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There’s not much worse than going to start up your bike and hearing nothing but a CLICK, CLICK, CLICK.
In many cases, the lonely click of the electric starter or a few, lustless cranks of the engine followed by no ignition are symptoms of a dead battery.
Luckily, if it is just a dead battery, you’ve got some easy options on how to get going again.
But, if you’re looking around and all you see are cars, you may be wondering: can you jump start your motorcycle with a car?
We’ll answer that and more below.
First, you do want to be sure that it is a dead battery, and not something else. If you’re unsure, some of our other articles may come in handy:
- Why Won’t My Motorcycle Start: A Troubleshooting Guide
- Troubleshooting Motorcycle Electrical Problems
- Motorcycle Charging System Guide
- Signs of a Bad Motorcycle Stator
Is it OK to jump start a motorcycle with a car?
When done correctly, yes, you can safely jump start your motorcycle using a car.
The steps involved are slightly different than jump starting a car with another car, but when you do it correctly, you can start up a dead bike using a car’s battery with no problem.
Here are some common times when jump starting with a car battery will work for you:
- If you accidentally left something powered up while your bike was parked and it drained the battery.
- If you haven’t ridden your bike in a while and haven’t kept the battery charged.
Basically, you’ll want to make sure that a dead, but otherwise healthy battery is the reason the bike is not starting.
When NOT to Jump Start With a Car
That said, there are some times when you should not attempt to jump start your motorcycle using a car (or another motorcycle for that matter).
Some of these situations may damage your bike, or some may just be ineffective.
You should not try to jump start a motorcycle with a car when:
- The car’s engine is running.
- There is a problem with the motorcycle’s charging system or stator.
- The battery is beyond its useful life.
- The bike died while you were out riding it (this points to a problem with the charging system).
- You haven’t already checked the simple, stupid solutions first (kill switch, side stand, gear, etc.).
How to Jump Start a Dead Motorcycle with a Car
So you’ve confirmed that the problem is indeed a dead battery, but the battery is otherwise OK. You’re ready to jump start it.
Before you do, you’ll need jumper cables.
Note that automotive jumper cables may be difficult to clamp onto the motorcycle’s battery terminals.
Motorcycle-specific jumper cables are much smaller, but some batteries may still be hard to get to.
Be careful not to touch the clamps to the motorcycle’s frame, which will typically be grounded.
With that out of the way, you’re ready to get started.
1. Connect the Car Battery to the Motorcycle Battery
With both the car and the motorcycle OFF, you can begin to connect the jumper cables.
Follow the same order as you would for jumping a car:
- Connect the RED cable to the POSITIVE terminal of the car’s battery.
- Connect the RED cable to the POSITIVE terminal of the motorcycle’s battery.
- Connect the BLACK cable to the NEGATIVE terminal of the car battery.
- Connect the BLACK cable to a ground point on the motorcycle.
2. Do NOT Start the Car
Unlike when you jump start a car with another car, you will leave the car’s engine OFF when jump starting a motorcycle.
3. Start the Motorcycle
If the motorcycle’s battery is somewhat healthy, the engine should start up.
Allow it to continue to idle as you disconnect the cables, reassemble your battery cover, and get ready to go.
4. Disconnect the Jumper Cables
As the motorcycle you’ve resurrected from the dead continues to idle, you can start disconnecting the jumper cables.
Disconnect the cables in the reverse order that you put them on. Be careful not to touch any of the clamps to any metal or one another.
5. Test the Battery and Get it Fully Charged
Smaller batteries, like those found in motorcycles, typically don’t work as well when they’ve been allowed to fully drain.
Once you get the bike home, test that the battery is still in good condition. If not, it’s a good idea to replace it so you won’t need to jump it again.
If the battery tests good, then it’s a good idea to get it on a trickle charger to fully charge it again.
When you plan on storing the bike or not riding for a while, it’s best to keep the battery charged.
Other Options for Starting a Motorcycle with a Dead Battery
Jump starting your motorcycle with a car is not the only way to get it going again.
In fact, it may be best to try some of these other options before you do.
- Using a portable jump starter pack.
- Jump starting it with another motorcycle.
- Waiting to charge up the battery with a battery tender.
- Push starting, or bump starting, the bike.
Knowing how to push start, or bump start, is a great skill to have.
If your motorcycle’s battery is dead and you’re by yourself, it may be your only option to get started again.
Learn how to bump start a motorcycle here.