- Contaminated fuel can result from improperly storing your motorcycle in moist areas or for a lengthy period without fresh fuel.
- Water can infiltrate your fuel lines, causing corrosion in your fuel lines.
- This corrosion can cause your motorcycle to stall out even after you’ve filled it with fresh fuel.
Still, many riders find their motorcycle won’t start after filling up at the gas station after it was running just fine. In these situations, the fuel was likely contaminated in transport to the fuel station or possibly even at the refinery before it left.
We suggest you’re picky about the gas stations you fill your motorcycle up at, choosing only to refuel at reputable and familiar gas stations when possible.
Furthermore, consult your owner’s manual and ensure you’re only filling your motorcycle with the octane-rated fuel suggested by your bike’s manufacturer–most bikes require premium fuel between 90 and 93 octanes, when possible.
Here’s What To Do if your motorcycle Won’t Start After you Put Gas In It:
- Attempt to start the bike one more time.
- Detach the seat by following your moto manuals instructions and ensure your battery connections are secure.
- Examine the battery terminals for corrosion—clean as needed and reattach your terminals, securing all battery connections.
- Attempt to start the motorcycle again.
- If the battery isn’t dead and its connections aren’t compromised, it’s likely you refueled your motorcycle with lousy gas.
- Follow the instructions in the Service Manual (available online) for your make-and-year model bike to remove the fuel tank, drain the contaminated fuel, and flush the fuel lines.
2. Blocked Fuel Filter
As the name implies, your motorcycle’s fuel tank prevents any contaminants that may enter your fuel tank from entering your fuel lines before it reaches the engine’s combustion chamber.
Some motorcycle fuel filters are external, making them easier to inspect and clean out regularly. That said, the fuel filter on most motorcycles is located inside the fuel tank, making it hard to reach for routine maintenance.
If your motorcycle recently ran out of gas while riding, the remnants typically settled in the bottom of your fuel tank can all get caught in the fuel filter as your engine guzzles in the last bit of fuel.
The blockage caused by the contaminants clogs the fuel filter, causing your motorcycle to have stalling problems even after you’ve replenished the fuel tank with gas.
Other symptoms of a clogged fuel filter on a motorcycle include>:
- Dip in engine performance and fuel economy
- Lagging throttle response
- Bike running lean on fuel
- The engine is running hotter than usual.
- The motorcycle doesn’t start, even after getting gas.
Inspecting, cleaning, and replacing your fuel filter is a manufacturer-suggested part of routine service maintenance and should be done per the intervals outlined in your owner’s manual.
Using the manufacturer-suggested fuel grade is also key to keeping your fuel filter unclogged and preventing starting problems.
If you suspect a clogged fuel filter is why your motorcycle stalls at start-up after running out of gas, you’ll have to clean or replace the blocked filter as needed to get back on the road.
Make sure to also read our article about why a motorcycle won’t start after a long ride.
3. Fuel-Pump Failure
A faulty fuel pump is one of the most common problems preventing a motorcycle from starting after it runs off gas.
The fuel pump is submerged inside your motorcycle’s tank, as the fuel acts as a cooling agent to keep the pump from overheating.
When your motorcycle runs out of gas, the fuel level inside your tank dips below the pump, causing the pump to overheat.
If you continue to attempt to start the motorcycle after its runs out of gas, the pump struggles to pump fuel that isn’t there, overworking itself and overheating until it’s damaged.
When you refill your bike’s fuel, the pump stays damaged, failing to pump the fuel required to start your motorcycle.
If a faulty fuel pump is why your motorcycle won’t start after running out of gas, the stall outs would have been preceded by the following symptoms:
- whining noises coming from the fuel tank
- gurgling noises from the motorcycle’s fuel tank while accelerating the throttle.
- The bike’s engine sputters at high speeds.
Once a fuel pump fails, it needs to be replaced-a cheap and easy job for any decent motorcycle mechanic. Still, diagnosing the faulty fuel pump requires a pressure gauge, so we suggest taking it into a pro at the first sign of fuel pump failure.
4. Worn Spark Plugs
Spark plugs are bulb-like components that screw into the ignition system. Once powered by the battery via the rubber-boot-shaped spark plug wires, the spark plugs are the source of the motorcycle’s entire ignition process.
All spark plugs wear out eventually, although an improper air-fuel ratio can accelerate their process. Still, inspecting your spark plugs condition and air-fuel flow is part of routine maintenance, and can prevent your motorcycle from starting after you run out of gas.
- Drastic shifts in your motorcycle’s fuel supply can cause an increased wear rate on your spark plug.
- If your motorcycle runs out of fuel, attempting to restart it could have been the straw that broke the camel’s back, finally killing the weakened spark plug.
- Furthermore, running poor-quality fuel through your motorcycle can increase misfiring and strain your spark plugs.
- Weakened spark plugs lack the power required to ignite your motorcycle’s engine, even after you’ve refilled your fuel supply.
In severe cases, the worn spark plugs can hurt your ignition system and cause uncombusted fuel to leak into your engine case and enter your exhaust system, causing your motorcycle’s fuel economy to decrease in efficiency.
You should also read our article about why a motorcycle takes too long to start.
5. Float Needle Is Stuck (Carbureted Models)
If your ride a vintage motorcycle, inspecting and detail cleaning your carburetor is part of routine maintenance, as it’s a critical part of the air and fuel delivery system required to start your bike.
If your motorcycle runs out of gas, the carb’s air-fuel ratio is affected, and fuel contaminants can make their way into your carb.
The float needle gets jammed in the open position if corrosion or carbon fuel deposits accumulate in your motorcycle’s carburetor. This permits fuel to flow to the engine uncontrollably, flooding the engine and preventing it from starting even after you refill the fuel tank.
Your float needle governs fuel flow from the carb to the motor.
Road grime can clog your carb if you are lagging on carburetor maintenance. If you run out of fuel, carbon deposits from the bottom of your tank can add to the clog.
You can refill the fuel tank all you want; try to fire up your motorcycle without a good carburetor service, and the bike may still experience starting failure.
Here’s how to find out if a jammed float needle is a reason your motorcycle won’t start after running out of gas:
- Examine the base of your carburetor for a drain hole.
- Inspect the drain hole for signs of leaking fuel.
- Fuel residue in the carb’s drain hole signifies you’ll at least have to clean and rebuild your carb to get the motorcycle to start, as fuel could be flooding the engine.
IF YOUR CARB’S DRAIN HOLE IS LEAKING GAS, DO NOT TRY TO START THE MOTORCYCLE.
If you’ve topped off your motorcycle with gas and now its motor is filled with fuel and won’t start, pull the spark plugs and turn the crank by hand to force all the fuel out of the engine cylinder.
Next, you’ll have to clean and rebuild the carb to prevent it from happening as soon as you try to start up again.
If you’re unsure about any of the methods described in this section, there’s no shame in consulting a pro moto mechanic for an inspection.
Otherwise, consult the service manual for your make and year model motorcycle for detailed instructions on carburetor matinee, as it varies across designs.
Please also read our article about reasons a motorcycle dies when the choke is turned off.
6. Petcock Is Clogged with Fuel Grime
If your motorcycle has a petcock and you recently ran out of gas, you may have flicked the reserve tank on to access the extra fuel you needed to get to the gas station for a refill.
You must return the petcock switch to the position that activates your bike’s primary fuel supply so you don’t waste the reserve tank.
On some motorcycles, the petcock has an off position. If you accidentally switch the petcock selector to the off position, your bike won’t start even after you refill the fuel tank.
Many motorcycle petcocks use a mesh screen filter to keep carbon deposits in the fuel supply from clogging them.
- These filters can rust or get clogged over time and, therefore, must be inspected and replaced from time to time.
- If you keep up with routine maintenance, unclogging the screen is fast and easy.
That said, if you’ve never inspected your petcock’s filter screen and recently ran out of gas, carbon deposits from the bottom of your fuel supply may have clogged your petcock, which will prevent your motorcycle from starting by hindering the fuel flow.
If your petcock filter screen is why your motorcycle won’t start after running out of fuel, you may as well detail clean the whole petcock before you replace the filter.
7. Fuel Leaking from the Gas Tank or Fuel Lines
If your motorcycle recently ran out of gas and you experienced some of the failures mentioned on the list, you may have had to dismount your fuel tank and detach your fuel lines during the troubleshooting process.
If you fail to reinstall the tank and lines correctly, small leaks can develop. These leaks hinder fuel flow into the engine and allow air into the fuel lines, which can alter the internal engine compression, causing a dip in engine performance and efficiency ad your motorcycle to stall out while starting.
- Inspect your gas tank; perhaps you overfilled it after the bike ran out of gas, although most motorcycles stock an overflow vent to release the excess fuel during the filling process.
- Once the tank isn’t overflowing, inspect it for leaks.
- Next, move on to examining your motorcycle’s fuel valve.
- Finally, inspect the connection beneath the tank, where the fuel lines connect, tightening any compromised connections you may have forgotten to fasten.