Troubleshooting a Motorcycle Ignition System

motorcycle rider on the road
  • 2-3 hours
  • Advanced
  • 150-300
What You'll Need
Spark plug spanner
Spare parts (optional)
Wire wool

Motorcycle ignition problems can prevent your bike from starting and you can be stranded when you travel. If your bike is not properly starting, you can fix the problem with a few tools and can save a fortune by doing these repair projects by yourself.

Step 1 - Inspect Parts

The first thing that you need to do is take a look at the electrical components of your ignition system. There are four important parts of the ignition system, any one of these could fail and cause various problems. A source coil, black box, and trigger coil are all important parts of the ignition system. Inspect each of these parts and look for any potential problems. Most of the black boxes on bikes get their power from the battery and this means you should also check this connection.

Step 2 - Check Fuses

pulling a fuse from the panel

Fuses are supposed to blow so they protect your bike from damage. It's a good idea to check the condition of these fuses before doing anything else. To find the fuses, refer to your owner’s manual. You should be able to see if any of these are physically broken or damaged. Any fuses that have blown out will need to be replaced with the same type of fuse that was removed.

Step 3 - Check the Switch

If your engine won't start, then you should check the ignition switch. Turn the key to the first click and see if the neutral light comes on. If the light doesn't come on then this suggests that there is a problem with the ignition switch itself. If this is the case then the entire switch needs to be replaced.

Step 4 - Check for Corrosion

woman on an Indian motorcycle

If your motorcycle is difficult to start but does start eventually then this could be due to corrosion. Check the ignition points and look out for any corrosion. If any of the ignition points are corroded then this won't allow the electrical starting system to spark and light the fuel.

Also check that the ignition coil is in good condition, if it is showing signs of wear, you should replace it. This could also be caused because the timing of the ignition system is not set correctly. Check the user manual to find out how to time your motorcycle correctly.

Step 5 - Check the Spark Plugs

A motorcycle engine is very similar to a car engine. This means that you should check many of the same things. If your engine won't turn over then this could be a result of the spark plugs. Spark plugs do have a limited life span and they may need to be replaced. If the plugs are worn or look dirty then this could be a sign that they need replacing.

It's a good idea to replace the spark plugs and leads every time you service your bike. That way you will know that these are unlikely to be the cause of the problem.