May 12

How to jump start your motorcycle

First Ride of the Season Follies, I should have known better…

by Mark DT


Stranded roadside with a dead motorcycle battery all I thought to myself was, how could I be so stupid?  For those that follow this site, you know that we moved from our home in what locals term the “Lower Mainland”, or outsiders would know as the greater Vancouver, BC area for lovely Vancouver Island.  My parents live near Victoria which is about ninety minutes south of our new home.  My last ride of the season last year was to their house to store my beloved Triumph in their garage so that I could pick it up in the spring once we had finished our move.

Storage was done methodically.  Fuel topped right up, Sea Foam added to my gas tank for good measure.  Chain clean and lubed, all parts wiped clean.  The only thing I didn’t do was plug-in my battery tender.  I realized this just after walking onto the ferry back to the mainland.  Oh well I will put it on at Christmas in a few weeks I thought when back for a visit.  Except I didn’t.  In fact I didn’t get it put back on until about three hours before riding my motorcycle back to our house which is close to Ladysmith, BC.

Yuasa Motorcycle Booster Cables

Yuasa Motorcycle Booster Cables

My wife drove me to my folks place.  We took my mom out for an early Mother Day lunch, bought my insurance sticker, and came back to the bike.  The dreaded “red” light on the battery tender indicated still charging.   Ok, I’ll take this time to check my tire pressures, and give the bike a good front to back check.  Everything looked great.  I removed the charger, and despite the battery tender still showing red my Triumph Tiger 1050SE fired right up.  All was well, or so it seemed.

I left the house and rode for about five minutes down some nice side roads getting reacquainted with my old friend.  I kept hearing a tiny little rattle right behind me.  Did I properly lock my top case?  I better pull over and check.  I pull off, shut the bike down, check the box and sure enough it was fine.  When empty it will move a couple of millimeters back and forth on its base.  Oh well, all is good I’ll ride home now.

Except the bike won’t start.  My battery was DEAD.  I didn’t have booster cables specific for a motorcycle on the bike.  I now carry these in my side case, and you can see a good link below for the ones I recently bought.

I ended up calling my dad, who came down and we boosted the motorcycle off his car.  This is not the ideal way to fix this problem.  However if you are truly stuck and need to boost your motorcycle off of a car here is the method.

How to jump start a motorcycle from a car:

  1.  Ensure the car is shut down and not running during the entire process.  You will very likely damage your motorcycle if you try to boost it from a car/truck that is idling or running.  Also be very careful not to let the battery clamps touch each other once one clamp is attached to any battery.

  2. Put one of the booster cables red clamps on your motorcycles battery (+) pole.

  3. Put the black clamp on part of your motorcycles frame.  Bare metal is best.  I clamped mine onto a bare metal bolt on the frame.  Doing this versus clamping on the (-) of the battery significantly decreases the chances of causing battery damage to your motorcycle.

  4. Connect the other red clamp to the car battery’s (+) pole.  Again remember the car must be shut down during this process.

  5. Finally connect the remaining black clamp to the car batteries (-) pole.

  6. Start your motorcycle.  It should fire right up.

  7. Remove the clamps in the reverse order you attached them. (Car black, car red, motorcycle black, motorcycle red.)  Again take great care to keep the metal clamps from touching each other until you are completely disconnected from both vehicles.

  8. Ride off like you stole it (kidding).  In other words, keep as many of your electrics off as you can, and ride for an hour plus on a highway if possible to give the charging system a chance to finish the job.  When you park the bike make sure you attach a battery tender.

How to jump start from another motorcycle:

  1.  Ensure the motorcycle with the good battery is shut down, and simply follow the steps above with a few small exceptions.

  2.  You can in this case ignore step (3) above and place the black clamp on the disabled motorcycles (-) battery pole as the two vehicles are of the similar voltage.

  3. Once all the cables are connected, start the engine of the working motorcycle.  Once started, let the good motorcycle idle for a few minutes.  This will help get some charge into the non-working motorcycle and prevent over draining the good bike’s battery.

  4. After a few minutes try starting the other motorcycle.  It should fire right up.

  5. Remove all the cables like (7) above, and then follow (8) above and ride off.


Final advice is leave your battery tender on your motorcycle when not in use.  Learn from my mistake.  Also, car booster cables are a pain in the butt to attach to the small poles on a motorcycle battery.  The first thing I did when I got home was order these Yuasa Motorcycle Battery Jumper Cables (click the pic below) to make sure that I don’t have to deal with this issue again.  They pack away easily and now stay my motorcycle’s right side pannier.

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