8 Common Indian Chieftain Problems (Solutions Guide)

The Indian Chieftain is a series of powerful American touring bikes known for their comfort, performance, handling, and distinct style.

However, like any machine, the Chieftain is not perfect and may encounter some problems from time to time.

This article covers the solutions and troubleshooting tips most relevant to the Indian Chieftain motorcycle.

1. Indian Chieftain Won’t Start

One of the most frustrating problems that can happen to any Chieftain rider is when their bike won’t start. Several factors, such as a dead battery, a bad starter motor, a faulty ignition switch, or a clogged fuel filter, can cause false starts on an Indian Chieftain.

Recharge/Replace Battery

A dead battery can happen if you leave your lights on, your battery is old or damaged, or your charging system is not working correctly.

  1. To check if your battery is the culprit, use a multimeter to measure the voltage across the terminals.
  2. A fully charged battery should have around 12.6 volts. If the voltage is lower than 12 volts, you must set or replace your battery.
  3. You can also try to jump-start your bike using another battery or a standalone booster pack.

Test Starter Motor

The starter motor is an electric motor that turns the crankshaft and starts the engine.

If the starter motor is faulty or worn out, it may not be able to spin fast enough or at all to start the engine.

  1. To test if your starter motor is working correctly, use a jumper wire to bypass the relay and solenoid and directly connect the battery’s positive terminal to the starter motor terminal.
  2. If the starter motor spins like usual, the problem is likely with the relay or solenoid.
  3. If the starter motor fails to spin or makes a clicking noise, you may need to replace it.

Check Ignition Switch

The ignition switch turns on your Chieftain’s electrical system and lets you start the engine with the key.

If the ignition switch is damaged or corrupted, it may prevent the current from reaching the starter motor and other components, causing faulty starts.

  1. To diagnose this problem, use a test light to check if there is power at the ignition switch when you turn the key.
  2. If there is inconsistent or intermittent power, you may need to replace your Chieftain’s ignition switch.

Unclog Fuel and Air Filters

A clogged fuel or airbox filter can prevent your Indian Chieftain from starting.

Both filters filter out any dirt or debris before entering the air, fuel mix, and damage the engine.

  1. Over time, these filters may become dirty or clogged, restricting fuel flow to the injectors. This can result in poor performance, hard starting, or no starting.
  2. If you suspect clogged air or fuel filters are preventing your Chieftain from starting, locate and clean or replace the internal and external airbox filters.
  3. You should also check and clean the fuel tank and the fuel lines, as well as your air intake box and manifolds, for any contamination

2. Indian Chieftain Won’t Shift

Shifting problems on an Indian Chieftain are often due to a loose or damaged shift rod or arm, a worn or dirty transmission, a faulty clutch cable or lever, or a bad gear position switch.

Replace or Repair the Shift Rod or Arm:

 The shift rod and arm are the parts that connect the shift lever to the transmission.

They may prevent the information from shifting correctly if damaged or broken. If you hit the shift lever too hard or drop your bike, this can happen.

  1. Inspect the shift rod and arm under the left foot peg for damage or wear.
  2. If bent, cracked, or loose, replace them with new ones.

Drain and Replace the Transmission Oil:

Transmission oil is the fluid that lubricates and cools the gears, shafts, bearings, and other components that work together to change the speed and torque of your bike.

If your transmission oil is dirty, low, or of the wrong type or viscosity, it may cause your bike not to shift correctly.

This can happen if you use low-quality oil, don’t change your oil regularly, or abuse your transmission by shifting without using the clutch or by shifting at high rpm.

  1. Drain and replace your transmission oil with the recommended type and viscosity.
  2. Check and adjust your shift linkage for proper alignment and clearance.

Adjust or Replace the Clutch Cable or Lever:

If your clutch cable or lever is not adjusted correctly, it may not disengage or engage fully, resulting in hard shifting, gear slipping, or no shifting.

  1. Check and adjust the clutch cable tension and free play according to your owner’s manual.
  2. Lubricate the cable and the lever pivot for smoother operation.
  3. If your clutch cable or lever is damaged or worn out, replace the compromised part with a new one.

Replace the Gear Position Switch:

The gear position switch detects and displays the current gear position on your instrument cluster.

Suppose your gear position switch is faulty or oxidized. In that case, it may cause the gear position display to inaccurately show that the motorcycle is neutral when it is actually in gear.

This can cause confusion and difficulty in shifting.

  1. Replace your gear position switch if it shows an inaccurate gear position on your instrument cluster.
  2. There was a recall on certain 2014-2019 Chief, Chieftain, Roadmaster, and Springfield models due to a potential gear position switch failure.
  3. If your bike is affected by this recall, contact your dealer for a free repair.

3. Indian Chieftain Cutting Out

If your Indian Chieftain cuts out while riding, it may be due to faulty rear cylinder deactivation or throttle body. Start by checking your spark plugs and fuel quality if it cuts out at start-up.

Turn Off Rear Cylinder Deactivation/Flash ECU

Rear cylinder deactivation is a feature that shuts off the rear cylinder when the engine is hot, and the bike is stopped. However, if the rear cylinder does not re-activate quickly enough or there is a glitch in the ECU software, it causes your bike to cut out or stall when you try to accelerate or move.

  1. To fix this problem, turn off the rear cylinder deactivation.
  2. It may be time to upgrade your ECU software to the latest version.

Inspect/Clean Throttle Bodies

Your chieftain’s throttle body controls the air entering the engine. If dirty, damaged, or misaligned, it may not open or close correctly; it causes a poor air-fuel mixture, erratic idle, and engine cutting out.

  1. To fix this problem, remove and clean the throttle body with a throttle body cleaner and a soft brush.
  2. You should also check and adjust the throttle cable tension and free play according to your owner’s manual.

Inspect Spark Plug:

A spark plug worn out, fouled, cracked, or gapped incorrectly causes your Indian Chieftain to cut out or misfire.

  1. To fix this problem, inspect and replace your spark plug with the recommended type and gap.
  2. You should also check your spark plug wires, replacing them if they’re damaged or corroded.

Clean and Maintain Fuel System:

If you use low-quality fuel, store your bike for a long time without stabilizing the fuel, or fill up from a contaminated source, you may end up with dirt, water, or ethanol in your fuel system.

This can affect the combustion process and cause your bike to run poorly or not at all.

  1. To fix this problem, drain and replace your fuel with fresh and high-octane fuel.
  2. You should also clean your fuel tank, filter, and injectors to remove debris or deposits.
  3. You can use a fuel additive to help dissolve any gunk in your fuel system.

4. Indian Chieftain Rough Idle

If your Indian Chieftain idles roughly or unevenly, it could be due to several reasons, such as a dirty air filter, a faulty idle air control valve, a bad oxygen sensor, or a clogged catalytic converter.

Clean/Replace Air Filter:

If your air filter is dirty or clogged, it may restrict the airflow and cause a rough idle.

  1. Inspect your Chieftain’s air filter.
  2. The stock filter is disposable and needs to be replaced per the intervals outlined in your owner’s manual.
  3. Some Indian and aftermarket upgrade air cleaners use reusable filters that can be cleaned with a soft brush, soap, and water, dried thoroughly, and put back on.
  4. inspect and clean the air intake ducts and hoses for leaks or blockages.

Adjust Idle Air Control Valve:

The idle air control valve regulates the idle speed by bypassing air around the throttle body. If it’s faulty or gets stuck, it may cause the idle speed to be too high or too low or fluctuate erratically.

  1. To solve this problem, you need to locate and inspect the idle air control valve on your Indian Chieftain.
  2. try cleaning it with a carburetor cleaner and a soft cloth if it’s stuck.
  3. If it doesn’t get unstuck from a detailed cleaning, the valve may need to be replaced.

Replace Oxygen Sensor:

The oxygen sensor measures the amount of oxygen in the exhaust gas and sends a signal to the ECU to adjust the fuel-air ratio accordingly.

A bad or contaminated sensor may send incorrect signals and cause a rich or lean mixture and a rough idle.

  1. A faulty Oxygen sensor needs to be replaced with a new one.
  2. You should also check and repair any exhaust leaks affecting the oxygen sensor readings.

Related: 7 Most Common Indian Chieftain Problems (Explained)

5. Indian Chieftain Keeps Stalling

Like frequent cutting out, stalling can happen while riding your Indian Chieftain or at a start-up, depending on the culprit. The leading causes behind regular stalls on an Indian Chieftain are problematic rear cylinder deactivation, an impaired exhaust system, or a faulty or clogged fuel pump.

Turn Off Rear Cylinder Deactivation:

If the rear cylinder does not re-activate quickly enough or there is a glitch in the ECU software, your Chieftain may stall while riding or at start-up.

  1. Turn off rear cylinder deactivation by accessing the settings menu on your RIDE COMMAND display or using the right-hand trigger on your instrument cluster.
  2. You can also upgrade your ECU software to the latest version.

Repair or Replace Your Exhaust System:

A faulty exhaust system can also cause your Indian Chieftain to stall by affecting the airflow and pressure in a way that disrupts the combustion process.

This may happen if your exhaust pipe is damaged, clogged, or modified without proper tuning.

  1. A flawed exhaust system can also trigger the check engine light and reduce the engine power and fuel efficiency. T
  2. Inspect, clean, or repair your exhaust system as needed.
  3. Avoid removing or altering any components that may change your air-fuel ratio, affect the emission standards, or void your warranty.

Replace Your Fuel Pump:

A fuel pump failure is another potential cause of your Indian Chieftain stalling. This can happen if your fuel pump fails to deliver enough fuel pressure and volume to the injectors, resulting in poor performance, hard starting, or no start.

  1. To fix this problem, inspect your fuel filter clean as needed.
  2. Inspect your Chieftain’s fuel pump.
  3. Replace a faulty fuel pump.

6. Indian Chieftain Oil Leak

If your Indian Chieftain has an oil leak, it could be due to a loose or damaged oil filter, a faulty gasket or seal, a cracked cylinder head, or a worn or broken oil pump.

Tighten or Replace the Oil Filter:

  1. Check and tighten the oil filter according to your owner’s manual.
  2. Replace your oil filter if it’s dented, punctured, or clogged.

Locate and Replace Faulty Gaskets or Seals:

  1. Locate and replace any faulty gasket or seal on your Indian Chieftain by isolating where the dripping or leaking oil is coming from.
  2. The Chieftain’s gaskets and seals most commonly develop leaks at the valve cover, the crankcase, the oil pan, or the oil cooler.

Replace the Cracked Cylinder Head:

  1. If your cylinder head is cracked, oil can seep into the combustion chamber and leak out of the exhaust pipe.
  2. This is a rare problem on Chieftains, but your bike is unfit to ride if it does happen.
  3. If you suspect your cylinder head is cracked and leaking oil, refrain from riding your bike, consult a professional mechanic, and don’t ride your bike until the head is replaced.

Replace the Worn or Broken Oil Pump:

  1. Oil pumps wear out over time, resulting in low oil pressure, engine noise, and leaks.
  2. Replace your oil pump if it fails to deliver enough oil pressure and volume to your Chieftain’s engine.

7. Indian Chieftain Overheating

The Chieftain equips a large-displacement air-cooled motor; if your Indian Chieftain overheats while idling at a standstill, it sits too long without airflow. However, if it overheats while riding, it may indicate a mechanical failure.

Refrain from Long Periods of Stationary Idling

Avoid idling your engine for over two minutes, as this can cause overheating on an air-cooled engine.

Avoid High Ambient Temperature:

  1. Avoid riding in direct sunlight for long periods.
  2. Use high-octane fuel to prevent pre-ignition and knocking.
  3. Turn off your Chieftain’s air-cooled engine when stopped for more than a few minutes.
  4. Wear proper riding gear to protect yourself from heat exhaustion and dehydration.

8. Indian Chieftain Battery Not Charging

If your Indian Chieftain battery is not charging, it could be due to a bad battery, a faulty regulator/rectifier, a damaged stator, or a loose or corroded connection.

Recharge or Replace Your Battery:

  1. Inspect your battery, replacing it with a new one as needed.
  2. Use a battery charger designed for 12-volt batteries and charge the battery for 10 hours at 1.8 amps.
  3. Jump-start your bike using another battery or a booster pack.

Inspect/Replace Stator:

Your Chieftain’s stator pulls AC power from your Chieftian’s powerful Thunderstroke engine’s piston rotation.

  1. If the stator dies from overheating or faulty wiring, it will fail to pull the owner used to recharge your battery, and your battery will fail to charge while you’re riding.
  2. While the battery may not be damaged yet, a worn stator needs to be replaced, or the battery will lose its charge every time you ride.

Test/Replace Regulator/Rectifier:

Your Regulator Rectifier, or R/R, is the part that converts the AC power from your Chieftain’s stator to DC power for the battery and other electrical components.

  1. If your R/R wears out due to chronic overheating, faulty electronics, or wiring, your battery can fail to charge or overcharge and even explode.
  2. Test your R/R with a voltmeter, replacing as needed.
  3. A faulty R/R typically damages a battery; test and replace your battery if needed.

Tighten or Clean Your Connections:

  1. Check and tighten the connections between the battery, the regulator/rectifier, and the stator.
  2. Clean contaminated or corroded connections with a terminal brush and a baking soda solution.
  3. Coat your Chieftains charging system relay contacts with dielectric grease or petroleum jelly to prevent future corrosion.

Related: 8 Common Indian Roadmaster Problems (Solutions Guide)


  • Michael Ta Nous

    I've been weaving words into stories since my early scribbling days, and my journey in the world of motorcycles and their communities spans almost two decades. Living with a talented motorcycle mechanic as a roommate, our garage transformed into a vibrant workshop where I absorbed the intricacies of...