How to jump start a motorcycle? With warm weather on the way, it’s time to get ready for another riding season. If you’re having a hard time starting your motorcycle after pulling it out of storage, it might be because your battery is discharged.
Fortunately, you can jump start your motorcycle battery the same way you would a car or truck. Follow these step-by-step instructions to help jump start your battery and get you back out on the open road.
Situations you can fix with a jump start
In the following scenarios, your bike’s battery is usually still healthy enough to accept and hold a charge, so a jump start will be a quick and easy fix.
- Did you accidentally leave your parking lamps or an auxiliary device, like a phone charger or GPS, turned on after shutting off the bike? That steady drain can weaken the battery to the point it won’t turn over the engine, which takes a lot of power. If you accidentally drained the battery this way, don’t feel too bad about it. It is a common mistake and is easily resolved by a jump start.
- Has your bike been sitting for more than a few weeks without a trickle charger connected to the battery? This is typically the most common reason riders need a jump. Batteries discharge over time and are naturally weaker as the temperature drops. Combined with cold, thick engine oil, the battery may not have the amount of energy it takes to get that beast fired up.
- Another issue I see during the colder months is caused by heated riding gear. Heated gear is an awesome way to extend your riding season or even ride year-round. The downside is that it uses a lot of electricity. If your bike’s alternator does not make enough excess electricity to power your heated gear, the draw will discharge the battery while you’re riding, especially in city riding with the engine revving at lower speeds. I experienced this with my Triumph Scrambler 900. I could run the heated gear on high while riding on the highway, since the alternator was cranking out a lot of juice at the higher rpm, but when I got off the interstate I had to be sure to turn the heated gear down or off to ensure the battery would be kept fully charged at lower revs. If I failed to do so and turned the bike off, it would not restart.
Situations you can’t fix with a jump start
Unfortunately, these situations might not be remedied by jump starting:
- Batteries have a lifespan. I have found that in an area with all four seasons, like here in the mid-Atlantic region of the United States, motorcycle batteries tend to last a few years, at best. With the extreme temperature range they must endure each year, they will eventually lose their ability to accept and hold a full charge. At this point, a jump start may not work. Even if it does, the bike will likely shut off again as soon as the method of jumping is removed from the dead bike’s battery. A replacement battery is the solution.
- You stopped for gas and now the bike won’t start, or your bike may have just shut off while riding, like my vintage Triumph did last week. In this scenario, chances are your charging system has failed. If your bike is not generating enough electricity to keep the battery charged while you’re riding, your lights, ignition and fuel pump may have used up the last of the juice in your battery, causing the engine to shut down. While you may get the bike fired up again with a jump start, the bike will likely shut down again very soon. Be careful with this situation as you could give up a decent place to break down, like a parking lot, for a much worse one, like the interstate. This situation calls for further investigation. Generally, a failed stator, regulator or broken wire is the cause. My old Triumph’s stator wire rubbed through and grounded on the frame, frying my regulator. Lucas, the prince of darkness, strikes again. I needed to replace my stator and regulator to get the bike recharging its battery again.
- Modern bikes usually have two safety switches that must be closed before the starter button will crank the engine over. One on the clutch lever and another on the side stand. These are small and somewhat fragile switches. If you are hitting the starter button and getting nothing at all, make sure your side stand is up and your clutch lever is in. If they are and still no cranking is going on, check these switches and the wires going to them. I have saved a few bike trips by bypassing broken safety switches, so you might want to give that a shot before calling the tow truck.
How to jump start a motorcycle?
OK! Now that we’ve gone over some situations where a jump start will work or will not work, we can finally talk about doing it.
If you are not in a rush, I recommend connecting a charger to your battery until it is topped off. This is technically not a “jump start,” but the slow reenergizing of your battery will ensure it remains as healthy as can be when you are ready to ride.
If you don’t have the time or the ability to use a charger, the next best option is a personal power supply or “jump-box.” This is a must-have, in my book. Aside from being able to jump start your bike or car in a pinch, without anyone else’s help, they can also recharge your electronic devices and usually have a built-in flashlight.
Turn the device on, connect the red alligator clip to the positive battery terminal and the black one to the negative terminal on your bike and fire away. I have used my personal Antigravity Micro-Start XP-1 Power Supply to start several friends’ trucks and dozens of bikes. I also use it to recharge my camping lights, phone and GoPro on motorcycle trips.
Finally, let’s talk jumper cables. This is really no different than jump starting a car. You can jump a motorcycle with another motorcycle or a car. There are differences of opinion about leaving the car or truck running while jumping a motorcycle.
I’ve seen it done without any ill effects on the bike, but why risk it when it’s not necessary? A large car battery has plenty of energy to fire up a bike within a few seconds, without the need for the engine to be running.
When using jumper cables, just remember the phrase “red to dead.” Start by hooking up the red cable to the positive terminal on your dead bike. Then connect the other end of the red cable to the good battery’s positive terminal.
Next, connect the black cable to the jumper’s negative terminal and lastly, the other end of the black cable to a bare metal surface on the dead bike. If you can’t locate one or are afraid of scratching things up, hooking the final connection up to the negative terminal on the dead bike is fine.
The idea is to keep any sparks away from the battery as the gases that can potentially be released from it are flammable. Reducing the chance of sparking is why jumper cables made for motorcycles have alligator clips that are smaller to fit the small terminals on a motorcycle battery and the confined spaces they live in.
How to jump-start a motorcycle using another motorcycle?
Jump-starting your dead bike with another motorcycle is very similar to jump-starting a car. Make sure you have jumper cables, then do the following:
- Attach the positive clip (red cable) to the positive battery terminal on the dead battery.
- Attach the other positive clip to the positive terminal on the working battery.
- Attach the negative clip (black cable) to the negative terminal on the working battery.
- Attach the other negative clip to a metal surface on your bike.
- Start the working motorcycle and let the engine run for a couple minutes.
- Start your motorcycle (this may take more than one attempt).
- When your bike starts, keep both bikes running for a few minutes to increase the battery’s power.
- Disconnect the jumper cables in the reverse order you attached them.
- Ride your motorcycle for 15 to 30 minutes to recharge the battery.
How to jump-start a motorcycle using a portable jump starter?
Portable jump starters are extremely useful when no other vehicles are around to help get your bike running again. Here’s how to jump-start a motorcycle with a portable jump starter:
- Attach the positive clip (red) to the positive battery terminal.
- Attach the negative clip (black) to a metal surface on your bike.
- Turn on the portable jump starter; confirm it’s set to the correct voltage for your battery (12 volts for most motorcycles).
- Push the starter on your motorcycle for no more than 2 or 3 seconds. If your bike doesn’t start, wait a few minutes before trying again; otherwise, you risk burning out your jump starter.
- When your bike starts, disconnect the negative clip followed by the positive clip.
- Ride your motorcycle for 15 to 30 minutes to recharge the battery.
Once you’ve used your portable jump starter, recharge it as soon as you can so you’ll be ready if you need it again.
Can you use a jump pack on a motorcycle?
You can also jump start a motorcycle using a jump pack. Jump packs are portable batteries designed to help start up your motorcycle without the need for a second vehicle. When selecting a jump pack, be sure that the model you choose is compatible with your battery’s voltage rating.
Most motorcycles run on 12-volt batteries. The GB20 Genius Boost Sport from NOCO is perfect for motorcycles and will provide up to 20 jump starts before the unit needs to be recharged. Jump packs also feature smaller clips that are ideal for getting at hard-to-reach batteries.
Can you roll start a motorcycle with a completely dead battery?
There’s some life in the battery. If you’re got a glow from the lights and all warning lights in the clocks come on, a bump start will probably work. If the battery is completely dead, it probably won’t.
Why is my motorcycle not starting with a jump-start?
The three most common reasons are: Your battery is no longer able to accept a charge because of age or condition. Your starter is not engaging the engine properly, and unable to turn it over. There is an “open” in the starter circuit, preventing the proper amount of current from getting to the starter.
How to jump start a motorcycle battery?
Motorcycle batteries can be jump started from another motorcycle, car battery, or portable battery jump starter. Most motorists keep jumper cables in their car, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find someone who is willing to help you out.
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