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The cold is the greatest enemy for motorcycles. Everything becomes more difficult when the weather changes. It’s harder to start, harder to brake, more uncomfortable to ride, and in several ways, it can be a lot less safe.
Today, we’ll focus on why motorcycles will sometimes struggle to start in the cold, and also look at some ways to make starting up a little bit easier.
So, why won’t your motorcycle start in the cold? A motorcycle may not start in the cold because of the battery since they don’t perform as well in lower temperatures. The battery’s ability to hold more power is affected by freezing temperatures. Engine oil is another factor because it is thicker when it’s cold, and thicker oil can make it harder on the engine to start.
What is the best way to start a bike in cold weather? How can a cold battery make it more difficult to start a motorcycle? How can I make it easier for my motorcycle to start up when it’s cold outside? Is it possible to damage my motorcycle by starting it in cold weather? We’ll go ahead and look at all these different points and help make the winters a little less intimidating on your motorcycle.
Why Motorcycles Have Trouble Starting in the Cold
Like I mentioned earlier, the major reasons why a motorcycle doesn’t start in the winter are that the battery doesn’t contain sufficient charge, and/or the oil is too thick. What does all this mean? Why is oil thick when it’s cold out, and why does a battery struggle to start a motorcycle in less than ideal weather conditions?
Let’s look at the battery first. All motorcycle batteries are 12V, as we all know. A fully charged battery will last longer than a 12V battery. If you were to measure it, you would find that it’s usually around 12.6 V.
On top of this, when the bike is running, the alternator usually keeps the battery charged at a much higher value, usually closer to 14, but this isn’t a how-to on measuring batteries.
What does the voltage measurement of a battery have do with its ability start a bike? Perhaps not as much as one might think.. A battery generally has two measurements, the volts as I have mentioned and the cold cranking ams or CCA.. Both of these values on a battery are important when looking at it’s ability to start the motor.
Cold cranking amps of a battery are what really determine a battery’s ability to start the engine. This is the current that a battery can output. So, what’s the difference between volts and amps? The voltage of a lithium battery is similar to that of a hose’s water, while the amps are comparable to the size of the hose.
You can speed up the water flow by reducing the size of your hose. So, if we look at this in comparison to starting a motorcycle, we need to make sure that first, there’s enough ‘water in the tank’. You can’t have enough ‘water’, we won’t be able to ‘fill the bucket’In this example, you need to turn on the engine. We must also ensure that the ‘water’ Is able to flow from ‘hose’ At a rapid speed. If the ‘water’ just falls out, we won’t be able to ‘fill the bucket’.
A battery’s CCA is affected when the outside air falls. Usually batteries are rated to a specific amount of CCA, but if outside air temperatures are low enough, or maybe the battery is old, even a fully charged battery won’t be able to get an engine to turn over.
Air temperatures can also affect oil, just like batteries. Oil is rated according its weight. If you’ve ever changed the oil in your motorcycle or car, you will know that it is rated by its temperature and weight. You might see a 5W-20 or 0W-30. It is important to understand that every manufacturer may have a different oil weight.
The weight of the oil doesn’t refer to a kilogram or pound measurement, but weight of an oil refers to the thickness of the oil at a particular temperature. Oil gets thinner when it heats up but thickens when it cools down.
You might have trouble starting your motorcycle engine when the oil in the engine has become too thick from cold temperatures. The thick oil can cause resistance in the pistons which in turn will make it difficult for the starter to turn your engine over.
How to Start A Motorcycle in Cold Temperatures
All too often I’ve run into the issue of not being able to start my motorcycle because it was too cold outside. I’ve tried many ways to assist in this process and this is what I’ve found to be most helpful.
First, make sure your battery has enough life. Cold temperatures are brutal on batteries that are already failing and will likely give you trouble if it’s less than fully charged. A multimeter can be used to check the voltage. If not, you’ll need to charge it.
Warming up your engine will make your motorcycle start up much faster. You can place a space heater at a safe distance next to the engine and let it blow for a few moments. I’ve done this dozens of times and it helps immensely! You can find more information on how to start a motorcycle in freezing temperatures by clicking here.
How To Prevent Starting Issues When It’s Cold Outside
If you’re a committed year-round rider and have already been through a winter or two, then you know that winter/cold weather riding takes more effort than any other time of the year. It takes some work to prepare your motorcycle for winter riding..
You can keep your motorcycle warm to ensure that it will start in the cold.By garage I mean any type of covered shelter that can protect the bike from wind and other factors that could lower the temperature.
Additionally, You could consider buying a space heater. It doesn’t take much, but using a small space heater on the motorcycle while it’s in a garage is all it would take to keep it warm and able to easily start up. I’ve even found examples where people will place the space heater directly under the oil pan of the bike to make sure that the oil stays a nice consistency.
But what if you don’t have an inside area to put it in? You might live in an apartment, or in a large city where it is difficult to find indoor parking. Covers are a great way to keep the heat from a motorcycle outside.. Weatherproof covers can be used to keep the temperature of your engine and battery stable from rain, wind, or snow.
A heated blanket is another option. You can find blankets online that are heated and battery powered so you don’t have to worry about using an extension cord or some other type of power system. By wrapping the motorcycle in a blanket and keeping a cover over top of it, you’ll find that cold weather rides are lot less intimidating.
If you’re looking for tips on how to maintain a motorcycle that has to be kept outside during the winter, see our other article by clicking here.
Is it bad for a motorcycle to start in the cold?
Although it is usually safe for your motorcycle to be started in cold temperatures, there are some exceptions. One, if you don’t properly store your bike, starting it in the cold may cause premature failure to the battery. Like I mentioned, CCAs are important, and when the battery is used outside of it’s optimal temperature setting, it might become worn down and fail sooner than if the motorcycle was stored properly in the cold.
Another possibility to be aware of is that oil too thick can cause abnormal wear to parts such as piston rings or the oil pump. Lippiness in lubrication. This is not something to worry about, as it is very rare.
If you are careful, cold weather riding can be just the same as warm weather riding. You will need to find a place that is safe for your bike. Also, make sure you have all the equipment you need to make your ride enjoyable.