Have you ever experienced a no-starting issue on your motorcycle? Well, we certainly have, and we can definitely say that it’s an extremely frustrating scenario. This issue can manifest itself in two ways. The first being a completely dead motorcycle wherein the starter doesn’t even turn, or worse, the lights don’t even go on when you turn the key. The second way is when your engine just keeps cranking but never seems to fire up.
Naturally, there are many reasons why this could happen. Today, let’s put our nerd caps on and take a closer look at the many possible reasons why a motorcycle won’t fire up. It's good to be armed with this information so you can easily solve a problem like this, should you or a friend be faced with it while out on the road.
A bad battery
Whenever you’re faced with a no-start issue, the most common culprit is the battery. More often than not, the battery is the first part of your bike’s electrical system that will run into issues. Look at it as one of the consumables of your motorcycle. That being said, it’s only a matter of time before a motorcycle will be in need of a new battery.
To check the health of your battery, simply hook it up to a multimeter and check its voltage. Depending on your specific bike, the battery should have a standing voltage (with all electricals switched off) of around 12.4 to 12.7 volts. If your battery displays anything lower than this, then chances are it doesn’t have enough juice to turn the starter and fire up the engine.
Something's wrong with your fuel system
Another common cause for a motorcycle engine to fail to start would be an issue with the fuel system. Modern motorcycles’ fuel systems can be pretty complex, and are composed of several components. If any one of these parts gets damaged or stops working, it could result in no fuel being delivered to your engine, thus causing the engine not to start due to lack of combustion.
Things to look out for are, of course, making sure you have gas in your tank. Check to see if your fuel pump primes when you turn the key. If it doesn’t, then you could have a faulty fuel pump. If everything checks out, it may be time to take the bike apart and inspect the fuel lines and injectors. Sometimes injectors clog up with gunk from poor quality fuel. Take a good look at your fuel filter, too, if it’s extremely dirty, it could cause enough of a blockage for your engine not to start.
Similar to issues in your fuel system, faulty spark plugs or ignition coils can cause your engine not to start, or to run very poorly. In order for an engine to work, it needs to have three things working in sync—ignition, compression, and spark. If any one of these is out of whack, your engine simply won’t fire. Now, not having any spark can be more than just a faulty spark plug. Your ignition coils may have failed, or some other electrical component on which your ignition system relies on could have conked out.
This brings us to our next and final problem: electrical issues. This can be the most difficult, time-consuming, and frustrating part of it all, especially if the issue is hard to diagnose. Most modern day bikes are equipped with high-tech electrical systems loaded with dozens upon dozens of sensors. Vital components like your stator, camshaft sensor, and crankshaft position sensor dictate the timing of your engine, and if any of these are out of spec, your engine simply won’t fire.
For example, our Yamaha MT-10 was recently out of commission following a mysterious electrical issue. After spending a week trying to diagnose it, the mechanics traced the issue back to a faulty crankshaft position sensor. Simply swapping it out and making sure everything was within spec was all it took to get the bike up and running again.