How to fix an electric start on a motorcycle

Updated July 20, 2017

Repairing an electric starter on a motorcycle requires an ability to perform tests in the proper sequence. A volt meter is often used for testing circuits but is not necessary for basic repairs. Using common electrical tools and following the process of elimination can help to solve many electrical problems. Circuits that are subject to vibration and exposure to wet conditions require close examination to locate faults in their connections. Internal wiring can often be tested without taking components apart.

Locate the ignition switch.Turn the ignition on. Locate the starter button. While pushing the starter button listen closely for the sound of the starter operating or a clicking or loud buzzing sound. Listen for any other unusual sounds at the same time.

Locate the battery. Put on the safety glasses. Identify the positive and negative terminals. Place a piece of paper tape on the positive wire and mark it with a (plus) sign using the permanent marker. Remove the positive wire from the battery first and then remove the negative wire from the battery. Clean the spade connectors on the positive and negative wires using the Emory paper. Clean the positive and negative battery terminals in the same manner.

Remove the battery from the motorcycle. Have the battery tested to verify that it can hold a charge. Reinstall the battery if it tested good, or replace the battery with a new one if it failed the test and will not hold a charge. Connect the negative wire to the battery first, then connect the positive wire to the battery.

Locate the starter. Disconnect the positive wire from the battery. Disconnect the two large wires from the starter and clean their spade connectors using the Emory paper. Keep the two wires separated so they cannot accidentally touch each other or anything else.

Connect the positive wire back to the battery. Locate the solenoid. Push the starter button and listen for a loud click at the solenoid. Disconnect the positive wire from the battery. Remove the wires from the solenoid and clean their spade connectors. Reconnect the wires to the solenoid if there was a click, or replace the solenoid with a new one if there was no click.

Reconnect the two large wires back to the starter. Reconnect the positive wire back to the battery. Push the starter button and listen carefully for the sound of the starter operating properly. Replace the starter with a new one if there was no sound of it operating properly.


Wear safety glasses. Disconnect the battery positive wire before disconnecting any other wires.

Things You'll Need

  • Safety glasses
  • Screwdriver kit
  • Wrench kit
  • Paper tape
  • Permanent marker
  • Emory paper (200 grit)
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About the Author

David Machado has written technical and home improvement articles since 2008. He received his education in electronics and computer technology from Bell Labs. After retiring from Bell South in 1989, he attended Midlands Technical College. He received his Residential Builders License from the state of South Carolina in 1991.