Harley Won’t Start Troubleshooting & How To Fix Them 2024

Are you here because you are having issues and looking for Harley won’t start troubleshooting?

Nothing is as frustrating as getting ready to tour the town and then you turn on the ignition only to get a dead sound.

Another challenge is that determining what the issue is with your bike is not always easy. A lot of things could be the reason behind your bike not starting.

But not to worry, before you resort to calling for help from a professional, here are some basic things you can do to help in troubleshooting your Harley.

Common Reasons Why Harley Won’t Start Troubleshooting

Weak or Dead Battery

This is the first major reason you might be having a problem starting your bike. If you are experiencing a very dim light or if the light goes off when you turn on the ignition, it could be that your battery is dead.

If the battery can no longer crank the starter and can no hold a charge for long, it’s due for replacement.

Loose Electrical Plug Wire

If after all the cranking and the bike is still not cranking, it could be that one of the electrical wires may be off. You may need to unplug and re-plug some connectors to see if the problem is from there.

No fuel

This may sound like it’s a no-brainer, but it happens. People have thought that they had fuel in their bike and never suspected that it could be the reason the bike is not starting.

It won’t hurt to check if there is fuel in the bike. Do this by shaking it back and forth to be very sure.

You can also check the float bowl drain to make sure the gasoline in the tank is still supplying enough to the carburetors.

Clogged petcock

It’s true that there is a provision of a screen on your petcock’s fuel intake that prevents it from clogging, but rust can make its way to the internal passageways.

Even corrosion inside the valve can clog it. Using a screwdriver or any other item to tap the petcock can help jostle loose the gunk.

It’s important to have the petcock unclogged because it can turn on or off the gas flow.

Down side stand

Yes, if the side stand is down, your Harley bike may have challenges starting. It won’t hurt to fold it up.

Also, check if the plunger switch which is what shows if the ignition is on is stuck. If so, some WD-40 and a toothbrush should do the job.

Blocked muffler exit or intake

Well, as crazy as it sounds, the muffler or the airbox can be blocked. Yes, you did not block it, but rodents can do a good job at committing this crime.

Little kids can also play pranks or unintentionally place something in the muffler while playing.

Engine cutoff switch

If you are one of those that don’t usually turn off the engine with the ignition key but instead use the kill switch, this may be the reason your bike won’t start.

In case you are guilty of this, just bump it in the right direction and you should have it solved.

DIY Solutions to Fixing Harley won’t start issues

Step 1 – Ensure you are starting the bike correctly

Before you roll your eyes and think that this step is dumb, do note that every bike has its starting drill.

For some, the bike has to be neutral while on the kickstand, and for some, the clutch has to be held in regardless of whether the motorcycle is in gear or not.

If you are riding the bike after a long time and may have forgotten how its run, please refer to the owner’s manual or check on the internet for videos. 

Step 2 – Ensure there is fuel

You may have a faulty fuel gauge that shows that the tank is full when in actual sense the tank is empty.

Always check to make sure you have enough fuel in the tank by shaking the bike to confirm. Also, make sure that fuel is getting to the carburetor.

Step 3 – unclog fuel lines and carburetor

Loose the drain screw (the float-bowl) and check the fuel that is coming out of it. if there is a lot of dirt or water, drain it completely and wait for it to refill before starting the bike.

Disconnect the fuel from the injector or carburetor. Get a container and put the open end of the fuel line and then turn on the key.

Fuel or gas should gush out from it. Do this either when the engine is running or cranking. If nothing happens after this step, then your fuel filter or the pump has failed.

Step 4 – engage the clutch

Sometimes, failure to remember to engage the clutch can be the problem hindering the bike from starting.

Just make sure that the clutch is in before trying to start the bike. If the clutch switch is bad, “pumping” it may reset it. but it means you need to replace the clutch at your earliest convenience.

Step 5 – clean the spark plug

Remove the plug and check if there are unburned fuel on it. if there are, clean it and reinsert it and crank the engine. it should produce a vibrant blue spark.

If this doesn’t happen, then you need to get a new spark plug. After this process and the problem still persists, then you need to call your mechanic in.

Step 6 – check for loose wires

Because electrical issues are not always very obvious, riders tend to overlook it. Manually inspect the connectors to ensure that there is no problem with it. Also, check your battery wire connection to be sure none is loose.

Step 7 -turn off the kill switch

Make sure the kill switch is turned off, especially if you made use of recently and forgetting to turn it off. After that, turn on the fuel valve.

Step 8 – carry out a compression test

If your bike has been sitting ideal for a long time, it may have lost some of its compression.

Although some special test equipment is needed, you can still check by holding your finger or thumb just over the hole of the spark-plug before cranking the engine.

If there is obvious pressure, then the compression is still okay. If not, at least you know where to start fixing the problem with your bike not starting.

Step 9 – check for bad fuses

Check to ensure that the fuses are not blown. If there are blown fuses, make sure to replace it with the right amperage.

Still having issues with the fuses even after replacing them? It means you have a more challenging electrical issue.

Step 10 – reset the choke

Most times, when the weather condition changes, this might affect the setting of your choke and preventing it from matching the right temperature.

Following all the steps listed above should have your Harley starting again. But if it all fails, there is one more thing you need to do.

Check if water got into some spots that it isn’t supposed to. This is a common occurrence after a thorough washing of the bike.

Go through the buttons, knobs, and other electrical parts to see if there is water that needs to be dried off.

Battery is good but Harley won’t start

Once you are sure that the battery is still okay, and that the starter is still working, it means you have passed the first hurdle. It’s therefore time for some troubleshooting.

Check to see if the kickstand is malfunctioning, also check the interlock clutch/starter switch. And make sure that there is no blown fuse.

If after replacing a blown fuse and it blows again, then there is a need to repair the dead short that is causing the problem.

When should you seek professional help?

Trying everything listed above should get your Harley up and running again in no time.

But in a situation where you have tried all and the bike still won’t start, the only option left is to get professional help.

And while at it, there are two basic things you should not do when it comes to trying to fix your bike:

1. Consult a professional before replacing parts – if you suspect that a part of the bike is what is causing the problem, do not rush off to replace the parts.

It’s a good idea to get the opinion of a skilled bike mechanic to be sure you are going for the right part. That way, you won’t have to spend money on parts that are still good.

2. Don’t nullify your warranty – if your Harley is still under warranty, then you are in luck.

There may be no need to go through the steps above when you can simply take it in with your warranty claims.

Do bear in mind that attempting some of the steps listed above may void your warranty.

This then leaves you with costly repairs that would have been avoided by making use of the warranty from the company.

Some companies offering warranty services may want you to get the bike to a certain location. It could be an approved shop or a dealership shop.

And if you have carried out some of the points listed above, you may end up losing the warranty.

FAQ’s about Harley Won’t Start Troubleshooting

Why won’t my bike start but turn over?

This is usually an indication that the fuel or bike ignition is the culprit. With time, the gas will start breaking down which will make it hard for it to combust.

If this happens, you will find that the bike will crank but will not be able to start.

How can I tell if my starter is bad?

Some of the ways to tell if your starter is bad is if the bike starts intermittently, hearing a running sound from the starter port even when the engine is on, or the starter not starting at all.

Another way to tell is if you hear a clicking sound that sounds strange from the starter.

How can I force start my bike?

Start by pushing your Harley from the left side until you reach a jogging speed.

Once you have gotten some speed, quickly jump on your motorcycle and once sited, dropping the clutch and pushing the started will be your next move.

Once the engine comes alive, pull the clutch in and pump in more gas to keep up the RPMs.

What will happen when the ignition switch is faulty?

The engine will stall as a result of power cut-off to the fuel and ignition systems.

This happens when the engine is still running. The bike may start again after a while when you restart it.

But if the problem is a little complicated, then the bike probably won’t start until the problem is fixed.  

How can I tell if the problem is with the battery or starter?

Ordinarily, one of the battery’s functions is to send power to the starter which it uses to turn on the engine.

A situation where all you get when you turn on the ignition is a click sound, then the problem is definitely from the starter.   

Final Thoughts!

After all said and done, it boils down to one thing; the solution to Harley won’t start troubleshooting. The steps listed above will help you detect what exactly is the reason your bike won’t start.

Even if you cannot fix it by yourself by following our recommendation above, you will at least have a clue of what might actually be wrong with the bike.

Finally, and most importantly, endeavor to ride the bike more often. Yes, this is important because it keeps your bike running for a long time.

It also keeps the bike warm to prevent rodents from building a home there.

Constant riding of the bike will deliver electrons to your battery so that you have a more functional electrical system.

If you need more help with troubleshooting your Harley, the videos below will be of help.