How to Start a Motorcycle Safely and How to Push Start a Motorcycle With Low Battery
Riding a motorcycle is a unique hobby that gives you the freedom you need while engaging your adrenaline. But, before you learn how to ride a motorcycle, you must learn how to start it.
Starting a motorcycle is not as straightforward as you might think, especially if it is not in great working condition. And that is because there are numerous things you have to confirm before you turn it on. Remember, motorcycles are built differently; some are carburetor-based, while others are fuel injected. So, the first thing you need to do is understand how the motorcycle works.
If the motorcycle is not in great condition, starting it can be quite challenging. Luckily, there are numerous ways to bump start a bike even when it has a dead battery. So, if you want to know how to start a motorcycle, please read on.
How to Turn on a Motorcycle
Remember, there are numerous types of bikes in the market that vary in design, engine capacity, and engine type. So, the first thing you must always do when starting a motorbike for the first time is to find out how it works.
Confirm if you have a carbureted or fuel injected bike. Remember, these two types of engines work differently. So here are a few things you should confirm before starting your motorcycle for the first time:
1. Determine if It's a Fuel-Injected or Carburetor-Based Motorcycle
Before you even determine if it is in great working condition, you should determine if it is a fuel-injected or carburetor-based motorcycle. Carbureted bikes have a choke while the fuel-injected ones don't.
One of the easiest methods of determining if your bike is carbureted or fuel-injected is looking for the choke control. The choke control system is normally positioned on the bike's left handlebar, right above its horn. Remember, some inexpensive models and older bikes don't have the modern fuel-injection system.
2. Confirm if the Motorcycle Is in Working Condition
After determining the engine type, the next step is confirming if the battery is well-charged and the gas level. Remember, a reliable bike should be well-serviced, especially if the previous owner used it in cold or damp conditions. So, make sure it has new spark plugs, and if its plug is not worn out, you can clean and then gap it.
Check the bike's ignition timing and try and adjust it if it's necessary. If the ignition is not working properly, you can have it fixed or replaced. Don't forget to confirm if the carburetor is clean and serviced.
3. Check the Bike's Oil Level
Make sure you confirm the motorcycle's oil level. If the oil level is ok, then it means that the bike is well lubricated. However, if the oil level is low or has no oil, you shouldn't start the engine. Starting a bike with a low oil level can result in the engine heating up and finally breaking down.
4. Check the Motorcycle's Battery
Insert the key in the ignition and turn it clockwise until the bike's light turns on. If this doesn't happen, then that means that the battery is dead. Therefore, you need to either install a new battery or recharge it.
How to Start a Carbureted Bike
The MSF (Motorcycle Safety Foundation) created a unique acronym which they use in their safety classes. The acronym "FINE-C'' helps beginners remember the procedure for starting a bike. "F" stands for fuel on, I-ignition on, N-neutral, E-engine cut off on, and C-choke when dealing with a carbureted engine.
1. Check the Fuel Level
The first step when turning on a motorcycle is confirming the fuel level. So, before you even mount your carbureted motorcycle or turn it on, make sure you confirm the position of the petcock. The petcock should not be in the off position. If it is on the reserve position, then it means that on the last ride, you might have run low on fuel and switched to the reserve. Therefore, you will need to refuel the bike at some point during the day or at the start of your journey.
If your motorcycle doesn't have a fuel gauge, you can open the gas tank and look inside. Or you can mount on the bike and rock it back-and-forth and listen to the splashing of the fuel in the tank.
2. Insert the Key in the Ignition
Once you have confirmed the fuel level, you can insert the key in the ignition and turn it on. If the battery is charged and in great working condition, the bike should turn on. If the battery is dead, then the bike's lights won't turn on.
What if you lost your key? Well, that involves a whole other skillset — hotwiring.
3. Confirm That the Gear Is in Neutral
Next, confirm if the neutral indicator on the dashboard is illuminated when the bike is turned on. If not, you can put it in neutral gear, which is situated between the first and second gear in most bikes. After all, you don't want your bike to take off without you when switched on. All experienced riders put their bikes on neutral after every trip and when parking them. If you left it on neutral, you wouldn't have to worry about this step.
4. Turn on the Engine Cut Off
Most bikes have the engine cut off switch that is normally located on the right side of the handlebar, near the throttle. The cutoff switch, also known as the kill switch, is the red button that helps you switch off the bike in case of an emergency. So, make sure it is not switched off when you want to start your motorcycle. Some riders turn off their bike's engine using the kill switch every time they use it instead of the key. So, if you use it to switch the bike off, make sure you turn it on the next day when you want to use the bike.
5. Make Sure the Choke Level Is On
When cold starting a carbureted bike, the first thing you should check is the Choke level that is normally situated on the handlebar. For some bikes, the choke level is located on the carburetor. And opening this switch will provide your bike with a rich fuel mixture, especially when the engine is cold. Remember, the colder the engine or dirtier the carburetor, the more you will need to engage the choke level.
If the bike has been running and the engine is still hot, you don't need to use the choke level. If the engine is already hot, you won't need too much power to start its engine and get it going. All you need is a small amount of throttle. The choke level of most bikes is on the kickstand; therefore, make sure the kickstand is up. Putting your bike in neutral will help disable the kickstand shutoff.
6. Start the Bike
Once you have gone through all the above procedures, you can finally hold the clutch and switch the bike on. The start button is located on the right handlebar. In most cases, you will have to mount your bike before you start it. If you aren't mounted on the bike for one reason or another, make sure the bike's gear is on neutral before switching it on. If the bike hasn't been running for a while, you can use the throttle and allow the engine to run for a while as it heats up.
How to Start a Fuel-Injected Motorcycle
For motorcycles with fuel injectors, the procedure remains (FINE-C) the same, and the only difference is that it doesn't have a carburetor. So when dealing with a fuel-injected bike, the "C" stands for clutch instead of choke level.
When starting a fuel-injected bike, you should do the following:
1. Check the Fuel Level
Just like with the carbureted bike, the level of fuel plays a key role in the success of your trip. And knowing the fuel level of the bike can help you determine when and if your need to refuel. If you don't have the fuel indicator, you can confirm the fuel level by opening the fuel tank and checking physically. Or you can get on the bike and rock it back and forth to confirm if it has some fuel.
If you have a fuel indicator, all you have to do is turn on the ignition and check the fuel gauge on the dashboard.
2. Insert the Key and Turn the Bike On
Once you have confirmed the fuel level, you can insert the key in the ignition and turn the bike on. If the battery is fully charged, the bike will turn on, and everything on the dashboard will be illuminated.
3. Confirm if the Bike Is in Neutral
Next, make sure the bike is in neutral by confirming if the neutral light is illuminated. Like with the carbureted option, make sure you never start the bike when the gear is engaged. And if you didn't leave it at neutral when you parked, you can put it in neutral gear.
Another method of ensuring that the bike is in neutral is by pulling the clutch in when starting the engine. Holding the clutch in when switching the bike on will prevent your bike from moving or taking off without you.
4. Confirm if the Engine Stop Is Disengaged
Instead of an engine cutoff, a fuel-injected bike comes with an engine stop button, which is located on the right handlebar. The engine stop is a red button on the right handlebar that riders use to turn on their bikes. So, once you insert the key in the ignition, you should make sure the engine stop is disengaged. When engaged, turning off your bike can be quite challenging as it will keep shutting off the motorcycle.
5. Turn the Engine On
Once you're sure that everything is ok and the bike has more than enough fuel, and the bike is in neutral, you can start the engine. If the neutral light has malfunctioned, make sure you pull the clutch in and then push the start button to turn on the engine.
How to Jump-Start a Motorcycle?
Sometimes you might find yourself with a dead battery that needs to be recharged or replaced. Basically, this means that your bike won't respond even when you confirm if it has fuel and goes through the above procedures. When the battery has died, the starter motor will make a clicking sound every time you try to switch it on. Therefore, you will have to jump-start or bump-start the engine.
Bump starting a bike is the process of starting a bike when the battery has died or has a low charge. To bump-start your bike, you should do the following:
1. Turn the Kill Switch On
If you are working with a fuel-injected bike, you should turn the switch on. When the kill switch is off, jump-starting your bike can be almost impossible, and you might end up running for quite a long distance in vain.
2. Put Your Gear in Neutral Before Engaging the Second Gear
Put the bike in neutral and then push it to a safe place where you can run. And since the wheels would be disengaged and moving the bike down a stretch or a hill will be quite easy. Once you reach the place where you reach the safe place, you can put the bike in second gear with the ignition turned on.
3. Release the Clutch
And then hold the clutch and try and get some decent speed before releasing the clutch slowly.
If you are on a hill, you can jump on the bike and then slowly release the clutch when you attain a decent speed. If you're running on a flat stretch, you can release the clutch slowly while pushing the bike from one side. If you are not alone, you can ask your passenger to push the bike with you on it. Make sure you don't dump the clutch at once, as it will lock the wheels and stop the engine from starting.
How to Start a Motorcycle With a Kick-Starter?
Kick-starting a bike is not an easy process, but it can come in handy when your battery has a low battery. Before Honda introduced the first electric starter on Honda CB750 in 1969, riders only used kicks when starting their bikes. Over the years, electric starters have developed into an easier and more reliable means of starting bikes.
Some manufacturers still produce kick only motorcycles like Yamaha SR400. Plus, most dirt bikes are kick only motorcycles. Kick-starting a motorcycle can be quite tricky, especially for newbies. So, if you have never tried it, you should start practicing. But make sure the ignition and petrol are off and the motorcycle in neutral when practicing. Once you have gotten used to kicking, you should follow the following process:
1. FINE-C Sequence
Before you even get on your bike and swing the kick-starter down, you should follow the FINE-C sequence. Make sure your bike has enough fuel, insert the key in the ignition, put it in neutral, and engage the engine cutoff. If you're working with a carbureted bike, make sure the choke level is on.
2. Get on the Bike and Swing the Kick-Starter
Straddle your motorcycle and swing its kick out and push it down using your foot until you feel some resistance. By pushing it down, you will be bringing your bike's piston to the top dead center. Your motorcycle might have a kick-start indicator sight-glass or a compression release mechanism.
Either way, they will allow you to push the piston over the compression stroke. This way, you will be able to get the most out of every kick. The kicking leg should be smooth and kick in using the entire length of the kick-starter.
Make sure you keep both legs bent slightly at the knees. And after each kick, let your bike's return-spring ease the kick-starter up at its own speed.
3. Warm it Up
Once the bike starts, fold your kick-starter and allow the engine to run for a while before taking off. If the engine was already hot, then the process will be quite easy and faster.
Depending on the condition of your unit, starting a bike can be quite challenging. Luckily, there are numerous methods you can use to start your bike even when it has a dead battery. But, make sure you confirm the bike's condition before following the FINE-C sequence to turn the motorcycle on. If you have a carbureted bike, make sure the choke level is on before starting the bike.
In case your bike has a low or a dead battery, you can try and bump-start or kick-start it. When kick-starting a bike, you will have to follow the FINE-C sequence before engaging the kick-start. The same applies to bump starting it. However, the only difference is that when bump starting a bike, you must attain a decent speed before releasing the clutch.