✓ TIP TO SAVE: Learn if your motorcycle insurance is too expensive!
Comparing quotes can help you save money.
Enter your zip to get started.
If you’re reading this article, you’ve probably found yourself in a frustrating situation with your motorcycle. I’ve restored more than a dozen motorcycles. Many of them had seized engines. Through my experience, I’ve been able to easily recognize the symptoms of a seized engine.
How do you know if your motorcycle’s engine is stuck? An electric starter engine that is in good condition will click if the starter and battery are clean. However, it will not turn if the starter is seized. The piston seizure will cause the kick pedal to stop moving on a kick starter engine.
It can be very frustrating to have to deal with a stuck engine. It can feel overwhelming or impossible to handle this situation. There’s a lot to consider when it comes to seized motorcycle engines, and it may be possible for you to fix it yourself.
What causes a motorcycle engine to seize?
There are many reasons a motorcycle engine can seize. Unfortunately, it happens more frequently than you’d expect. If you suspect this is what has happened with your bike, you’re not alone. You may be able or not to fix it depending on the cause.
A lack of lubrication is one of the leading causes of motorcycle engines crashing. If you have failed to add or top off the oil in your engine, it’s likely there is an engine seizure. This could be the cause of your engine seizing.
The oil’s job is to lubricate and transfer heat away from the moving parts of the engine. Friction is caused by metal parts moving against each another thousands of times per second. If there isn’t oil separating the metal parts during movement, the friction increases significantly as well as the heat, making the up and down motions almost impossible.
Engine parts wear quickly due to friction and increased temperature. Parts may want to seize together but will have to move which can cause internal damage such as bent valves and broken pistons.
A second reason that a motorcycle engine will stop working is old or dirty fuel. Sure, it’s nice on the wallet to change your oil sparingly, but your motorcycle won’t appreciate it and you eventually won’t either. Oil will eventually thin out and degrade over time, and have very little cooking or lubricating effect on your engine.
Again, if the lubrication is not doing it’s job, or doing a poor job, the expansion of the mechanics inside your engine will become too much and cause the pistons to stop moving.
A motorcycle’s third most common cause of engine failure is rust and grime buildup due to prolonged sitting. If you let your motorcycle sit for too long, water and condensation can find it’s way into your carbs and engine which will expedite the formation of rust.
Rust from the engine acts as a weld and fuses your piston to its cylinder wall. Once there’s a small bit of rust, that spot of rust will propagate around the entire piston, and soon enough the entire piston is rusted to the cylinder wall. This article explains what happens if you leave your motorcycle sitting.
How to Repair a Seized Motorcycle Motorbike Engine
There are many ways to get your engine running again. These results may not be guaranteed. Be careful when working on your bike. Wear protective eye gear and gloves.
Lubricating your combustion chamber and pistons is the first thing you should do. This can be done by removing all spark plugs and putting a lubricant in the spark plug holes. Your spark plug holes are directly connected to each piston’s top. Even if you are suspicious of only one part of the engine that’s seized, pour lubrication down every spark plug hole anyway to ensure you get the problem cylinder. Unless you’re in the worst case scenario where every piston is seized.
There are many options for lubricants. It’s important you choose a lubricant that also has penetrating factors to break down any grime that’s seizing the pistons.
WD-40 works greatIt is possible that you already own it. Diesel fuel is also an option. Although it has a strong odor it is great for lubrication. My highest recommendation is the Marvel Mystery Oil. It not only provides top notch penetration but it’s also a first class lubricant that mixes well as a fuel additive
Once you’ve added the lubricant, wait several hours for it to soak. After you’ve waited at least several hours, put the motorcycle in first gear (without attempting to start it) and rock the motorcycle forward and backwards slightly, perhaps a couple of inches if possible.
This can put upwards and downs pressure on the piston, and may cause it to break free. Don’t push too hard though, you don’t want to force something that’s still stuck and cause further damage.
You can also manually turn the flywheel. The crankcase cover can be removed from your motorcycle’s side. It is a good idea to have an oil pan underneath in case oil leaks out. A bolt should be clearly visible at the center.
You can rotate the bolt or nut with a socket. You should not apply too much force to the bolt or nut as this could cause more internal engine damage. You’re just trying to get the pistons loose.
These methods are great for engine seized from prolonged sitting. However, if you ran out of oil/used low quality oil and these methods don’t work, there may be significant damage inside. Most likely, you will need to rebuild the top engine. This should only be attempted if you have enough experience. It’s not a job for a beginner.
You may be interested in improving the look of your motorcycle, no matter its age. A complete video series has been created about how to restore motorcycles. Within the series are tips and tricks on the restoration process you won’t find anywhere else online as well as other in-depth videos on hard to tackle components such as electrical, carb rebuilds, and body work. Click here if you’re interested in restoring or building your dream motorcycle!
How to prevent your motorcycle engine from being stolen
It’s best to take measures to prevent any motorcycle engine from seizing. It is important to take proper care of your motorcycle. This will save you time and money in the long-term.
You should always ensure that your motorcycle has oil. Oil should be changed every 3,500 miles or more often than once a year. Be sure to check your owner’s manual about how often and what kind of oil to use if you plan to change the oil yourself. This article will provide information on how to choose the right oil for your motorcycle.
Never go longer than a year without changing your oil, even if you don’t ride your motorcycle that often. Oil will get dirtier over time which makes it less efficient. I’m sure we’ve all heard horror stories of some guy who didn’t change his oil for years. Don’t be that guy.
If you’re unable to use your motorcycle as often as you’d like, make sure your motorcycle doesn’t just sit for long periods of time. It’s important to at least turn it on and let it idle to let the fluids circulate and get the oil up to full operating temperature. This will prevent any rusting. Don’t just start the motorcycle for two minutes and then shut it off. It is important to heat the motorcycle enough to melt any condensation that has built up from sitting.
It’s not often, but some motorcycles require coolant. Make sure your motorcycle is up-to-date with coolant requirements. To keep your engine temperature under control, make sure you top it off once in a while if it does. You can find my guide to motorcycle overheating here.
What Happens If The Engine Seizes While I’m Riding My Motorcycle?
If you’re like me, maybe you’ve wondered what would happen if your motorcycle engine seized while you were riding it. If you’re taking good care of your motorcycle, you won’t have to worry about it. It’s also a good rule of thumb to not ride your motorcycle if it seems to be acting up.
It can be very dangerous to ride with an engine locked up. You might be pushed off the bike by the engine locking up. If you’re riding at 60 mph and your engine and back tire immediately lock up, your bike will want to slow down but inertia will want to make your body keep moving forward at 60 mph, this is a bad combo.
Pull over immediately if your engine starts to knocking or screeching. You’ll either need to limp it home (like 15 mph) and hope that it doesn’t seize or get it towed. You can click here to view my creative ways to tow motorcycles.
Having an engine seize while you’re riding does present another issue though. It is very difficult to move the back tire because it is locked. You should always keep a cell phone handy so you can call 911 for help if necessary.
What happens if your motorcycle engine is clogged with too much oil? You can always take out a bit more oil if you have added too much. Excessive oil will cause excessive pressure and oil to leak from the engine. This can cause undesirable smoke from the engine, or even engine explosions. I know this because it happened to me with an old truck.
How much does it cost to rebuild a motorcycle’s engine? This varies and can range from $500 to $8,000 for professionals to complete the task. It’s difficult to set a specific price on an engine rebuild because a lot of it depends on the make and model, the extent of the rebuild, and the shop that is performing the rebuild.