Starting your motorcycle/scooter in winter

These days, most of us have to wake up to the all-too-familiar tchhhhhkk tchkkkkkkkkkkk tchkkkkkk–the agonising sound of a motorcycle’s self-starter rattling and coughing, often for minutes.

Or if you are a rider yourself, you might have a hard time firing up your motorcycle every morning from a cold start–resulting in you getting frustrated and being forced to kick-start your bike/scooter (which requires sheer strength and technique).

In winter, those who use their bike for daily commutes must go through a warm-up routine in the morning. Sunning your vehicle in the morning light before starting it and keeping the engine running for a while has become a ‘morning ritual’. All of this because riders can barely bear the awkwardness that they have to suffer when the bike’s engine suddenly stops in moving traffic and it doesn’t recover quickly via a self-starter. Well, you are not the only one who feels the pressure from the vehicle behind, honking and cursing at you and your gasping motorcycle.

So, why does your motorcycle find it so difficult to breathe in the morning? The simple answer: the cold.

Understanding the tchkkkkk…. 

In general, there are two major factors why a motorcycle doesn’t start in the morning. 


The first is the battery. Most batteries lose their capacity in cold temperatures. The motorcycle’s battery is no exception. Because it has been exposed to the cold throughout the night, it won’t just come alive in the morning. If your battery doesn’t have enough charge, the starter will not respond, or it will go out quickly without you being able to start the vehicle. In that case, you might have to get a new battery from a local motorcycle parts shop.

Engine oil

The other factor is the engine oil. The engine’s oil has a low specific heat capacity–meaning it gets heated quickly and it freezes quickly as well. The engine oil gets thicker when it’s cold and thicker oil makes it harder for the engine to start.

The solution to this is quite simple, but does require that you possess a certain level of technique and understanding to start your vehicle properly.

If your motorcycle is carburetted, simply pull the choke lever, turn on the ignition key, and press the self-starter–and with a little bit of throttle, it should start. As your engine needs to warm up, keep it running for a while with as little throttle as possible. When it finally warms up, return the choke to its normal position. 

Be careful not to fully wring the throttle on pulling the choke to its maximum. Keep this principle in mind: more choke = more fuel, and more throttle = more air. Therefore, you need to master the art of balancing both the choke and the throttle while starting your bike. 

If the engine is fuel injected, however, you should be able to start your vehicle by just turning on the ignition key and pressing the self-starter. But if it doesn’t start with ease, the engine might get flooded with fuel; in that case, cranking the starter full-throttle will revive your engine.

Also read: So you want to work in ride-sharing

White smoke?

Most likely, when you start your bike/scooter in the morning, it will puff white smoke out of the exhaust. Should you be worried? Not at all. This happens due to the cold: when the engine cools, it collects water vapour, and while drying out, the water is expelled in the form of vapour. That’s basically the condensation-evaporation cycle.

But if the problem persists even after the engine has warmed up or if it excessively worsens or if the smoke darkens/changes in colour, visit a mechanic or a servicing centre asap.

Also read: The lost art of watching your rear

Related post

So you want to work in ride-sharing..

The first time I sat as a pillion rider on a stranger’s bike, I was not in the best condition to do so.

Read More

The lost art of watching your rear

Be honest, when you hop on your bike or scooter, ready to accelerate, do you check your mirrors? Do you adjust them? Does your ride even have a stable/working mirror?

Read More

Touring 101: Beginners’ Guide to Motorcycle Touring

I would describe motorcycle touring as a series of experiences to do with new destinations, great moments, and new people. Touring is just another word for finding your freedom. There are riders who hit the road and never come home for months. Beginner riders, however, might just want to do a trip that lasts a […]

Read More

Basics of Vehicle Maintenance: A Beginner’s Guide to Routine Vehicle Maintenance and What You Should know

In Nepal, most auto owners don’t seem to give much thought to vehicle maintenance. We mostly go by the notion that as long as our car or motorcycle is running, it’s doing perfectly fine. And we only visit a mechanic when something goes wrong or if something in our vehicle stops working, which can sometimes […]

Read More

South Korea’s self-driving upstarts take on tech giants

In a workshop that blends a corporate office with a tool-packed garage, around 20 South Koreans are looking to take on the multi-billion-dollar giants of Uber, Tesla and Google parent Alphabet with a self-driving car of their own. The RideFlux start-up brings together engineers who have given up well-paid jobs with some of the South’s […]

Read More

Shadow Top Brand Shadow