How To Start A Motorcycle In Below Freezing Temperatures

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Riding a motorcycle during warm temperatures is an enjoyable experience and that’s basically what motorcycles were made for. However, if you live in a climate with harsh winters, that can greatly hinder the enjoyment you can have with your motorcycle for a few months.

You may be stuck in a situation where you need to start your motorcycle in below freezing temperatures. Whatever that reason may be, you may find yourself pretty frustrated because some motorcycles are stubborn and won’t start in these freezing temperatures.

So how do you start a motorcycle in below freezing temperatures? If you must start your motorcycle in below freezing temperatures, make sure the battery is charged and the choke is on. Use an electric heater and place it next to the engine. After a few minutes, the engine will then be able to start much easier since the oil inside is warmed.

Starting a motorcycle below freezing temperatures can be tricky, but it is certainly possible if it’s done right. I have lived in places with extremely harsh winters and have found this method to be the best way to use. There’s a lot more to consider to starting your motorcycle in the cold and there should be extra steps taken to make sure you don’t cause damage to your bike.

How To Start Your Motorcycle In Freezing Temperatures

Many people wonder why there are some attempting to start their motorcycle during freezing temperatures. For most, it’s usually not because you necessarily want to take it out for a joy ride, rather you may have some other reason to start it up. Such reasons may include routine start-ups during the winter or you want to get it warmed up for a potential buyer.

Whatever the reason is you need to get your motorcycle started in freezing temperatures, you may run into the frustrating situation of not being able to get it started at all. Freezing temperatures aren’t just hard on humans and animals alike, similar temperatures are hard on machines, too.

The first thing you should check is the life of the battery. If you have a dead battery, your motorcycle will not start no matter what temperature it is outside. Use a multimeter to detect the voltage from the battery. In order to start a motorcycle, you need at least 12.2 volts, or a 50% charge on the battery. You can see my article by clicking here to learn more about the life of a motorcycle battery.

If you’ve noticed that battery is low on juice, you may need to let it charge for at least a few hours until it’s in a condition to start up the motorcycle. Freezing temperatures are especially harsh on motorcycle batteries and can drain them quickly.

The second thing you should focus on when trying to start your motorcycle in freezing temperatures is turning on the choke. This may seem like a no-brainer, but a lot of people actually forget about this. During winter storage, people completely turn the choke off to prevent gas leaks which often leads them to forget that they did so when they go to start the bike.

The third thing that can greatly increase your chances at getting your motorcycle started in freezing temperatures is warming up the engine. This may seem difficult if you can even get the engine to turn over, but luckily there are alternative ways.

The engine will be sluggish when it has been exposed to freezing temperatures for a long period of time, just like use humans would react to cold temperatures. Use a source of heat, such as an electric heater, to heat up the engine manually. This will warm up the metal and aluminum on the engine as well as the oil and other fluids inside which will make the process of starting it much easier.

Always supervise and be present when warming up your engine with a heater. Don’t get the heater too close and make sure the source of heat isn’t touching anything potentially flammable.

What Happens To Your Motorcycle During Freezing Temperatures

Though your motorcycle may look fine on the outside during freezing temperatures, there’s actually a lot more going on inside of it that we can’t see or don’t notice.

Wires and cables become stiff and are less flexible. Unfortunately that makes them more susceptible to breaking if they’re not handled appropriately. Any rubber coverings such as fork covers may also become stiff and can easily tear if handled in a rough manner.

If your motorcycle has a chain, the chain also becomes stiff and less flexible and may become susceptible to breaking if not properly lubricated. It’s important to check the status of your chain before going for a ride in the winter.

The batteries on motorcycles also slowly decrease voltage over time in freezing temperatures. There are a few reasons this happens. The first being that most people don’t use their motorcycle near as much during the winter months and therefore are not exercising the battery’s capacity. This also causes a phenomenon called parasitic drain which means poorly grounded wires are slowly discharging the battery.

A motorcycle battery also loses it’s capacity quicker in freezing temperatures compared to normal temperatures. The cold prevents the battery from performing to it’s full capacity.

A motorcycle engine requires more power to start in the freezing temperatures because of the thickened oil and a cold battery sometimes can’t supply the amperage required to get the engine started. If you’re curious about whether or not a motorcycle battery can freeze, see my article here.

The oil inside the engine becomes thickened due to the extremely cold temperatures. The colder it gets, the thicker the oil gets which makes it lose it’s viscosity. A motorcycle engine may struggle circulating thick oil which can cause starting issues.

How To Maintain Your Motorcycle For Easier Start Up During Winter

If you don’t want to get caught in this situation ever again, there are a few steps you can take to prevent possible struggles of starting your motorcycle in freezing temperatures.

The first thing you’ll want to use is a battery tender. This is something you can constantly keep connected to your motorcycle battery. It will be able to sense when the battery is losing voltage and automatically start charging and will stop charging when the battery is at a full charge. This will increase the life of your battery and possibly prevent many problems with starting your motorcycle in the future.

Keep the gas tank full to prevent any unwanted moisture from getting inside. Add a stabilizer to the gas to prevent old gas from clogging up the carburetor. Try using a low viscosity oil during the winter months. Synthetic oil will greatly help maintain the lubrication in the motorcycle engine and can make it less difficult for the engine to get started in freezing temperatures.

Also pay some attention to your tires. When you get your motorcycle started, you won’t be able to get too far if your tires are in poor condition. Make sure each tire is completely inflated according to the specifications stated on the tire. You can even add a little extra air because cold temperatures tend to deflate tires a little bit.

For more information about how to store your motorcycle for long term, see my helpful guide here.

Can You Ride A Motorcycle In The Winter?

If you’re needing to start your motorcycle in freezing temperatures, the common reason may be so you can go out and ride it. But many wonder if it’s a safe activity to ride a motorcycle in such activities.

It is not recommended to ride a motorcycle when the temperature is below freezing (see my article here for more details). Ice will form at these temperatures and motorcycles are more susceptible to ice since they are smaller vehicles. If you absolutely must ride in freezing temperatures, make sure you have the proper gear.

Motorcycles were made to ride on a road that is not impaired with snow or ice. Dirt Bikes are able to handle such conditions, but motorcycles and dirt bikes are not the same thing. Motorcycles have two wheels which gives you less traction in the case you drive on ice or snow; motorcycles will provide less protection if you slip on said elements.

Some people are simply left with no choice but to ride a motorcycle in the winter. If you are caught in this scenario, there are several safety precautions you should abide by. Always drive slow and avoid busy roads. If you must drive on the highway, stay in either the far right or far left lane so you only have to worry about one lane of cars next to you.

Related Questions

Can I store my motorcycle in my house for the winter? It is completely possible to store your motorcycle in your house for the winter. Many people do this and is actually ideal for your motorcycle to do so as it will be in a temperature controlled environment. Make sure you have the space and equipment to do so. I explain it in more detail which you can find by clicking here.

Can you store tires outside for the winter? You should not store tires outside during the winter months. Tires should always be stored inside somewhere to keep them from getting constant exposure from the sun and water. They should always remain dry.

This article has been reviewed in accordance with our editorial policy.

Kyle Cannon

Kyle currently works as a mechanical engineer and graduated with a minor in automotive engineering. He loves restoring motorcycles, has a vast knowledge of how they work, and has sold his restoration projects to customers from all over the United States.

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