Motorcycles have come a long way since the days of popping out your choke and kicking your starter like it’s a bad dog until your motorcycle’s ignition yelps on.
Nowadays, most of us have electric push starters to ensure that our bikes spark to life hot or cold, rain or shine, at any altitude.
Of course, this makes it all the more frustrating when you’re stuck in the garage asking yourself the reason your motorcycle won’t push start when you press the electric starter button?
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Reasons Electric-Starter-Equipped Motorcycles Won’t Push Start:
An electrical spark or ignition problems, a poorly adjusted air-fuel ratio, and low compression in the engine cylinders are the common causes behind a motorcycle with an electric starter that won’t push start.
1. Transmission Still in Gear
Many modern motorcycles with electric starters are equipped with sensors that prevent the motorcycle from starting if the bike isn’t neutral unless the clutch is pulled in.
We’re starting with the basics here; if starting in gear, bikes without this safety feature will jump forward and stall out.
This puts wear on your clutch over time and can result in the bike falling over, causing damage to the motorcycle and potential injury to the rider. So before push starting your electric start motorcycle, make sure the bike is in neutral.
2. Dead Battery
A dead battery is the most common reason a motorcycle with an electric starter won’t push start. It is the first thing you should always check, as it’s the easiest problem to diagnose and easiest to fix.
A dead battery may have enough juice left to turn on your lights, display, and blinkers, but not enough power to run the starter.
You might hear the bike try to turn over, your starter coughing sluggishly before sputtering out in that case. However, with a bike battery that’s completely dead, you might not hear any noise at all as the battery doesn’t have enough power even to try.
Your battery can die as a result of parasitic drain—your bike’s ECU, CPU, or wiring harness can leech the battery slowly over time if your motorcycle sits unused. If you don’t ride your bike regularly, your battery never has a chance to charge.
If you suspect your battery to be the culprit, test it with a multimeter to confirm it’s dead and charge it. If it’s severely dead, it may have lost its capacity to hold a charge at all, and a bad battery has to be replaced with a new one.
3. Motorcycle Engine Seized
If a motorcycle engine lacks regular maintenance and clean and sufficient lubrication, the engine can seize; an electric start motorcycle won’t push start if the engine is seized.
When you push your starter button, your starter will click, buzz, and spin, but nothing will happen.
In fact, the only thing you’ll accomplish by pushing on the electrical starter of a motorcycle with a seized engine is blowing a fuse from accumulating amperage.
Fixing a seized bike engine is no task for a beginner; it requires some hefty rebuilding, and it’s easy to make things worse. If you suspect your engine is seized, take your motorcycle to an experienced mechanic for an inspection and repair assessment rather than attempting to wrench on it yourself.
4. Damaged Spark Plug Wires
Over time, the heat of a motorcycle engine can split or crack your spark plug wires, and your bike will fail to fire up when you push the electric push starter.
You’ll be able to tell if this is your culprit by a quick visual inspection. If there are cracks or splits in the wire plastic, your spark is escaping to the bike’s frame instead of starting the ignition process.
Inspect your spark plug wires regularly because if your spark plug wires are damaged, it’ll prevent your electric starter from igniting your bike.
5. Restricted Air Flow
An electric start motorcycle with no airflow may fail to push start, or if the motorcycle does turn over, it stalls when you try to accelerate.
The quickest way to diagnose whether the bike’s air filter is the problem is by removing the filter from your airbox to see if the motorcycle starts. If it does, a clogged filter is probably the culprit.
Many motorcycle airboxes have disposable filters in them that need to be replaced every so often. Other bikes have washable air filters that can be sprayed down with a degreaser and reused. Either way, if your air filter is clogged, you need to replace it or clean it out asap before your motorcycle fails to push-start.
6. Worn Spark Plugs
The spark plug is responsible for the ignition spark on a motorcycle engine; if your spark plugs are bad, your bike won’t start when you push the electric push starter.
A few signs of a failing spark plug are a louder, abnormal engine noise and a poorly running motor.
Visual inspection will let you know if your spark plug is cracked, if the gap is worn down past its functional distance or if the plug is scorched with black coloration from long-term exposure to heat.
Replacing a bad spark plug is cheap and easy. Inspecting and appropriately replacing your spark plugs is a part of routine motorcycle maintenance that will keep your bike firing up and running smoothly.
7. Malfunctioning Starter
A motorcycle with an electric push starter won’t start if the starter itself is failing.
Pushing the starter button on a bike with a faulty electric starter fails to ignite the motorcycle; instead of producing a spark, a bad starter makes many weird sounds.
It could be a buzzing noise or maybe a click. Or, in some cases, you won’t hear anything, though your battery has a full charge.
Everything wears out eventually, and a starter can wear out on even the most well-maintained motorcycles in time. If your electric starter goes out, replace it.
8. Failing Ignition Coil
Even a motorcycle with an electric starter won’t turn over if your ignition coil is faulty and your spark circulation suffers as a result.
If you’ve checked your spark plug wires, battery connection, and you’re sure the bike has plenty of fuel, the coil is the next logical troubleshooting step.
An ignition coil contracts wear and tear from frequent engine stalls or unconventional idling.
A bike with a bad coil might even turn over, but it won’t run since the spark circulation is impeded. Sometimes it might even run for a second before quickly stalling out—the coil can’t sustain the ignition process.
Time, heat, and vibration all work together to wear out most components eventually, including your ignition coil, but the fastest way to kill a coil is from running old spark plugs; malfunctioning spark plugs overload your ignition coil with voltage.
A quick voltage test of your ignition coil will let you know if this is the case, and if it is, replacing your coil is quick, easy, and inexpensive. Be sure to check your spark plugs while you are at it—you don’t want to fry the new coil the same way you fried the old.
9. Blown Or Fried Fuse
A blown fuse will prevent an electric starter-equipped motorcycle from starting; the blown fuse is powerless to trigger the spark plug and start the ignition.
A bike with a fried fuse will sound like it’s starting when you push the starter switch, but nothing will happen.
Poorly wired aftermarket upgrades can blow a fuse, or perhaps someone wired something incorrectly upon installation. A fried fuse can also result from a grounding wire mishap somewhere in the wiring harness, and if you’ve gone through multiple fuses, this is probably the case.
Whether an inline fuse or a black fuse, the main fuse of a motorcycle pushes 30 and 50 amps and is generally connected to the battery’s positive wire. This fuse is the only fuse with anything to do with starting the bike; this is the fuse you want to inspect.
If your motorcycle isn’t push starting and you find that the inner fuse wires are disconnected, as if they’ve been blown apart, or if you see black substance smeared all over the fuse, you’ve probably got a blown main fuse.
A fuse is an easy part to find at any auto parts store, which is convenient because the only way to fix a blown fuse is to replace it. If a poorly grounded wire is the cause of your blown fuse, the new fuse is at risk until you identify the bad ground and repair it.
You can install a small circuit breaker to protect your new fuse until you identify where the bad ground is, but we suggest using a multimeter to find the culprit asap.
10. Engine Temperature Is Too Cold
If a motorcycle is carbureted and the motor is at freezing temperatures, the fuel can’t evaporate into the air mixture, preventing combustion even on motorcycles with an electric starter, and the bike won’t push start.
This is a non-issue for modern electric starter bikes that are fuel-injected, but on a cold carb, all you’ll hear is your starter cranking, but combustion won’t happen.
If there’s ice build-up in your carb, the ice functions like a clog at that point, and it blocks the air-fuel ratio. Not to mention that ignition is obviously an easier process to make happen when the temp outside isn’t below freezing.
The best antidote for this is to store your motorcycle in a climate-controlled unit during times of freezing temperature, even if it means plugging a space heater in your garage.
You don’t have to keep the heater on full time—turning it on and blasting it towards your motorcycle, directly at the engine for about 30 minutes before start-up will warm her up and get her ready for combustion.
11. Clogged Fuel Injector
When you push the electric starter button on a motorcycle with a clogged fuel injector, you’ll hear the starter try to turn over, but combustion never happens.
This could also be a symptom of bad spark plugs or a motorcycle that’s out of fuel, so run through the basics first. If your spark, air, and fuel situation all look good, you might have a clogged injector on your hands, especially if the bike’s been sitting with the same fuel in the tank.
Fuel corrodes as it sits, reducing down to a chunky, filmy mess that, when shot through the injector, gets stuck and backs up with bad fuel.
You can clean your fuel injectors if they’re not too bad, but if enough crud and bad gas are contaminating them, it’s just as easy to replace your injectors.
The more a motorcycle is ridden, the cleaner the injectors stay. As you hit the throttle, fuel is injected through your injectors, keeping them clean and flowing and preventing corrosive stagnation from occurring within them.
If you can’t ride your bike as regularly as we assume you want to, be proactive about “winterizing” it or preparing it for storage, preventing fuel from sitting and decomposing in the tank.