Ok, Why Won't My Motorcycle Start?

Ok, Why Won’t My Motorcycle Start?

Woman working on motorcycle in a garage

Just like discovering your “lost” glasses on your forehead or your “misplaced” keys already in your pocket, sometimes the reason your motorcycle, ATV or UTV won’t start can have an obvious solution. Use this handy guide to troubleshoot your problem and be on your way.

  • So your machine won’t start?
    Don’t overthink the problem, check the simple things first…
  • Was the ignition switch in the “on/run” position before the starter button was pushed?
    If not, turn it to the “on/run” position and try it again.
  • Is the kill switch (usually on the handlebar adjacent to the throttle) turned to the “on/run” position?
    If not, turn it to the “on/run” position and try it again.
  • Is the kickstand in the fully retracted (up) position?
    If not, a stand safety switch may not allow the starter to engage and crank the engine.
  • Is the clutch lever pulled in all of the way?
    If not, a clutch safety switch may not allow the starter to engage.
  • Is the battery in a sufficient state of charge to crank the engine?
    If not, have the battery charged or replaced as necessary.
  • If the starter engages and cranks the engine but it fails to fire, is the fuel valve (if so equippedfootnote[1]) in the “on” position?
    If not, turn the fuel valve to the “on” position, wait 15-20 seconds for the carburetor's float bowls to fill and try starting it again.
  • Is there sufficient fuel in the fuel tank?
    If not, add fuel.
  • Is the engine carbureted or fuel injected?
    If carbureted, was the choke or mixture enricher set to the appropriate position to start the engine at the current temperature? (Both ambient air temperature and engine temperature need to be considered.)

If all of these items have been checked/corrected/adjusted and it is still not starting, additional diagnosis and tools may be needed.

And remember, before you hit the open road, be sure to talk with your insurance agent to make sure you feel you've selected the right motorcycle coverages.


  • [1] Most carbureted motorcycles, ATVs, UTVs will have a fuel valve at the fuel tank that must be in the “on” or “reserve” position to allow fuel flow to the carburetor. Most fuel injected models do not have these manual fuel control valves.