Nine easy tips that could save you from a long, dark wait for the recovery man.
Even with the best maintenance, breakdowns can strike at any time and leave you stranded at the side of the road. However, if the worst happens and your bike does cut out, there are a few easily fixable faults that you can check. The killswitch is an obvious and easily overlooked item. Check the switch is in the ‘run’ position, and also ensure that any connectors leading from the killswitch are firmly pressed in.
Don’t stand for it
The sidestand has an engine cut-out switch that will prevent you riding away when the stand is in its lowered position. But age, wear and dirt can cause problems, meaning the switch can stick when the stand is in the up position. If this is the case, you can pull the switch out manually. You should also check the wires from the switch are intact and properly connected, as poor connections can lead to problems.
Clutching at straws
Some manufacturers choose to fit a safety switch to the clutch lever that won’t let the bike start unless the clutch is fully pulled in. Over time these switches can malfunction so check any connectors carefully. The switch itself can usually be removed and inspected using a small screwdriver, so check that the small plunger operating the micro-switch is being actuated.
There are many symptoms of a loose battery connector, typically the starter motor won’t have enough surface area to conduct the large current needed for engine cranking so a faint ticking noise is heard when the starter button is pressed. Another is intermittent failure of lights, and clocks, along with the engine cutting out.
Get familiar with fuses
Blown fuses will cause individual components to fail, most commonly headlights, indicators etc. Prevent the added stress of searching for the fuses on a dark roadside by making yourself familiar with their location. Fuses are intended to be the weakest part of a circuit so don’t be tempted to fit a higher amp fuse to ‘fix’ a recurring blown fuse.
Powered direct from the battery, a fault with the starter solenoid or its wiring will produce the same engine cranking/starting symptoms as a loose battery connector. Make sure that the connectors are tight, usually these are secured by a 10mm nut. Often there is a single fuse on the solenoid, so make sure it is not blown.
Don’t be a fuel fool
Another obvious but totally forgivable fault, especially if the bike is new to you or there is a faulty fuel gauge sender. If your bike mysteriously stutters then cuts out, it’s always worth checking the fuel level first – don’t rely on the gauge as it may be giving you false information, but look inside the tank and give it a slosh around.
Is the fuel flowing?
Rare on modern bikes but there are still plenty of machines with fuel taps – so make sure it is switched to on. You should also check that breathers which allow air into the tank as the fuel is pumped into the engine haven’t become blocked. Air rushing in as you open the filler cap is a warning sign. There will be a breather in the vicinity of the filler cap, it may be blocked or its rubber hose may have kinked.
Don’t fear a flat
A flat tyre caused by damage from a nail or foreign object doesn’t necessarily mean your ride is over. There are several puncture repair kits available that can be carried under the seat, these include the Gear Gremlin Puncture Repair kit (£23.99). The kits are easy to use, and although only a temporary repair they will get you back on the road, albeit at a reduced speed.