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5 Reasons Your Motorcycle Won’t Start & Goes to the Shop

5 Reasons Your Motorcycle Won’t Start & Goes to the Shop

“My motorcycle won’t start!” Ask the phone-jockey of your local motorcycle shop or dealership how many times a day they hear those words. While motorcycles are as different from one another as their riders are, there are some common trends as to why your motorcycle won’t start or isn’t working properly.

We talked to three motorcycle mechanics and asked them to share their insights on what the most common reasons are for motorcycle problems (why your motorcycle won’t start). Then we asked them how to avoid these problems.

The going rate for a good motorcycle mechanic is around $90/hour. Trust me. I worked in a motorcycle dealership for a few years. Don’t wait to learn the hard way, read on to see the most common reasons motorcycles end up in the shop.

1) Your motorcycle won’t start because of…. A CRASH!

Assuming you’ve survived, congratulations! Accidents happen, and motorcycle shops see a lot of bikes come in from accidents. The good riders figure out what went wrong and what they could’ve done differently, but there are some riders who will just keep on coming back, accident after accident.

What to do reduce your odds of crashing:

To avoid the crash, read up on articles that make you a better rider, like these:

Study acclaimed and widely respected books designed to teach performance riding:

Get parts designed to product your motorcycle from taking damage in the event of a crash, including:

Last, but not least, practice, practice, practice.

2) Your motorcycle won’t start because of…. NEGLECT!

You wouldn’t leave your lover all alone outside for days, weeks, or even months. If you do, don’t be surprised when you try to start your motorcycle and she won’t get turned on. Neglect, better known as DMS (Deprived Motorcycle Syndrome) is a very real, and common problem for a seasonal vehicles like motorcycles.

Symptoms include:

  • Batteries draining until they die and are no longer serviceable.  (buy a battery charger!).
  • Fuel beginning to go bad, clogging the inside of your fuel lines, and injectors or carburetors.
  • Moisture inside of your gas tank leading to corrosion.
  • Seizing of disk brakes or drum brakes
  • Rusting of your chain and just about any other exposed metal
  • Flat spots on your tires, etc.

Many of these problems can lead to a neglected motorcycle having not one, but multiple problems problems causing it not to start or run properly. That means spending a lot of money on labor time for diagnostics and repair, and then throwing away more cash on new parts.

How to make sure neglect doesn’t stop your motorcycle from starting:

  • Keep your motorcycle battery on a battery tender when it’s being stored for the winter
  • Always fill your tank before putting your motorcycle away
  • Use a fuel stabilizer to stop your fuel from clogging

Motorcycle won't start

3) Your motorcycle won’t start because of…. User Error!

There’s nothing mechanics hate more than fixing someone else’s mess. But it happens more than you think. People get a quote for a small job on their motorcycles, they decide to try and do it themselves, and inevitably they break something or make the problem worse than it was. Next they find themselves going back to the shop because their motorcycle won’t start, and the new quote is even more expensive than the original.

How to protect your motorcycle from yourself:

If you don’t know what you’re doing, leave it to someone who does. You put your life on the line on your motorcycle. Taking it to a professional could save you more than just your money.

If you really need to do the work yourself:

  • Check out YouTube – quite often there are people showing you how to do the exact project you’re working on
  • Google it – same as above
  • Look for an online forum / message board on your particular model – these are great sources of information
  • Take plenty of pictures along the way, so you can refer to how things used to look before you took them apart

Sergeant Hartman4) Your motorcycle won’t start because of… GENERAL WEAR AND TEAR!

General Wear’n’Tear will catch up to you sooner or later, but as the old saying goes: you’ve got to pay to play. Luckily for the riders who take this post to heart, going in for routine maintenance may be the only time you find your motorcycle in a shop.

Steps on how to avoid maintenance:

  1. Do not avoid maintenance
  2. There is no step 2

There are some things you can do in order to avoid making the “my motorcycle won’t start!” phone call:

  • Keep an eye on your bike’s fuel performance using apps or websites like Fuelly – a drop in fuel mileage may indicate a need for maintenance
  • Familiarize yourself with, and follow, your motorcycle’s maintenance schedule (usually towards the back of your owner’s manual)
  • Look for warning signs such as dimming lights, a weak horn, difficulty starting the motorcycle that may indicate a weak battery or connection

More good news: you can always do some easy maintenance yourself. Why not start by reading about doing your own oil change?

5) Your motorcycle won’t start because of… LEMONS!

My coworker thinks everything he buys is a lemon, but mechanics don’t believe in lemons very much these days. A lot of quality control goes into the manufacturing processes of any reputable motorcycle brand. Institutions such as Transport Canada have guidelines and policies, and ensure recall notices are sent out to protect consumers. If every vehicle you’ve bought has been a lemon, the only common denominator is you.

If you still think you have a lemon it may be time to revisit the previous four points and try to figure out why your bike isn’t starting or where things went wrong. Lemons are a fruit, or maybe a vegetable, but probably not a motorcycle.

Like having money in your pocket? Read Save Money While Riding a Motorcycle.

Hopefully this will keep your money in your pocket and your motorcycle out of the shop, unless you feel the need to do a few upgrades of course.

So tell me, were the mechanics right? What was your motorcycle last in the shop for?

About YouMotorcycle

YouMotorcycle is a lifestyle motorcycle blog to be appreciated by those who see motorcycling as a lifestyle and not simply a hobby, sport, or method of transportation. Most of the posts on the site are written by past and present motorcycle industry staff. We remain fiercely independent, innovative, and unconventional. Our goal is to encourage more people to enjoy the world's greatest outdoor sport by helping new riders get started and inspiring current riders to get out more. We motorcycle, do You?

10 comments

  1. Well, the only thing anyone, outside of machine shop work or welding, has done on mine is when Dave Campos assembled and trued my flywheels, $50, so I’m not a regular MC shop patron, but I will say this, seriously, when you’ve done all you can to get it started, when all else fails, change your spark plugs. *** EDITORS NOTE: Dave Campos is a long time drag racer and Bonneville Salt Flats pilot, he held the LSR aboard the Easyrider’s Streamliner, at 322MPH for several years. *** edit

  2. Excellent post

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  6. Good Blog! Useful Information..

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