If you own a motorcycle, the last thing you want to do is have it die on you in a parking lot, or worse yet, in the countryside. I have ridden for years, and out near the deserts of San Diego, I have had to be towed back to the nearest town, at a high cost. But, if you are wise and you can’t start your bike, you should check these four things first.
While this may sound like a common-sense idea, I can’t tell you how many times I have been out with a friend who forgot to check his or her fuel tank. If there is no fuel, you can’t start a bike, and you must double-check this before getting started. Anyone who has read Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance knows this. To avoid this issue in the first place, I always make sure to fill up and carry a spare gas can when I am heading out to the countryside, especially if I am not familiar with the area. It should be noted, if you haven’t taken your bike out in a long time, say six months or more, you should consider replacing the gas if it won’t start.
Much like with a car, if you have a motorcycle that won’t start, you should check the spark. To test it, take the spark plug out from the head. Then, simply put it against some metal on the bike and turn it over while trying to start the bike. Remember, don’t take the spark plug out of the boot. If you see a spark, you can see that it’s not this issue, but, if you see one, you must replace it. If you are wise, you or your riding partners will have a few spares.
This is really embarrassing, but one time, while out on Mount Palomar, my bike wouldn’t start because I was low on gas, and I was on a steep hill. While this usually only happens if you are really low in gas, it certainly happens enough if you are on big hills or mountains. While this is a last-resort move, it can save you a lot of trouble if you find it is something this simple.
Finally, if you are like me and push your bike to the limits and take it on dirt occasionally, you should check the air filter. With a quick once-over, you can make sure it’s not extremely clogged, which will give you problems. By quickly cleaning out any excess dirt, leaves or twigs, you can make your bike more efficient, and hopefully give it what it needs to start up again.
I have been broken down enough to know what to look out for on my bike. By being proactive and running through the basics, and not so basics, I have saved plenty of money and avoided costly towing bills. Remember, with a little quality assurance and inspecting, you can avoid most problems on your motorcycle if you can’t start it.