When your motorcycle doesn’t have enough juice to fire off, a bunch of questions might dart through your mind as you mentally start the process of elimination. Did you leave the lights or ignition on? Is there a parasitic draw you can’t find? Is the battery on its way out? Maybe the stator’s shot.
As much as we’d like to believe it, motorcycle batteries don’t just die at random. There’s always a cause, and you will need to find out what killed it so that it doesn’t happen again. However, anything outside of some basic troubleshooting is going to have to wait until you get to the shop.
If you run into a dead battery while out and about, the first thing to do is figure out how you’re going to get back home. The good news is that motorcycles are easy to jump-start, and it’s worth giving it a shot even when you think you might need a tow. The Drive’s gear team can show you how to get into it.
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Time Needed: A few minutes
Skill Level: Beginner
You have a few options when it comes to jump-starting a bike, not all of which are all that dangerous, nor are they all that different from jump-starting a car. If you’re using conventional means, just consider the fact that you’re dealing with an electrical charge and moving parts. Be careful not to connect live leads to ground and always steer clear of engine fans and hot surfaces. And you might as well keep those riding gloves on to protect the squishy stuff.
We will also talk about bump-starting a bike, which is basically using momentum and a clutch drop to kick the bike into gear. This is an option, but it shouldn’t be your first choice. Consider the risk-to-reward ratio. Most modern bikes need a lot of effort to fire off with this method. You can easily exhaust or injure yourself attempting to do it. Also, it’s not exactly easy on the internals of your machine. It should only be attempted as a last-ditch effort and isn’t something we recommend to anyone who’s not entirely comfortable with doing it with their motorcycle.
Everything You’ll Need
We’re not psychic, nor are we snooping through your toolbox or garage. So, here’s a fresh list of what you need to get the job done.
- A 12-volt vehicle with a live battery and jumper cables (preferably motorcycle-specific cables, but normal jumper cables will do the trick)
- A portable jump-starter
- Room to push the vehicle up to speed
Here’s How to Jump-Start a Motorcycle
Let’s get into it.
Option One: Jumper Pack
Option Two: Vehicle to Vehicle
Last Ditch Effort: Catching it in Gear
First, couple of disclaimers before we get going. One, bump-starting, or catching a bike in gear is hard work and can be dangerous. Two, it’s only going to work if you know that the battery is what’s holding you back. Three, the battery has to have a little juice in it to get rolling. If the lights come on at least a little, you should be ready to rock.
Again, there are some inherent risks to this method, and it really shouldn’t be performed unless you have no other option and are comfortable doing so.
FAQs on Jumping a Motorcycle Battery
You have the questions. The Drive has answers.
Q. Is it safe to jump-start a motorcycle with a car?
A. For the most part, yes. Most cars and motorcycles use a 12-volt negative-to-ground charging system, which makes it safe to use one to jump the other. Issues only present themselves when using specialty applications that use different voltage outputs and grounding systems.
Q. Does roadside assistance cover motorcycles?
A. That depends on your plan. A lot of roadside assistance programs cover or offer optional coverage for motorcycles. Obviously, you want to read into your coverage options before you run into a breakdown.
Q. How fast do you need to be going to push-start a motorcycle?
A. There’s really no way to science out jump-starting a motorcycle. Some sources recommend speeds of around 10 mph, others around 5 mph, and you might even be able to get a bike to start at even slower speeds. It all depends on the bike you’re working with, but 10 miles per hour is usually a safe bet.
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