Tech Tips

Jump-Starting Your Bike - Is It Safe?

Written by  March 31, 2012

The answer to this question is YES. I have found that all riders share a common denominator—we all have, at one time or another, had a DEAD BATTERY.

It usually seems to happen in the most obnoxious and worst possible places. For those of you who have had this happen from a short or simply leaving the ignition key on Accessory, I’m sure you did not have jumper cables or a battery charger in your saddlebags. So what is a person to do! You can use a battery from an automobile or equivalent; however, there are several precautions to factor in:

The automobile must never be running. This will destroy the diodes in the voltage regulator/rectifier and this component is expensive.
Bigger jumper cables are more likely to arc against the frame or other electrical components and this will ruin paint and possibly start a fire.
Motorcycle batteries use less amperage than batteries such as auto, boat, lawn tractor, etc., so jumping will tend to over-stress the wiring harness and this can damage the harness. Jump a battery only long enough to start the bike.
Cables must be attached using ONLY the parallel method. Series circuits have not been used for quite some time, and if this is confusing, a simple rule is positive to positive and negative to negative—do not go by the jumper cable color as this can be confusing and do more damage than good.

Knowing that most breakdowns happen when we are nowhere close to any tools or help from our buddies, we must pay serious attention so as not to hurt the electrical system.

If you are lucky enough to have a buddy who can jump his/her bike to yours, you can follow these simple rules to start the bike and get it home.

Start with both bikes off.
Clamp the positive (red) booster cable to the positive post (+)
of the dead motorcycle battery.
Clamp the positive (red) booster cable to the positive post (+)
of the booster battery.
Clamp the negative (black) ground cable to the negative post (-) of the booster battery.
Clamp the negative (black) ground cable to a metal part of the motorcycle away from the battery. For a good ground, you need an unpainted, uncoated, metal part of the bike that isn't rubber mounted - part of the frame, a chassis bolt, or foot peg mount.
Try to start the dead bike.
If it doesn't start and you're jumping from another bike (not a car), start the booster bike, let it run, and turn it off. Again, try to start the dead bike.
When you're done, remove the clamps in the reverse order:
Negative from the bike, negative from the booster battery; positive from the booster battery and positive from the bike battery.

This is the correct (parallel) method and will not damage any components.

Having battery issues are not fun, but as you can see, down time can be prevented. I want to stress that jumping motorcycle batteries is a safe procedure when done correctly; however, this is only a temporary fix; the battery must have maintenance performed or replaced if it won’t start the bike.

On the Tough-o-Meter scale this gets a whopping 2 due to the fact the components can be damaged. In the modern world of fuel injection this can be costly.

I want to personally extend wishes for the very best holidays to you and your family this holiday season, and to all of our fellow riders down in the southern states. B-safe out there and have a happy New Year.

By Dave Miller