The Seasoned Wrench


Harley Davidson Starting Problems? Here’s What To Do

Chase Manhattan Avatar

Last Updated:

Note: My posts may contain affiliate links. If you click on these links and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. I only recommend products I genuinely believe in. Thanks for supporting The Seasoned Wrench!

Read my full affiliate disclaimer >>

Experiencing issues when trying to start your Harley Davidson can be a real mood killer, especially when you’re all set for a thrilling ride. It’s important to remember that like any mechanical device, a Harley might face starting problems due to various reasons. This comprehensive guide will help you diagnose and solve these issues, and get back on the road in no time. So keep reading and lets get to it!

‍What Does A Harley Need To Start (And Keep Running)?

A Harley Davidson needs three primary components to start successfully and keep running:

spark fuel and compression infographic
  1. Fuel: The motorcycle requires an adequate amount of fuel to ignite and start the engine. The fuel must be fresh and uncontaminated.
  2. Spark: The spark plugs must be in good condition to ignite the fuel-air mixture in the engine’s cylinders.
  3. Air: The engine needs a sufficient supply of clean air to burn the fuel correctly. The air filter must be clean and free of obstructions.

If any of these three elements are missing or not functioning correctly, your Harley might face starting problems.

Most Common Harley Davidson Starting Problems

Harley Davidsons, despite their reputation for quality and reliability, can sometimes experience problems that prevent them from starting. Here are some of the most common starting problems that Harley owners might encounter:

Related: Harley Davidson Ignition Coil Problems

Diagnostic Procedure For When Your Harley Won’t Start

If your Harley Davidson refuses to start, don’t panic. Here’s a step-by-step diagnostic procedure to help identify the problem:

Tool You’ll Need:

Here's a picture of the multimeter I use to diagnose my own electrical issues.
  1. Check the Battery: Use a multimeter to check the battery voltage. If it’s too low, it might not have sufficient power to crank the engine.
  2. Inspect the Wiring: Check the wiring connections, especially around the ignition switch, kill switch, and starter solenoid. Ensure all connections are secure and free from corrosion.
  3. Inspect the Fuses: Check for any blown fuses and replace them with the correct amperage rating.
  4. Test the Ignition Switch: Use a multimeter to test the ignition switch for continuity.
  5. Inspect the Fuel System: Check the fuel lines for damage and ensure the fuel pump and injectors are working correctly.

Related articles:
> Bad Harley Stator Symptoms
> Harley Voltage Regulator Symptoms

How To Fix Each Problem

Once you’ve identified the problem, you can take steps to fix it:

  • Dead or Weak Battery: Replace the battery or use jump leads to start the bike from another motorcycle.
  • Faulty Ignition Switch: Replace the faulty ignition switch.
  • Faulty Fuel System: Replace any damaged fuel lines, and consider having a professional inspect and repair the fuel pump or injectors.
  • Bad Starter Relay or Motor: Replace the faulty starter relay or motor.
  • Faulty Spark Plugs: Replace the spark plugs.

Related article: Best Battery for Harley Davidsons

Preventing These Starting Problems Moving Forward

Regular maintenance can help prevent many common starting problems. Here are some steps you can take to minimize the chances of starting issues:

  • Regularly Check and Replace the Battery: Avoid leaving the battery in a discharged state for extended periods.
  • Inspect and Clean the Wiring: Regularly inspect the wiring for signs of wear or damage. Clean and tighten connections as needed.
  • Regularly Check the Fuses: Regularly inspect the fuses and replace any that are blown.
  • Inspect and Clean the Fuel System: Regularly inspect the fuel system for signs of wear or damage. Clean and replace parts as needed.
  • Regularly Replace Spark Plugs: Regularly replace spark plugs to ensure a strong spark for ignition.

Related article: Best Spark Plugs for Harley Davidsons

Is Harley’s Manufacturing To Blame?

While it’s easy to blame Harley’s manufacturing for starting problems, the truth is that these issues can occur with any motorcycle. Regular maintenance and proper use can significantly reduce the chances of encountering these problems.

What Keeps A Harley From Starting Most Frequently?

The most common cause of a Harley Davidson not starting is a dead or weak battery, followed by issues with the ignition switch, fuel system, starter relay or motor, and spark plugs.

Were Particular Model Years Affected?

All mechanical devices can face issues, and Harley Davidsons are no exception. However, there’s no specific model year known for having more starting problems than others. Regular maintenance is key to preventing these issues, regardless of the model year.

Related articles:
> What Year Harleys To Avoid
> Are Harley Davidsons Reliable?


Here are some frequently asked questions about Harley Davidson starting problems:

Why won’t my Harley start in cold weather?

Cold weather can affect the battery power and the efficiency of the fuel system. Consider using a battery tender and ensuring your fuel system is in good condition.

How can I tell if my starter relay is bad?

If the starter relay is bad, you may hear a clicking sound when trying to start the bike, or the bike may not start at all.

Can I push start a Harley with a dead battery?

Push starting a Harley with a dead battery is possible but not recommended, as it can damage the bike’s electrical system.

Why won’t my Harley start after changing the handlebars?

If your Harley won’t start after changing the handlebars, it’s likely you may have pinched or sliced a wire during the process. Inspect the wiring and connections to ensure they are correct and intact.

Read next: Harley Crank Runout Symptoms: Identifying and Addressing the Issue

Remember to always consult your owner’s manual and seek professional help if you’re unsure about any of the steps outlined in this guide. With proper care and maintenance, you can keep your Harley Davidson starting smoothly and running reliably for years to come.

Next read: Harley Oil Breather Problems? I Have The Answer!