Easy Way to Test Powersports Starter Motors

A motorcycle, ATV or side-by-side that won’t start is frustrating, but testing to see if the starter motor is at fault is a piece of cake. 

Despite coming in various shapes and sizes, all starter motors work the same way, so you can apply these steps whether you’re testing one for a motorcycle, ATV or side-by-side. Watch the video above for the full version of testing powersports vehicle starters, or read on below for the quick version.

Power sports vehicle starter motor testing

Tools Needed – Quick Powersports Vehicle Starter Testing

Testing Motorcycle, ATV and UTV Starters

Step 1. Use a digital multimeter set to DC volts to check if the vehicle’s battery is properly charged. Connect the multimeter’s probes to the positive and negative terminals of the battery. If the reading is between 12-13 volts, the battery is good. However, if the reading is below 12 volts, you’ll need to charge the battery.

Motorcycle starter testing multimeter

Step 2. Using jumper cables, connect the positive cable to the positive terminal on the battery, and the negative cable to the negative terminal.

NOTE: To avoid an electric shock, make sure the free ends of the jumper cables don’t touch one another.

Step 3. Attach the negative jumper cable to the starter motor’s body to ground it.

Starter motor testing powersports vehicles

Step 4. Hold the positive jumper cable to the battery cable terminal on the starter motor, which will activate if it’s working correctly. If there’s something wrong with the starter motor, then nothing will happen. 

NOTE: The starter motor doesn't have to be removed from the vehicle. If you’re testing a starter motor that’s already been removed from your bike, ATV or UTV, hold it firmly as you test it to prevent it from moving around. The starter motor’s battery cable terminal is usually on the starter motor body, but may be on the solenoid if your starter motor has one.

Starter motor quick test

If you’re having starting problems, the starter motor is just one of several electrical components that could be causing problems. The starter relay or solenoid could be the actual culprit. Watch the video below to learn how to test a starter solenoid for a motorcycle, ATV or UTV.

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