Here’s Why A Motorcycle Won’t Start After Washing It


Washing your motorcycle isn’t as easy as you might think, and doing it incorrectly will often end up with you trying to figure out why it won’t start. Motorcycles can be delicate, and because all the electronics and ignition components are exposed, it’s important to take extra care when washing your motorcycle.

Why won’t a motorcycle start after washing it? A motorcycle may not start after getting washed because a lot of electrical components may get water on them which can cause components to short out or sensors to be misread. Using a hose or some kind of pressurized washing method can force water into those important components and will need to dry before working properly.

Every motorcycle is different, and some might have more weaknesses when it comes to washing than others. Make sure that when you wash your motorcycle, you take the right preventative measures so that you aren’t risking water reaching sensitive components. What is the best way to wash your motorcycle? What areas do you have to be extra careful around? What do you do when the motorcycle won’t start after washing it? By the end of this article, all of these questions will be answered.

Reasons It Won’t Start After Washing

As I mentioned earlier, water getting into places that it shouldn’t is the number one reason your motorcycle may not start. When you pressure wash or just throw water on it, you are risking water trickling down parts of the bike and reaching sensors, switches, or connections that will cause the bike to not start. To give you a better idea of why this is a common problem while washing a motorcycle, let me explain a little bit of how it works.

Let’s start at the ignition switch. You turn the key and flip the engine start switch and depending on your generation of motorcycle, you should hear your fuel pump whirr.

Next, you pull in the clutch and push the start button on the motorcycle and wait for the starter to engage which will cause it to turn over. While the starter turns, the fuel injectors are putting in gas and the spark plugs are firing. Once the bike turns over, you make sure it’s in neutral, release the clutch, and then either wait for it to warm up or hit the road. 

The systems that cause a motorcycle to turn over have a lot of moving pieces, and each one is crucial to getting it to start. You have the usual spark plugs and engine intake, but you also have the fuel pump, fuel injector and starter motor connectors.

Water to any one of these components will cause the motorcycle to be hesitant to start until the water has dried. When you are struggling to start your bike, it’s important to troubleshoot so that you can narrow down the reason for failure. 

Do you hear the fuel pump? Do you hear the starter click? Do you see anything indicating that the bike is in neutral? Is the kick stand down? These are questions that you can ask that will help you pinpoint the problem with starting. 

Problems that are caused when washing a motorcycle are frustrating but luckily they are never very damaging and they are always preventable.

How To Get Your Motorcycle Started After Washing It

Alright, let’s say that after you’ve given it a good wash, you’re trying to get on your motorcycle and head out, but your motorcycle isn’t starting. What do you do?

The first thing that I would recommend doing is making sure that your motorcycle is dry. This may seem like a “no duh” factor, but there are many crevasses to a motorcycle that are probably wet that you don’t know about.

Take off the seat and dry off everything that’s underneath it. If you know where your battery or fuse box is, take some time to inspect it to make sure everything is dry. You can also try to shake the bike a little bit from side to side to see if any water is sitting on a connection somewhere that you can’t see.

If your motorcycle won’t start and you have some time, just give it a little while to dry off. Maybe there is some water that got onto a spark plug or into the air filter. If it’s outside, let the sun heat it up and dry it off before you continue to try to turn it over.

This may be frustrating, but you need to be patient. It’s hard to know exactly where the water is, but let it dry out completely before riding it again. This is why I recommend washing your motorcycle on a day that you don’t need to use it.

If you’re still experiencing problems starting even after your motorcycle has dried out, then you need to further inspect the starting system. Is there enough battery power? Does the starter motor turn but the engine doesn’t start? Is there fuel in the gas tank? Is there a problem with the clutch safety switch?

The most important thing is that you make sure to inspect everything on the bike from the intake to the clutch. Inspect the wires and maybe check the fuses. If water was in contact with a unit that provides power, it could have caused a short, which would have ended up blowing a fuse.

To learn more about how fuses work on a motorcycle, check out our other article by clicking here.

How To Properly Wash Your Motorcycle 

Washing a motorcycle is simple and easy, as long as you make sure to take the proper precautions before you start. When getting your bike ready, it’s important to protect the parts of it that relate directly to the ignition and electronics.

You should start with the intake, if you can reach it. You can use something simple, like a grocery bag and rubber band, to prevent water from getting in. You should do the same for the battery and fuses.

Look around your motorcycle and see if there are any other electrical connections out in the open and cover them up. A good tip that I’ve learned is placing a rag at the back of the gas tank between the tank and the seat. This way water won’t run down and get over some of the harder to reach spots. 

Once you feel like everything is covered, you can go ahead and rinse off the bike. I do what’s called the two bucket method when I wash a motorcycle. I start with a very light rinse. I don’t use a pressure washer or bucket to rinse my bike. An easy way to do it is using a garden hose with some kind of light shower attachment, all you want to do is rinse off the grime.

Then I take a bucket, put some automotive soap in it, and mix it with water so that it’s frothy. I then use microfiber cloths and dump them in the soapy bucket and gently slide them across the bike. Make sure to wring out the towel first, so you don’t have too much water getting all over the bike.

After every dunk, I clean the rag off in the other bucket that I have, thus it’s called the two bucket method. I usually dunk a towel twice before I set it aside to be cleaned later, and I use a new towel. This prevents any sand or dirt getting rubbed on the motorcycle and cause any scratches. After I feel my bike is clean, I use the hose again to rinse everything off, then use some more towels to lightly dab up the rest of the water. 

It’s important to be light and gentle to your motorcycle when cleaning it. Not only will this prevent water from splashing all over it, but it will also help your paint last much longer. After everything is dry, go ahead and take off all the plastic and you should be good to go!

Can Washing A Motorcycle Ever Ruin It?

Washing a motorcycle will not ruin it, as long you are being careful. If you get careless and accidentally get water rushing through the intake of the bike, that can cause some serious damage.

Be careful and take your time. It can be tempting to rush and just spray the bike off head to toe, but remember that the reward of washing your motorcycle quickly isn’t worth the risk that it presents.

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