Start with the easy stuff....
Start with the easy stuff. Is the fuel turned on?
It's a beautiful morning, the sun is shining, the birds are singing. All is right with the world. It's a perfect day for a ride. You pull on your riding gear, hit the switch and the motorcycle gods toss you a curveball: The #$% just won't start. Now what?
At this stage, you have two options. Option number one is to forget the whole thing, go back in the house and sulk in front of the TV until you can get the bike to the shop. Option number two is to try and salvage the day. True, your bike's ills may be too serious for home remedies. But there's at least a 50/50 shot that whatever's ailing old paint is relatively minor and easily rectified, which (a) will allow you to get back on the road, and (b) save you some dough. All in favor of option two, raise your hands.
When the float-bowl drain...
When the float-bowl drain is opened, does clean fuel run out?
Internal combustion engines need three things. They must have good-quality fuel, compression and a spark delivered to the compressed fuel/air mix at the appropriate time, or very close to it. Given those three items, an engine will run. Since the majority of you probably own bikes that start with a button, the fourth item you'll need is enough electrical energy to spin the starter.
Before You Get in Trouble
Basic troubleshooting requires little in the way of tools and skills. However, you should at least feel comfortable removing a spark plug, draining a carburetor and using a voltmeter or test light. The tools needed to perform these basic chores can be purchased for less than 50 bucks. I'd also recommend that you buy a factory service manual or its equivalent if you plan on keeping your bike past the warranty expiration date.
With the discharge line disconnected...
With the discharge line disconnected and the key on, the pump should push fuel.
D'oh. I hate it when that happens! At the risk of seeming condescending, you did follow the correct starting procedure, didn't you? Every motorcycle has its own starting drill. Many require that the clutch be held in, whether the bike is in gear or not, and some want the bike to be in neutral anytime it's on the kickstand. Before you panic, verify the starting procedure, especially if it's a new bike that you're not entirely familiar with. It may sound obvious, but make certain that someone hasn't moved the kill switch to off, especially if you have little urchins running around who love to sit on motorcycles when mom and dad aren't watching.
If everything is in order and she won't even spin, the most likely culprit is a bum battery or something that's preventing the battery from doing its job. Most of us are familiar enough with the conspicuous signs of a dead battery: dim lights, a weak horn and slow or no starter activity. Push the horn putton, if the horn sounds anemic, the battery is probably the culprit.
To check fuel flow when a...
To check fuel flow when a remote tank/pump is used, locate the fuel pump. This one is located under the side cover. Remove the discharge side hose--that's the one from the pump to the carburetor.
If that seems to be the situation, it's time to charge or possibly replace the battery. Before you do, though, check the battery terminal connections. It's possible that the terminals are loose or corroded, and a good cleaning and tightening are all they need. Follow that up with a voltmeter reading across the battery terminals, or a hydrometer reading of the cells. If the voltmeter reads less than 12.5 volts (no load) or 11.5 volts with the lights on, or the hydrometer reads less than 1.265 (less than four balls floating), it's time to service and recharge the battery.
Charging the battery is going to take some time. You may be tempted to try and jump-start your bike from your car or a buddy's bike. It can be done, and in the past I've certainly done it. However, many late-model motorcycles, particularly those that are fuel injected, utilize some sort of microprocessor. Computers are highly sensitive to voltage spikes, and nothing causes a spike like a jump-start. If you're unsure about the jump-starting procedure for your bike, play it safe and sit this dance out, at least until you can verify that jump-starting your bike is safe.
Obviously, the worst-case scenario is going to be a good battery and no action at the starter motor. If that turns out to be the case, you'll need to do some troubleshooting. Start with the simple things. Likely trouble spots include a blown fuse, or a malfunctioning kickstand safety switch or clutch/starter interlock switch. If the culprit is a blown fuse, replace it with one that carries the same amperage rating and give her another try. If the fuse blows again, you've got a dead short somewhere, which will need to be repaired before you go much further. If one of the switches is suspect, they can be bypassed with a jumper wire to get you back on the road.
No fuel flow? Suspect the...
No fuel flow? Suspect the filter.
If the bike turns over normally without laboring, chances are pretty good that the problem lies in either the fuel or ignition system, particularly if the bike was running fine when it was put away. As above, start with the easy stuff.
Did you do anything to the bike before putting it away that may have created a problem? For example, if you pressure washed the bike, water may have entered the ignition switch, plug caps, kill switch or kickstand safety switch. A spritz of WD-40 or some other moisture-displacing lubricant may solve the problem.
Is there fuel in the tank? Sure, you know there's plenty in there, but play it safe, pop the cap and take a look. If you can't see it sloshing around, the tank might be empty after all. Of course, on bikes with underseat tanks and remote filler caps, this check won't be possible. If the bike has a petcock, an item that seems to be found less and less these days, place it in the reserve or prime position and try starting the bike. Still won't start? The two most likely suspects: Either fuel isn't reaching the engine (assuming that the tank is full), or you've lost the spark. If the bike shows absolutely no inclination to start, I'd head for the spark plugs. If the bike coughs and sputters, I'd lean toward the fuel delivery side. But don't forget, fouled spark plugs will certainly make a bike hard or impossible to start, and may mimic a fuel delivery problem. Actually, since I'm pretty lazy, I always check the easiest thing to reach first.