Your Ultimate Guide To Conquering A Frozen Motorcycle Ignition


A lot of us rely on our motorcycles as our main source of transportation. That may also means riding in the winter which can present a handful of complications to a motorcycle.

One fairly common issue riders run into on a cold mornings is a frozen motorcycle ignition switch. Not only is it annoying, but it tends to happen during times when you’re in a hurry. Most people don’t expect this to happen and are often left not knowing how to unfreeze it.

So, how do you unfreeze a frozen motorcycle ignition? If you are dealing with a frozen motorcycle ignition switch, try using a homemade remedy made of water and rubbing alcohol. De-icer sprays also work as well as using a hair dryer or carefully using a lighter. It is not recommended to use hot water as that will quickly freeze and make the problem worse.

Winter riding can be fun if it is done right, but that doesn’t mean you won’t run into issues such as this. There are several steps you can take to ensure that this won’t happen to you, especially at the least convenient of times.

How To Unfreeze A Motorcycle Ignition

If you’re reading this article, chances are you’ve either found yourself with a frozen motorcycle ignition switch or you’ve encountered it before and want to keep it from happening again. I’ve owned over a dozen motorcycles and have frequently ran into this problem myself because I’ve lived in a few places with some harsh winters. Here’s what I’ve found to work great to combat a frozen motorcycle ignition.

My first suggestion would be to spray a water and rubbing alcohol solution directly on to the ignition. This is a safe and legitimate way to de-ice this device because it’s non-toxic and non-flammable.

In a spray bottle, mix 70% rubbing alcohol with water, 1 part water and three parts rubbing alcohol. Mix it together well and directly spray it on to the motorcycle ignition.

Spray some on your key and attempt to insert it inside the ignition and wiggle it around so it gets the solution in all the gears and crevices inside. Repeat this several times to ensure the internals get soaked with the solution. You won’t need to worry about getting the solution inside the ignition because the alcohol will eventually evaporate the water.

If this first option isn’t possible, try using a de-icer spray. You can find these at any auto parts store. Spray it directly on the ignition and spray your key with it. Insert the key to ensure the inside is getting treatment as well. Continue wiggling the key until you are able to completely turn it to on.

These first two options may not be possible if you’re limited on resources and can’t necessarily use your motorcycle to get said resources. Your third option would be to use a hair dryer or something similar This option works extremely well but does require you to usually get an extension cord and blow hot air on the ignition for several minutes.

Make sure you check the wiring coming out of the ignition switch while doing this. You don’t want those wires to get too hot because that may cause other problems. Make sure you are moving the hair dryer around all angles to ensure you’re getting all the ice inside.

If a hair dryer isn’t available, your last solution can be using a lighter. I suggest this one last because if this is not done right, you can cause more damage. But this is a good option to have if you’re stranded somewhere away from home with limited resources. Most convenient stores have lighters to purchase.

Do not let the flame from the lighter directly touch the motorcycle ignition. Get it close enough to where you think the inside of the ignition is being affected by the heat. Also be extremely careful of the wires; an open flame can ruin those in a second.

You can also try warming up the key with the lighter and quickly inserting it inside the ignition. There’s no need to get it burning red hot, just hot enough for it to move around inside. Be wary of this if you have any plastic on your key or if your key is a key fob (for those fancy motorcycles).

Note: if you’ve previously used any flammable substances such as a lube in attempt to get your ignition switch unfrozen, you should NOT use a lighter!

Remember, never use hot water to unfreeze a frozen motorcycle ignition. Though it may quickly melt the ice inside, it will also quickly form new ice and make your situation much worse.

How To Prevent Ignition From Freezing

Once you’ve experienced dealing with a frozen ignition on a motorcycle, you’ll probably never want to have to deal with it again. There are a few steps you can take to prevent your ignition switch from freezing in the first place.

The first suggestion is obvious, but it’s crucial if you’re going to be riding in the winter. Store your motorcycle in an enclosed area if possible such as a garage or shed. If this isn’t possible, place a cover over your motorcycle to prevent water and snow from getting on it; this will also prevent moisture from building up in places it shouldn’t.

Each motorcycle ignition switch is different on every motorcycle. Some have them protruding out, others are sunk inside the instrument panel. If you happen to have a protruding ignition switch, try putting some sort of cover on it. This can be homemade or something bought at the store or online. This will greatly reduce the chances of it freezing.

Next, you can try using a lock de-icer and lubricant. This can usually be found at any hardware store. This solution was made specifically for locks and works perfectly for ignitions. Even if it isn’t frozen, you can spray it in to your ignition switch and it will keep it lubricated.

Why Ignitions Freeze

Ignition switches have come a long way. Newer motorcycles are less susceptible to frozen ignitions while it’s more common among older motorcycles.

Most ignition switches have a little mechanism that keeps the key hole closed and only opens when you insert the key. The mechanism prevents water and moisture from getting in. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work 100% of the time and eventually water can find it’s way in there.

There’s a possibility of rust when water gets inside; water can also dilute any lubricant that has been sprayed inside. And naturally, as you know, when it gets cold enough the water will freeze which ultimately makes it difficult to turn the ignition at all.

Keys can also hold moisture on to them. This can either be from the rain or from being inside a sweaty pocket. Make sure you key is completely dry before putting it inside your motorcycle ignition switch. The smallest amount of moisture can build up and cause problems later.

If Motorcycle Ignition Is Frozen, What Else Is Frozen?

If you’ve found yourself with a frozen motorcycle ignition, chances are there may be other complications with your motorcycle with the freezing temperatures.

If it’s cold enough for your ignition switch to freeze, you may struggle to get the motorcycle started because the battery will have difficulty starting the motorcycle. Freezing temperatures greatly decreases a battery’s ability to power up a machine like a motorcycle, so don’t be surprised if you need a jump start, too.

In these freezing temperatures, the oil inside the motorcycle engine may also have difficulty lubricating. Low temperatures decreases oil’s viscosity, so starting the engine up in the first place may be a little difficult.

Be sure to also check the tire pressure. Cold weather tends to deflate tires and riding on flat tires on potentially icy roads can be hazardous. If needed, go to your nearest gas station to add some air once you get the motorcycle started. For more information about the impact cold weather has on a motorcycle, see my article here.

Related Questions

What are the best ways to keep your motorcycle warm in the winter? The best ways to keep your motorcycle warm in the winter are motorcycle engine block heaters, garage overhead heaters, electric blankets, heated motorcycle covers, a cover air flow heater, and an electric heater blowing directly on the engine block. Click here to see my article for more info.

How much does a new motorcycle ignition switch cost? The cost of a new motorcycle ignition switch varies among the different types of motorcycles. On average, a new ignition switch costs between $20 – $50. Newer motorcycle ignition switches will be more expensive while older motorcycle ignition switches will be cheaper.

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