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Can I Jump Start A Motorcycle?

Today we’ll go over how to jump start a motorcycle with a car properly. We’ll cover what to do, and what not to do, so that you can safely get yourself back on the road.

If you’re asking yourself “Can I jump start a motorcycle?” the answer is yes, absolutely! However, you’ll want to make sure that the car you use to jump start your motorcycle isn’t running or you risk damaging your motorcycle’s electronics. The rest is pretty straightforward. You’ll connect the red cables, then the black cables, and then with the car off, start the motorcycle.

I have more details, pictures, and even a video to show you how it’s done!

watch this video

Watch this video!

How to jump start a motorcycle

Jump starting a motorcycle is fairly simple. It’s not completely the same as jump starting a car however, so we need to be careful. A car puts out a lot more power than a motorcycle is made to handle. For that reason we’re going to want to keep the car turned off while we do this.

Another thing to know before we get started is that jump starting a motorcycle is best done as a one person job. There are four different clamps which need to be attached in the right order, and having too many people “helping” can make things more difficult than they need to be. Having one person read and execute the instructions can help to keep things simple.

Let’s access our motorcycle’s battery, grab some jumper cables, and begin!

Step 1: Connect the red cables

Connect the red cable clamp to the positive terminal of your motorcycle battery. Next, connect the red clamp on the other end of the cable to the car battery’s positive terminal.

Remember that the car should not be running when you jump start a motorcycle.

How to jump start motorcycle - hook up positive terminal

Hook up the positive terminal

Step 2: Connect the black cables

Next you’ll connect the black clamps to the negative terminal of each battery.

A motorcycle battery’s negative terminal can sometimes be difficult to reach, if that’s the case you can attach the black (negative) clamp to any non-painted metal surface on your motorcycle.

Some cars may also have difficult to access negative battery terminals. In this case there is usually a picture of a battery with an arrow under the hood, to point out where you can clamp to.

jump start a motorcycle - attach negative clamp

Attach negative clamp

Step 3: Check your connections

Check that your connections are correct and secure. This means the red clamps are both hooked up to the positive terminals, the black clamps to the negative terminals or other parts of the vehicles.

It also means making sure that all of these connections are firmly attached, not loose, and won’t shake or fall off.

Step 4: Start your motorcycle

Make sure your car is still turned off, and then start your motorcycle as you normally would. Assuming a weak battery was the reason why your motorcycle wasn’t starting, it should fire right up as it draws power from your much bigger car battery.

What should I do after jump starting my motorcycle?

After you successfully jump start your motorcycle, try to use as little power as possible. That means low beam, not high beam, no signals, no heated grips, no cell phone charger, etc. Next, you’ll want to disconnect the black cables first, and then disconnect the red cables second.

We want to test that the motorcycle isn’t going to die out at low RPMs and leave you stranded again.

Unlike a car, leaving your motorcycle idling will not recharge the battery. Cars have big alternators. Motorcycles have relatively small and weak charging system components in comparison. Your motorcycle needs high RPMs to recharge, so you’ll need to ride it to recharge it. Your best bet is to get home safely and grab a cheap simple motorcycle-specific battery charger.

Once you’ve fully recharged your battery, follow these instructions to test your motorcycle’s  battery and charging system. You don’t want to spend money to replace your motorcycle battery if you don’t need to. You also don’t want to end up stranded again because of either a bad battery or a bad charging system. After jump starting your motorcycle it’s important to find out what caused your problem, and whether or not there may have been permanent damage done to your battery.

What if my motorcycle doesn’t start after trying to jump start it?

There could be many reasons why your motorcycle still does not start even after trying to jump start it.

  • Your connections may have been either attached incorrectly.
  • Your battery may be so dead that it isn’t even able to draw power from the car battery and function as a battery anymore.
  • Your motorcycle may have a problem that isn’t battery-related, such as a burnt fuse.

To find out for sure whether your motorcycle battery is the problem, you should follow these instructions to test your motorcycle battery. They will walk you through testing whether you need to replace, or simply recharge your motorcycle battery. They’ll also show you how to test your charging system.

If your motorcycle battery and charging system are fine, than they aren’t the problem, and jump starting won’t get your motorcycle to turn on again.

What are the five most common mistakes people make jump starting their motorcycles?

As you can tell, it’s easy to jump start your motorcycle, but no one’s human, so here are the five most common mistakes people make:

  1. Touching the jumper cables together, or touching the frame with jumper clamps when not instructed to. This can cause shorts or sparks near where you have gas an oil.
  2. Clamping to a painted part of the motorcycle or other vehicle. This won’t get get a good ground so the jump start will not work.
  3. Turning on the car. This could put way too much electricity into your motorcycle’s system and damage it.
  4. Stalling or turning off your motorcycle before you get home safely. Your motorcycle may not have recharged enough to turn back on again.
  5. Not fully charging and testing your battery and charging system when you get home. Without giving your motorcycle the right care when you get back, you’re asking for more problems on your next ride.

Is jump starting bad for my motorcycle?

Jump starting a motorcycle can be bad if you do it with the car turned on. The car should always be turned off when jump starting your motorcycle because cars have to generate so much more power for all of a car’s electronics than what a motorcycle is designed to handle. As a result, jump starting a motorcycle with a car turned on can do irreversible damage to your motorcycle’s wiring and electronics. Always jump start a motorcycle with the car turned off.

Can I use a booster pack to jump start a motorcycle?

You can absolutely use a booster pack to jump start a motorcycle. You can get a simple one that uses a lithium battery to save size, space, and weight. You can also get a slightly bigger jump starter and tire inflator all-in-one unit. Both will easily jump start your motorcycle if it has a weak battery.

Can I jump start a motorcycle with another motorcycle?

You can absolutely jump start a motorcycle with another motorcycle!

If both motorcycles are roughly the same size, you should turn the other motorcycle on or you may end up with two weak or dead motorcycle batteries. If one motorcycle is turned on while jump starting the other, you won’t have to worry about the charging system overloading the electronics of the other motorcycle.

Remember when you get home to fully recharge your motorcycle battery. Once it’s fully recharged you should test it to see if any long term damage was done. You can also test whether or not your motorcycle battery needs to be replaced and if your charging system is fully functional. These may help you understand what went wrong in the first place, and avoid being stuck with a dead motorcycle again down the road.

This video will show you two easy ways to test your battery and your charging system:

About YouMotorcycle

YouMotorcycle is a lifestyle motorcycle blog to be appreciated by those who see motorcycling as a lifestyle and not simply a hobby, sport, or method of transportation. Most of the posts on the site are written by past and present motorcycle industry staff. We remain fiercely independent, innovative, and unconventional. Our goal is to encourage more people to enjoy the world's greatest outdoor sport by helping new riders get started and inspiring current riders to get out more. We motorcycle, do You?

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