Fewer things are more disappointing than getting ready for a casual ride or just trying to head home from work — only to find out your motorcycle won’t start. There’s a wide range of reasons this can happen, but the likely cause is a drained or dead battery. Knowing how to test your battery and how to jump-start your bike can help keep you from being stranded.

Test the motorcycle battery

Before you consider jump-starting your ride, it’s important to check that you’re dealing with a battery issue. Testing your battery is a key part of basic motorcycle maintenance and can be done in one of two simple ways.

Check your lights1

Turn on your headlights and any lights on your instrument panel. Lights that are dimmer than usual typically mean your battery currently can’t start your motorcycle.

Take a stationary voltage test2

If you have a digital voltmeter or multimeter, you can also test your battery’s voltage to see if it’s lower than it should be. Here’s how you take a voltage reading:

  1. Set your voltmeter to the DC scale.
  2. Touch the black lead of the voltmeter to the negative battery terminal; touch the red lead to the positive terminal.
  3. Record the voltage.

A fully charged battery should have a voltage of about 12.7 or higher. Anything below a 75{2a3e680f1439d15db2efa1f6e7ed882a5847e72ec9baddde754e69dd847cc2fd} charge, or a voltage of around 12.45, could keep your motorcycle from starting.1

Once you’ve determined that an undercharged battery is holding you up, you can start making plans to jump-start your motorcycle.

How to jump-start a motorcycle using another motorcycle

Jump-starting your dead bike with another motorcycle is very similar to jump-starting a car. Make sure you have jumper cables, then do the following:1

  1. Attach the positive clip (red cable) to the positive battery terminal on the dead battery.
  2. Attach the other positive clip to the positive terminal on the working battery.
  3. Attach the negative clip (black cable) to the negative terminal on the working battery.
  4. Attach the other negative clip to a metal surface on your bike.
  5. Start the working motorcycle and let the engine run for a couple minutes.
  6. Start your motorcycle (this may take more than one attempt).
  7. When your bike starts, keep both bikes running for a few minutes to increase the battery’s power.
  8. Disconnect the jumper cables in the reverse order you attached them.
  9. Ride your motorcycle for 15 to 30 minutes to recharge the battery.

How to jump-start a motorcycle using a portable jump starter

Portable jump starters are extremely useful when no other vehicles are around to help get your bike running again. Here’s how to jump-start a motorcycle with a portable jump starter:1

  1. Attach the positive clip (red) to the positive battery terminal.
  2. Attach the negative clip (black) to a metal surface on your bike.
  3. Turn on the portable jump starter; confirm it’s set to the correct voltage for your battery (12 volts for most motorcycles).
  4. Push the starter on your motorcycle for no more than 2 or 3 seconds. If your bike doesn’t start, wait a few minutes before trying again; otherwise, you risk burning out your jump starter.
  5. When your bike starts, disconnect the negative clip followed by the positive clip.
  6. Ride your motorcycle for 15 to 30 minutes to recharge the battery.

Once you’ve used your portable jump starter, recharge it as soon as you can so you’ll be ready if you need it again.

How to push-start a motorcycle

Understanding how to push-start a motorcycle is a great skill to have, but this method should be used only if the previous jump-starting options aren’t possible. So if needed, here’s how to do it:3

  1. Find a clear stretch of road or, ideally, a hill for the added momentum.
  2. Put your bike into second gear (first gear can at times come on too strong, causing the bike to jerk forward).1
  3. Start pushing the bike, while running alongside, until you get up to at least 5 mph.
  4. Hop on the bike once you’re up to speed and immediately drop the clutch and push the starter.
  5. When your engine starts running, pull in the clutch and apply some gas.
  6. Continue riding your motorcycle for 15 to 30 minutes to recharge the battery.

Avoid jump-starting a motorcycle with a car

Jump-starting your motorcycle with a car should be avoided whenever possible, and many motorcycle and battery manufacturers provide warnings about doing so. This is mainly because of the fundamental differences between car and motorcycle batteries. A car battery’s higher amperage (its strength) can cause an overload, which could damage your motorcycle’s battery and potentially burn out the starter.1

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Jump-starting your motorcycle can help keep you going when you’re on the road, but you may need extra protection for all those times when you can’t make the fix yourself. That’s where Nationwide® can help. See how Nationwide can help protect your motorcycle today.


[1] https://axleaddict.com/motorcycles/How-to-Jump-Start-a-Motorcycle#

[2] https://www.revzilla.com/common-tread/how-to-test-a-motorcycle-battery

[3] http://motorcycle-central.com/how-to-push-start-a-motorcycle/

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