Motorcycle Troubleshooting Guide – Four-Stroke

Motorcycle Troubleshooting Guide

Motorcycle Troubleshooting Guide

While this Motorcycle Troubleshooting Guide is not a complete guide of every possible cause for each problem listed, it will help assist mechanics in troubleshooting some of the most common difficulties they will face. Also check out the Spark Plug Troubleshooting guide from our friends at NGK.

Engine Doesn’t Start, Starting Difficulty:

Starter motor not rotating:
Starter lockout or neutral switch trouble
Starter motor trouble
Battery voltage low
Relays not contacting or operating
Starter button not contacting
Wiring open or shorted
Ignition switch trouble
Engine stop switch trouble
Main fuse blown

Starter motor rotating but engine doesn’t turn over:
Starter motor clutch trouble

Engine won’t turn over:
Valve seizure
Rocker arm seizure
Cylinder, piston seizure
Crankshaft seizure
Connecting rod small end seizure
Connecting rod big end seizure
Transmission gear or bearing seizure
Camshaft seizure

No fuel flow:
Fuel tap vacuum hose clogged
Fuel tank air vent obstructed
Fuel tap clogged
Fuel line clogged
Float valve clogged

Engine flooded:
Fuel level in carburetor float bowl too high
Float valve worn or stuck open
Starting technique faulty
(When flooded, crank the engine with the throttle fully open to allow more air to reach the engine.)

No spark; spark weak:
Battery voltage low
Spark plug dirty, broken, or maladjusted
Spark plug cap or high tension wiring trouble
Spark plug cap not in good contact
Spark plug incorrect
IC igniter trouble
Neutral, starter lockout, or side stand switch trouble
Pickup coil trouble
Ignition coil trouble
Ignition or engine stop switch shorted
Wiring shorted or open
Main fuse blown

Compression Low:
Spark plug loose
Cylinder head not sufficiently tightened down
No valve clearance
Cylinder, piston worn
Piston ring bad (worn, weak broken, or sticking)
Piston ring/land clearance excessive
Cylinder head gasket damaged
Cylinder head warped
Valve spring broken or weak
Valve not seating properly (valve bent, worn, or carbon accumulation on the seating surface)

Poor Running at Low Speed:

Spark weak:
Battery voltage low
Spark plug dirty, broken, or maladjusted
Spark plug cap or high tension wiring trouble
Spark Plug cap shorted or not in good contact
Spark plug incorrect
IC igniter trouble
Pickup coil trouble
Ignition coil trouble

Fuel/air mixture incorrect:
Pilot screw maladjusted
Pilot jet, or air passage clogged
Air bleed pipe bleed holes clogged
Pilot passage clogged
Air cleaner clogged, poorly sealed, or missing
Starter plunger stuck open
Fuel level in carburetor float bowl too high or too low
Fuel tank air vent obstructed
Carburetor holder loose
Air cleaner duct loose

Compression low:
Spark plug loose
Cylinder head not sufficiently tightened down
No valve clearance
Cylinder, piston worn
Piston ring bad (worn, weak, broken, or sticking)
Piston ring/land clearance excessive
Cylinder head warped
Cylinder head gasket damaged
Valve spring broken or weak
Valve not seating properly (valve bent, worn, or carbon accumulation on the seating surface)

Other:
IC igniter trouble
Carburetors not synchronizing
Vacuum piston doesn’t slide smoothly
Engine oil viscosity too high
Drive train trouble
Brake dragging

Poor Running or No Power at High Speed:

Firing incorrect:
Spark plug dirty, broken, or maladjusted
Spark plug cap shorted or not in good contact
Spark plug incorrect
IC igniter trouble
Pickup coil trouble
Ignition coil trouble

Fuel/air mixture incorrect:
Starter plunger stuck open
Main jet clogged or wrong size
Jet needle or needle jet worn
Air jet clogged
Fuel level in carburetor float bowl too high or too low
Bleed holes of air bleed pipe or needle jet clogged
Air cleaner clogged, poorly sealed, or missing
Air cleaner duct poorly sealed
Water of foreign matter in fuel
Carburetor holder loose
Fuel tank air vent obstructed
Fuel tap clogged
Fuel line clogged

Compression low:
Spark plug loose
Cylinder head not.sufficiently tightened down
No valve clearance
Cylinder, piston worn
Piston ring bad (worn, weak, broken, or sticking)
Piston ring/land clearance excessive
Cylinder head gasket damaged
Cylinder head warped
Valve spring broken or weak
Valve not seating properly (valve bent, worn, or carbon accumulation on the seating surface.)

Knocking:
Carbon built up in combustion chamber
Fuel poor quality or incorrect
Spark plug incorrect
IC igniter trouble

Miscellaneous:
Throttle valve won’t fully open
Vacuum piston doesn’t slide smoothly
Brake dragging
Clutch slipping
Overheating
Engine oil level too high
Engine oil viscosity too high
Drive train trouble

Overheating:

Firing incorrect:
Spark plug dirty, broken, or maladjusted
Spark plug incorrect
IC igniter trouble

Fuel/air mixture incorrect:
Main jet clogged or wrong size
Fuel level in carburetor float bowl too low
Carburetor holder loose
Air cleaner poorly sealed, or missing
Air cleaner duct poorly sealed
Air cleaner clogged

Compression high:
Carbon built up in combustion chamber

Engine load faulty:
Clutch slipping
Engine oiHevel too high
Engine oil viscosity too high
Drive train trouble
Brake dragging

Lubrication inadequate:
Engine oil level too low
Engine oil poor quality or incorrect

Coolant incorrect:
Coolant level too low
Coolant deteriorated

Cooling system component incorrect:
Radiator clogged
Thermostat trouble
Radiator cap trouble
Thermostatic fan switch trouble
Fan relay trouble
Fan motor broken
Fan blade damaged
Water pump not turning
Water pump impeller damaged

Over Cooling:

Cooling system component incorrect:
Thermostatic fan switch trouble
Thermostat trouble

Clutch Operation Faulty:

Clutch slipping:
Friction plate worn or warped
Steel plate worn or warped
Clutch spring broken or weak
Clutch release mechanism trouble
Clutch hub or housing unevenly worn

Clutch not disengaging properly:
Clutch plate warped or too rough
Clutch spring tension uneven
Engine oil deteriorated
Engine oil viscosity too high
Engine oil level too high
Clutch housing frozen on drive shaft
Clutch release mechanism trouble

Gear Shifting Faulty:

Doesn’t go into gear; shift pedal doesn’t return:
Clutch not disengaging
Shift fork bent or seized
Gear stuck on the shaft
Shift return spring weak or broken
Shift return spring pin loose
Pawl spring broken
Shift mechanism arm broken

Jumps out of gear:
Shift fork worn
Gear groove worn
Gear dogs and/or dog holes worn
Shift drum groove worn
Neutral positioning pin spring weak or broken
Shift fork pin worn
Drive shaft, output shaft, and/or gear splines worn

Overshifts:
Neutral positioning pin spring weak or broken
Pawl spring broken

Abnormal Engine Noise:

Knocking:
IC igniter trouble
Carbon built up in combustion chamber
Fuel poor quality or incorrect
Spark plug incorrect

Overheating Piston slap:
Cylinder/piston clearance excessive
Cylinder, piston worn
Connecting rod bent
Piston pin, piston holes worn

Valve noise:
Valve clearance incorrect
Valve spring broken or weak
Camshaft bearing worn

Other noise:
Connecting rod small end clearance excessive
Connecting rod big end clearance excessive
Piston ring worn, broken or stuck
Piston seizure, damage
Cylinder head gasket leaking
Exhaust pipe leaking at cylinder head connection
Cran kshaft runout excessive
Engine mounts loose
Crankshaft bearing worn
Camshaft chain tensioner trouble
Camshaft chain, sprocket, guide worn

Abnormal Drive Train Noise:

Clutch noise:
Weak or damaged damper
Clutch housing/friction plate clearance excessive
Clutch housing gear worn

Transmission noise:
Bearings worn
Transmission gears worn or chipped
Metal chips jammed in gear teeth
Engine oil insufficient

Drive chain noise:
Drive chain adjusted improperly
Chain worn
Rear and/or engine sprocket worn
Chain lubrication insufficient
Rear wheel misaligned

Abnormal Frame Noise:

Front fork noise:
Oil insufficient or too thin
Spring weak or broken

Rear shock absorber noise:
Shock absorber damaged

Disc brake noise:
Pad installed incorrectly
Pad surface glazed
Disc warped
Caliper trouble

Other noise:
Bracket, nut, bolt, etc. not properly mounted or
tightened

Oil Pressure Warning Light Goes On:

Engine oil pump damaged
Engine oil screen clogged
Engine oil level too low
Engine oil viscosity too low
Camshaft bearings worn
Crankshaft bearings worn
Oil pressure switch damaged
Wiring damaged
Relief valve stuck open
O-ring at the oil pipe in the crankcase damaged

Exhaust Smokes Excessively:

White smoke:
Piston oil ring worn
Cylinder worn
Valve oil seal damaged
Valve guide worn
Engine oil level too high

Black smoke:
Air cleaner clogged
Main jet too large or fallen off
Starter plunger stuck open
Fuel level in carburetor float bowl too high

Brown smoke:
Main jet too small
Fuel level in carburetor float bowl too low
Air cleaner duct loose
Air cleaner poorly sealed or missing

Handling and/or Stability Unsatisfactory:

Handlebar hard to turn:
Steering stem locknut too tight
Bearing damaged
Steering bearing lubrication inadequate
Steering stem bent
Tire air pressure too low

Handlebar shakes or excessively vibrates:
Tire worn
Swing arm pivot bearing worn
Rim warped, or not balanced
Wheel bearing worn
Handlebar mounting bolts loose
Steering stem head bolt loose

Handlebar pulls to one side:
Frame bent
Wheel misalignment
Swing arm bent or twisted
Steering maladjusted
Front fork bent
Right/left fork legs oil level unbalanced

Shock absorption unsatisfactory:
(Too hard)
Front fork oil excessive
Front fork oil viscosity too high
Tire air pressure too high
Front fork bent

(Too soft)
Front fork oil insufficient and/or leaking
Front fork oil viscosity too low
Front fork, rear shock absorber spring weak
Rear shock absorber oil leaking

Brake Doesn’t Hold:

Air in the brake line
Pad or disc worn
Brake fluid leak
Disc warped
Contaminated pad
Brake fluid deteriorated
Primary or secondary cup damaged
Master cylinder scratched inside

Battery Discharged:

Battery faulty (e.g., plates sulphated, shorted through sedimentation, electrolyte level too low)
Battery leads making poor contact
Load excessive (e.g., bulb of excessive wattage)
Ignition switch trouble
Alternator trouble
Wiring faulty
Regulator/Rectifier trouble

Battery Overcharged:

Regulator/Rectifier trouble

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