Motorcycle Makes A Grinding Noise When Starting: 4 Reasons Why


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Hearing a strange noise coming from your motorcycle can make your stomach drop. On a motorcycle, you are not able to just turn the radio up loud enough that you can’t hear the noise anymore like you can in a car. So, what could be the issue if you hear your motorcycle grinding when starting?

Why is my motorcycle making a grinding noise when starting? A motorcycle may be making a grinding noise when starting because of a weak or dead battery, a starter motor issue, a bad starter clutch, or ultimately a seized engine. Grinding noises are somewhat common but should be addressed immediately to avoid potential damage.

No one wants to hear a strange noise while riding their motorcycle. Any sort of scraping, grinding, popping, or screeching can make you worry about how your bike is doing. While any abnormal sound may be alarming, that doesn’t always mean that the sound you are hearing is a big deal. Sometimes, it can be something very simple and not problematic at all. Regardless, you will want to get to the bottom of what is making that sound.

Reasons Why Your Motorcycle Is Grinding When Starting It Up

There are many different reasons why people love motorcycles although unfortunately, just like any other type of motor vehicle, your motorcycle can have problems. These problems could be mechanical or electrical just like in any car. One such issue would be a grinding sound that occurs when you start up your motorcycle. This sound is not something that you should ignore as it could be an issue with your engine that will only get worse with time. It’s best that you find out the root cause as soon as possible and get it fixed.

One possible cause of a grinding noise when starting a motorcycle is a weak battery. While the battery itself won’t make a grinding noise, it can lead to an abnormal sound while trying to start your motorcycle if it is low on power. If the battery is weak or dying, it may not be able to provide enough power to start the engine, resulting in the engine cranking over but not starting which may sound like a grinding sound. A simple way to check if this is the issue is to try jump-starting your motorcycle or charging the battery. 

Another possible cause of a grinding noise is a starter motor issue. The starter motor is what actually cranks your engine in order to get it started. If the starter motor is malfunctioning or worn out, it may not be able to turn the engine over smoothly, resulting in a grinding noise.

This could be a problem with the starter motor itself, but it could also be an engine problem. The starter may work fine and try to start the engine, but if something like engine seizure has occurred, the starter won’t have much of an effect on the engine since things are essentially immovable inside the engine block.

Lastly, another possible cause of a grinding noise is a problem with the starter clutch. The starter clutch is what couples the starter to the actual engine. This way the engine can free spin when it needs to but can be driven by the starter when required. If the starter clutch is worn out or damaged, it may not be able to engage the engine properly, resulting in a grinding noise.

How To Fix Motorcycle Grinding Noise When Starting

A weird sound coming from a vehicle is not anything that anyone ever wants to hear. This means something isn’t working quite right. Sometimes this can be a very simple fix. On the other hand, sometimes this can be a sign of major damage that could lead to thousands of dollars of repairs.  Let’s take a look at some potential things that you can do to fix a grinding sound coming from your motorcycle.

First, like we mentioned previously, check the battery. If your battery is low, you might get your motorcycle to crank or even just barely weakly crank which could be interpreted as a grinding sound. Fortunately, fixing the battery is easy. First, you can test your battery by using a multimeter to detect the voltage and make sure it has at least 12.2 volts.

If not, you’ll need to charge it. If the motorcycle starts up fine while jump starting it, then that is probably your issue. If you find out the battery is bad, it can easily be replaced

Secondly, we talked about the starter motor. Starter motors do wear out over time so this could be the reason for your grinding noise. Check the electrical to your starter; ensure everything is connected and that there isn’t any worn plastic covering or exposed copper since this could cause some problematic grounding. If the electrical is fine and the starter is still suspect, you can replace it. This is fairly simple to do.

Third, you will want to check out the starter clutch. If your starter motor is fine but you are still hearing a grinding sound, then it is most likely the clutch. If this isn’t able to properly engage the starter to the motor, you could be experiencing some clashing of gears which would be the grinding sound. Replacing the starter clutch would fix that issue.

If you have checked all of these things throughout your motorcycle and you continue to hear a grinding sound while starting, the culprit may be within the engine. Unless you you have a vast knowledge on how your engine works, I would advise you take your motorcycle in to a shop and have them take a look to ensure engine seizure isn’t your issue.

Is It Common For A Motorcycle To Make Grinding Noises When Starting Up?

While hearing a grinding sound when starting your motorcycle may not be something that you hear normally, it is something that many owners have experienced many times.  Rightly so, this sound can and should be concerning. If you do experience this sound, you should stop and investigate the sound immediately.

As we’ve mentioned there are many different things that can cause a grinding sound when starting your motorcycle. Batteries were one example. Batteries even when well maintained and taken care of, only last for a couple of years. This means that no matter how well you take care of your motorcycle, it will go bad eventually. So, you very well could experience this as a result of a bad battery at some point.

Just like batteries, starter motors also go bad. Starter motors also utilize a solenoid for starting up. Both the starter motor and starter solenoid will wear over time. That is just the nature of these components. While these will generally last much longer than a battery, they will eventually go bad and could lead to a strange grinding sound when starting your motorcycle.

Lastly, we talked about the starter clutch. While this is not a super common thing to fail, it can still go bad. Mechanical wear is a normal thing on any type of vehicle. In addition, engine wear can also occur over time. While nobody wants engine problems, they do happen from time to time and could be the source of your strange noises.

It is essential to remember that while a grinding noise during start-up can be common, it is still important to address the issue promptly. Regular maintenance and inspection can help prevent some of these issues from occurring, but sometimes problems still arise.

How To Prevent Your Motorcycle From Having This Problem In This Future

Fortunately, there are plenty of things that you can do to help prevent this from occurring. There is a lot that can be done without too much effort to ensure that your motorcycle runs as it should for as long as possible and prevent those grinding noises from happening in the first place. Obviously, breakdowns and issues are inevitable although by doing all that you can, you can minimize the frequency at which those things occur.

First and foremost, regular maintenance is crucial in preventing grinding noises and any other type of noise or damage. While you can’t stop mechanical wear, you can slow it down by making sure things are maintained. In this case specifically, keep your motorcycle sheltered and out of the elements. Parking it in a garage or at least using a cover will suffice; this will prevent the battery from wearing quickly. Routine oil changes will greatly decrease the chances of future engine failure.

Next, you will want to be mindful of how you start the engine. When starting the engine, be sure to hold the clutch in to reduce the load on the starter motor and engine. Additionally, avoid over-revving the engine as this can cause unnecessary wear and tear on the starter motor and other components.

When you first start your motorcycle, the oil in the engine is cold and much thicker. Until your engine is at operating temperature, you don’t have optimal lubrication and protection. Wait for the engine to completely warm up before high revs and pushing it hard.

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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