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Motorcycle Kill Switch: What is it? How to Use It


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That big red switch or button on the right side of the motorcycle’s handlebars is the kill switch.

Many riders have questions about the kill switch. Some use it automatically out of habit, while others find themselves questioning its existence.

This page will go over everything you need to know about your bike’s killswitch.

Purpose of a Kill Switch

Kill switches are a federally mandated safety feature required for all motorcycles.

Their purpose is to quickly shut down the engine.

It allows the rider to kill the engine without having to take their hands off the handlebar and attention off the road to reach the ignition key.

On a motorcycle, staying alert and in control is extremely important – especially in an emergency situation.

How a Motorcycle Kill Switch Works

The motorcycle’s kill switch works by interrupting the motorcycle’s ignition circuit.

When the switch is in the “ON” position, the circuit is complete and spark reaches the plugs.

When the switch is “OFF,” no spark can reach the combustion chamber and the engine will come to a stop.

In the case of an emergency, if you drop your bike, if the throttle sticks, or in a motorcycle crash, the kill switch is a quick way that anyone can shut down the engine to prevent a fire or further danger.

The position of the kill switch also allows you to stop the engine while keeping both hands on the handlebars so you can control the bike and still operate the clutch, throttle, and front brake.

Where is the kill switch located?

The kill switch is located on the right side handlebar controls.

The kill switch will always be big and red and within thumb’s reach.

When to use the kill switch?

You should use your kill switch in emergency situations to stop the engine. (i.e. stuck throttle, broken throttle cable, accident, etc.)

It can also be used for everyday use when starting and stopping your bike.

The MSF created the FINE-C acronym to help new riders remember the proper sequence to starting their motorcycle:

  • F: Fuel On.
  • I: Ignition On.
  • N: Neutral.
  • E: Engine Kill Switch ON.
  • C: Choke, as needed.

To shut down a motorcycle, the opposite sequence is followed:

  • Hit the kill switch to OFF.
  • Turn the ignition off.
  • Shut the gas off.
  • Put the kickstand down.

You may be surprised, but having the motorcycle’s kill switch in the wrong position upon start up is one of the top (and easily solved) reasons why a motorcycle won’t start.

Does the kill switch damage the bike?

Despite the name, no, using your kill switch will not damage your motorcycle’s engine.

You can use your kill switch multiple times per day every single day and your motorcycle will not be any worse off for it.

However, just like any switch or button, it can wear out over time and need repair or replacement.

What happens if you hit the kill switch while riding?

If you accidentally hit the kill switch while riding or need to kill the engine while the bike is moving, hitting the kill switch does not immediately stop the bike from moving.

Hitting the kill switch at speed is not going to send you flying over the handlebars as your bike comes to a halt.

When you hit the kill switch while the bike is moving:

  • The ignition circuit will be killed and there will be no spark in the combustion chamber.
  • The engine will no longer be producing power.
  • The engine will continue to move, but will start slowing down.

Turning the switch back on in the above scenario while the engine is still moving will start the bike up again.

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