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Harley Davidson Starter Problems Troubleshooting Guide

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There’s nothing quite as exhilarating as the roar of a Harley Davidson engine, nor as frustrating as encountering starter issues just when you’re ready to hit the road.

Struggling with Harley Davidson starter problems can be a real dampener on your riding spirit. But don’t let this throw you off your saddle!

My comprehensive troubleshooting guide dives deep into these challenges, offering practical solutions to get your beloved bike back on track.

Whether you’re a seasoned Harley veteran or a novice rider, this guide will arm you with the know-how to tackle those pesky starter issues head-on.

Say goodbye to infuriating Harley Davidson starter problems and hello to unending, worry-free rides. With our guide, the open road is yours to conquer once more. So let’s get rolling!

Harley Davidson Starter Motor Diagram Infographic

Overview of the Starter System

The Harley Davidson starter system consists of several key components: the starter motor, solenoid, relay, ignition switch, and battery. The electromagnetic solenoid activates the engine’s electric starter motor when power is applied, pulling a pinion gear into place between the engine’s starter clutch and the starter motor. Let’s dive into the specifics of each component.

Diagnostic Tool You’ll Need:

Here's a picture of the multimeter I use to diagnose my own electrical issues.

Starter Motor

The starter motor is the heart of the system. It’s responsible for cranking the engine and initiating the combustion process. When you press the start button, power is supplied from the battery to the starter motor, which turns the engine over.


The solenoid is an electromagnetic switch that controls the high current of the starter motor. When you turn the ignition key, the solenoid activates and allows current to flow from the battery to the starter motor.


The starter relay is a smaller electrical switch that controls the current that goes to the solenoid. When you turn the ignition switch, a small current is sent to the relay, which in turn sends a larger current to the solenoid, activating the starter motor.

Ignition Switch

The ignition switch is where it all begins. When you turn the key, it sends a signal to the relay to start the process.


The battery provides the necessary power to the entire starter system. A fully charged and functional battery is essential for the starter system to work properly.

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Harley Starter Problems Overview and Fixes Video

Common Causes of Harley Davidson Starter Problems

Clicking Noise

A clicking noise usually points to a bad solenoid or bad contacts. If the noise is coming from the starter area, check the solenoid. If it’s not easily located by ear, check the relay.

Whirring Noise

A whirring noise typically indicates a problematic starter clutch, which can be replaced.

Grinding Noise

A sharp metallic grinding noise usually indicates a damaged ring gear or pinion gear.

Diagnosing Starter Problems on A Harley Davidson

Diagnosing starter problems involves checking each component of the system. The primary tools you’ll need include a service manual, parts books, a fully charged battery, a multi-meter, and a piece of #10-12 gauge wire. Let’s dive into how to troubleshoot each component.

Battery Check

Firstly, use the multimeter to measure the battery voltage. It should be fully charged, and there should be no significant voltage drop when you check the voltage on the battery post of the starter.

Solenoid Check

Next, check the solenoid. Have an assistant press the starter switch while you test for voltage on the lead from the relay to the starter. It’s the smaller of the two leads on the starter. If you don’t get voltage, you’ll need to check the starter relay.

Relay Check

You can test the relay using the multimeter or by jumping it. Make sure you’re getting voltage to the positive side of the normally open contact, and when the starter button is pressed, you get voltage on the coil contacts.

Starter Motor Check

Lastly, check the starter motor. If the starter button is pressed and the voltage drops significantly and the starter and battery wires get hot, it’s likely that the starter motor is the problem.

Related: Harley Davidson 103 Compensator Problems Revealed (+Fixed)

Replacing Defective Components

If you’ve determined that a component is defective, you’ll need to replace it. Be sure to refer to your service manual for specific instructions on how to replace each component. For example, replacing the starter motor involves removing it from the engine, installing a new one, and reconnecting all wiring connections.

In conclusion, troubleshooting a Harley Davidson’s starter system can seem daunting, but with a systematic approach and the right tools, it’s a task that can be tackled by any experienced motorcycle enthusiast. So don’t be intimidated, roll up your sleeves, and get your Harley back on the road!

Another problem to be aware of: Harley Fuel Pressure Regulator Symptoms: Complete Overview

What are common signs of Harley Davidson starter problems?

Common signs indicating potential starter problems in your Harley Davidson motorcycle include the engine cranking slowly or failing to crank at all when attempting to start it.

You might also hear a clicking sound when turning the key, but the engine doesn’t start. Additionally, another indication of starter issues is when the starter motor runs but fails to engage the engine fully, resulting in a non-functional starting porocess.

What could be causing my Harley Davidson starter problems?

There are several potential culprits for Harley Davidson starter problems. A weak or dead battery is a frequent cause, as the starter motor requires sufficient power from the battery to initiate the engine’s crank.

Additionally, corroded or loose battery terminals can hinder the flow of electricity to the starter motor, leading to starting issues.

Other possible reasons include a faulty starter relay or solenoid that fails to properly route the current to the starter, a damaged starter motor itself, or wiring issues and electrical faults that disrupt the starting circuit.

Can a bad battery cause starter problems on my Harley Davidson?

Yes, a bad battery is a common cause of starter issues on Harley Davidson motorcycles.

The starter motor relies on the battery’s stored electrical energy to turn the engine over.

If the battery is weak, low on charge, or damaged, it may not provide the necessary power to engage the starter motor effectively, resulting in slow cranking or a failure to start.

How can I check if my Harley Davidson’s starter motor is faulty?

To determine if the starter motor is faulty, you can perform a few checks.

Begin with a visual inspection, looking for any visible damage or signs of wear on the starter motor.

Next, use a multimeter to check for continuity and resistance across the starter motor terminals, which can help identify any electrical issues.

Additionally, verify that the starter motor gear engages and disengages smoothly, as any binding or grinding may indicate a problem with the motor’s internal components.