Motorcycle Starter Is Not Working? Troubleshooting Guide

Harley Davidson motorcycle with a guy sitting on with helmet

A non-functioning electric starter in motorcycles can be a pain in the… Let’s just say it can be annoying. Sure, kick start is there for our risqué. But whenever the bike dies off in the middle of a busy road, you can’t help but curse your damned electric starter.

There can be two major reasons why your motorcycle starter is not working. A dead battery is the foremost cause that prevents the motorcycle from starting. The second reason is a dead starter motor. Old motorcycles are more prone to see a busted starter motor. You need to replace either the battery or the starter motor to fix your electric starter problem.

You can hear the buzzing noise of your motorcycle when you press the starter, but the bike is not starting. If you are facing this problem, well here are the main causes and fixes for your starter problem.

#1 Dead Battery

To know for sure that it is the battery that is causing the issue in your electric starter, check for other motorcycle components that uses the battery for their functioning. This includes headlights, indicators, horns, backlight, and other electrical systems.

Check these components before you start your motorcycle using kickstart. Turn the key on in the motorcycle and try honking by pressing the horn button.

Now, if the intensity of your motorcycle horn reduces after a second or two, then the battery is the culprit causing issues in your electric starter.

Now that we have zeroed in on the battery, here are the issues that needs to be looked into further.

Battery is not holding charge

This is straight and simple. Battery is dead. You need to replace your motorcycle battery with a new one.

There is no need for further inspection if the battery is not holding a charge. The battery is dead and needs replacement for the electric starter to function.

Solenoid Check

If the starter makes an odd buzzing noise and your battery is holding charge, then the solenoid might be corroded. If the starter is responding when the terminals are charged, but the solenoid is not clicking, then the solenoid is the cause for your starter woes.

The solenoid will have an electromagnet that sends the battery power to your starter. If the solenoid is buzzing then the battery is not holding enough charge to power the solenoid enough to maintain contact with the circuit.

#2 Dead Starter Motor

If your motorcycle is old, say, more than five years old, then the chances of a dead starter motor is a possibility.

If your battery is working fine, then it is most likely that the starter motor in your motorcycle is either not generating power or not able to convert the generated power into DC current.

Either case, your starter motor needs to be checked.

Stator Problem

If the motor is not able to generate any power, then the stator is not functioning to its capacity. Check the power generated by the stator using an Ammeter. The current reading would help you determine the root cause of the problem. A bad stator will result in your motorcycle starter not functioning.   

Rectifier problem

Another key concern in the battery problem is your rectifier. If it is the voltage regulator that is not charging up the battery, then your rectifier needs rectification (lame?).

The rectifier most likely is not converting the generated power from your stator to DC current from AC. Since the electric starter used in a motorcycle engine is a DC motor, a failing rectifier not able to convert to DC current will result in your starter not working.

#3 Other Causes

Other rare causes include a messed-up wiring connection. The last time you have serviced your bike, or your mechanic has serviced your bike, can be the root cause of your starter problems. If there has been a loosened wire connection or a wrong connection taken place in the last servicing. then electric starter problems might have started which has left you relying entirely on your kick start.


Let’s wrap this up.

  • A dead battery is the foremost cause that prevents the motorcycle from starting with the electric starter.
  • To check whether it is indeed the battery problem, turn the key on of your motorcycle and press the horn button without kick-starting the engine. If the horn sound slows down on its intensity after a second or two, you have a dead battery in your motorcycle there.
  • Within battery issues, if the battery is not holding up charge, then it is as good as dead. You need to replace your battery with a new one.
  • If the battery is holding up charge, check for solenoid issue. If the electric starter makes a buzzing sound whenever you press it, it is most likely that the solenoid is not clicking.
  • Apart from the battery, the starter motor can also cause issues in the electric starter of your motorcycle. Either it is not generating enough power or not able to convert the generated power into DC current.
  • If the starter motor is not generating enough power, then it is the stator issue. You need to check with an Ammeter.
  • If there is enough power generated but it is not getting converted into DC current, then there is an issue with the rectifier.
  • In both the above cases, you need to fix your starter motor. Take your motorcycle to your mechanic for the repair.
  • Other rare cause of concerns include loose wire connections or a misplaced connections during your last motorcycle servicing.