Here’s How To Jump a Motorcycle’s Dead Battery

It’s usually not that scary.

byHank O'Hop| PUBLISHED Mar 30, 2022 4:20 PM
Here’s How To Jump a Motorcycle’s Dead Battery
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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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Basics

Time Needed: A few minutes 

Skill Level: Beginner 

Cost: $0-$100 

Safety

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. 

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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. 

Tool List

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Here’s How to Jump-Start a Motorcycle

Let’s get into it.

Option One: Jumper Pack

  1. Access your bike’s battery. Make sure your lights are off and the key is in the off position. Any draw will hinder the pack’s ability to function.
  2. Hook up your leads. Hook the red clamp to the positive terminal on the battery, and black to negative.
  3. Turn the jump pack on. In most cases, you will need it to power up for a few seconds before you can proceed. 
  4. Fire up your bike. Let it run for a few minutes to make sure everything is functioning properly.
  5. Pack up and take off.

Option Two: Vehicle to Vehicle

  1. Get close to the living vehicle and make sure all accessories are off. Yes, you can jump a motorcycle with a car as long as both vehicles use a 12-volt negative-to-ground system.
  2. Access the batteries.
  3. Connect the jumper cable to the positive terminal of the dead battery. Positive terminals are marked with a "+" symbol and often have a red cover.
  4. Connect the jumper cable to the positive terminal of the live battery. 
  5. Connect the jumper to the negative terminal of the dead battery. Negative terminals are marked with a "-" sign.
  6. Connect the jumper to the negative terminal of the live battery.
  7. Start the vehicle with the good battery. Let it run for a few minutes. 
  8. Start your dead bike. If it doesn't start right away, wait another 10 minutes and try again.
  9. Remove the cables in opposite order. Button up and off you go. 

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.

  1. Insert the key and turn it to the run position. Make sure all other accessories are off to give the ignition system all available power. 
  2. Pull in the clutch and put the bike in first gear.
  3. Holding the clutch, get the bike moving. It’s best to do on a hill, as gravity does the work for you, but that could also makes it harder to control. Doing it on flat ground is not impossible, you just need to push the bike fast enough, which will require running.
  4. Once you're pushing it as fast as possible, jump on and drop the clutch. Be extremely careful not to disrupt the bike to the point that it falls over. On a hill, you just need to drop the clutch. Again, it’s important to be careful not to injure yourself or put yourself in danger. 
  5. Quickly pull the clutch back in and let it run. The bike will continue to run as long as everything is in working order. If you’re on a hill you can just ride on as normal. However, those of you doing it by pushing may want to put the bike in neutral and gather yourself before riding.  
  6. Don’t stall. The last thing you want to do is bump start the bike excessively. Make sure to head straight to the shop or home where you can address the cause of the dead battery. 

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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