6 Bad Motorcycle Starter Relay Problems: (Symptoms & Fixes)

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The starter relay on a motorcycle acts as an electrical breeze between the starter motor and the battery.

Its primary function is to control the high current flow required while cranking the motorcycle’s engine.

A bad starter relay can cause problems in starting the motorcycle. But, the real hassle is identifying if the problem is due to a faulty starter relay.

In this guide, I’ll explain some easy methods to identify motorcycle starter relay problems and their easy fixes.

What Are the Signs of a Bad Motorcycle Starter Relay

The most obvious symptoms of a bad or failing starter relay are your starter motor making a clicky sound, the starter failing to start the engine, the motorcycle being cold dead, or the starter not disconnecting and turning off after the engine is started.

Motorcycle Starter Relay

Here are the six common symptoms of faulty motorcycle starter relay:

  • The starter is not starting the engine.
  • The starter motor is making a clicky sound.
  • The motorcycle has intermittent starting.
  • The starter clicks rapidly, but the motorcycle is not starting.
  • The starter continues to crank after the motorcycle is started.
  • The starter motor doesn’t show any signs.

What is Starter Relay in Motorcycles?

Motorcycle Starter Relay Box

A motorcycle relay is an electrical device acting as a circuit completer and circuit breaker between the starter motor and the battery.

The starter motor is a power-hungry device that requires a high current for cranking the engine.

When you turn on the ignition key, the starter relay supplies a small current to the starter solenoid, which draws a large current directly from the battery.

Once the engine starts, the relay disconnects and prevents the high current flow back to the circuit to prevent electrical damage.

The starter relay is an essential electrical component of any ignition system. If it fails, no current is passed to the starter motor, and your vehicle will face starting problem.

How To Tell If Motorcycle Starter Relay Has Gone Bad

You can tell your starter relay is bad when your motorcycle won’t start, makes a clicky sound, or starts, but the starter motor keeps running.

5 Pin Motorcycle Starter Relay Photo

These are some common symptoms of a bad motorcycle starter relay:

1. Motorcycle Won’t Start

The first symptom of a failing starter relay is that your motorcycle won’t start at all – no click, no crank, no ticking. Nothing happens when you turn on the ignition key and press the start button.

However, you must ensure that your motorcycle battery is healthy. If the battery voltage drops drastically when you press the start button, the culprit could be your battery.

There could be other reasons also, such as a blown fuse, poor grounding, bad spark plug, faulty starter solenoid or motor, etc.

So, you must also troubleshoot other ignition components if your motorcycle isn’t starting. I have already published a detailed guide on motorcycle starting problems.

2. Starter Clicks Rapidly, But Motorcycle Won’t Start

Is your starter clicking rapidly, but your motorcycle won’t start? It’s an obvious sign of a failing starter relay or faulty battery.

The above symptom indicates your starter motor isn’t getting enough current from the starter solenoid to crank the engine.

The battery could be another reason for the low current supply. So, if another motorcycle or car is nearby, jumpstart your motorcycle and see if the issue resolves.

If your motorcycle engine isn’t cranking after jumping, it’s confirmed that the problem lies in your starter relay or solenoid.

Test your starter relay with a multi-meter (I have explained the step-by-step method in the below paragraphs) and replace it if it’s faulty.

3. Starter Motor Makes Clicky Sound

If you hear some clicky sound coming from your starter motor, there is a high possibility that your starter solenoid is bad.

It mostly occurs because of corroded starter solenoids due to wear, harsh weather, or old age. To test this, you can use a jumper wire from the battery to the starter directly to starter.

If the starter reacts, but the solenoid doesn’t move, it indicates a failing starter solenoid, and you need to replace it.

4. Starter Continue To Crank After Motorcycle Start

A few months back, I was on a group ride, and my friend said that his starter continued to crank even after the motorcycle was started.

I immediately understood that it was happening due to a faulty starter relay. I told him it was an obvious symptom of a failing starter relay and you needed to replace it.

The function of the starter relay is to supply the current from the battery to the starter solenoid. The solenoid helps to create a strong magnetic field in the starter coil that rotates the flywheel to crank the motorcycle.

Once your motorcycle engine is started, the starter relay automatically disconnects the current supply, and the solenoid disengages the starter motor from the flywheel.

If your starter continues to crank after the motorcycle engine is started, it indicates the relay is faulty and isn’t disconnecting the current supply.

5. Motorcycle Starts Intermittently

When you press the start button, the starter motor should start the motorcycle engine immediately.

If your motorcycle starts intermittently or takes multiple attempts to crank the piston, it may be due to a faulty starter relay.

There is a high possibility of dirt, grime, or debris buildup on the starter relay terminals. Remove your relay from the fuse box and clean the corrosion with sandpaper.

In most cases, cleaning the battery and relay terminals fixes the intermittent starting problem of motorcycles. If it’s not fixed, you may be required to replace the starter relay.

Related Guide: How To Start a Motorcycle with Bad Starter

What Causes a Starter Relay Issue?

Faulty Motorcycle Starter Relay

Here are four major causes of failing starter relay:

  • Corrosion: If rainwater finds a path to the relay terminals, it will cause corrosion. The corroded terminals will interrupt the current flow from the battery to the starter motor, which results in a cranking issue.
  • Dirt and Debris: Although it’s rare, but dirt or debris inside the relay socket causes difficulty in current flow, and your motorcycle faces starting problems.
  • Bad Connectors: If your relay connectors are damaged for some reason, it will not let your motorcycle start smoothly. So, inspect and clean all four connectors before plunging them into the socket.
  • Too Much Heat: Heat is any electrical and electronic component’s biggest enemy. So, heat will melt the component if your starter relay is near the engine or exhaust pipe.

How To Fix Bad Motorcycle Starter Relay Problems

Now you know the symptoms of a faulty motorcycle starter. Your motorcycle will not start smoothly if the relay fails.

So, here is how to fix it so you won’t struggle to start your motorcycle. If your motorcycle relay fails, it must be repaired or replaced.

1. Test the Starter Relay

Sometimes, your motorcycle shows the above symptoms if the starter relay is overheated or the terminals are corroded, which can be easily fixed at home.

Here is a video tutorial on how to test an automotive reply-

Credit: Homie Hektor YouTube Channel

2. Replace the Starter Relay

A motorcycle relay typically lasts over five years; however, the relay coil may burn faster due to a surge in voltage. If your motorcycle is old and its starter relay fails, you should replace it for a hassle-free ride.

Replacing the relay doesn’t require any special skill. Remove it from the socket and check the number of pins and amperage rating.

Go to any electrical shop nearby, buy the same amperage relay, and plug it back in the socket. Press the start button, and your motorcycle will start.

How Long Does a Starter Relay Last?

A motorcycle starter relay lasts over five to seven years, but it may go bad anytime if there is a voltage surge or heat exposure. Sometimes, corrosion on terminals also create problem in starting the motorcycle, so clean the terminals with sandpaper.

How Do You Check If Starter Relay is Working?

There are multiple pins on a relay, and

Can a Starter Relay Be Repaired?

A starter relay components are assembled in a plastic case that isn’t openable. Such relays are non-repairable because you must break the case to access the components.

However, some starter relays can be repaired, but that isn’t cost-effective. So, replacing it for $8 to $10 is better.

Can a Bad Starter Relay Drain Your Battery?

Yes, a faulty relay will not disconnect the load, which may drain the battery, and your motorcycle will face starting problem. So, removing or replacing the faulty motorcycle starter relay is better.

Conclusion

A relay is used to control multiple loads. A low amperage current is passed to a coil that controls another switch due to an electromagnetic action.

If the starter relay fails, your motorcycle will not start, or the starter motor clicks rapidly, but the engine never cranks.

I have explained various symptoms your motorcycle shows when the starter relay fails. You need to replace it for a better riding experience.

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