Indian Motorcycle Won’t Start? (Solved & Explained)

Indian Motorcycle is more than iconic; they were the first American Motorcycle company.

They are well known for their solid build quality, attitude and premium finishes however like any machine they are prone to mechanical issues.

If you’re having trouble starting your Indian motorcycle, this article is here to help…

Here’s Why your Indian Motorcycle Won’t Start:

An Indian Motorcycle can have starting problems due to a failing starter or faulty battery. Polaris Indian batteries have been criticized for being weak and expiring early. Some models manufactured before 2018 equipped starters that were known to wear out early and fail in harsh weather.

Indian Won’t Start

Listed below are the most common reasons why an Indian Motorcycle won’t start.

Dead Battery

A dead battery is the most common reason why an Indian motorcycle won’t start, namely when the bike hasn’t been used for a while. Polaris’s ECU features can cause a parasitic drain on a battery, which is only charged when the bike is in motion unless you use a trickle charger.

Parasitic drain is when the bike’s Electronic Control Unit, or one of the other electrical components, slowly drains power from the battery while the motorcycle is off.

  • Some Parasitic drain is to be expected on any modern, ECU-equipped motorcycle.
  • Because a motorcycle battery is recharged by engine power, it’s only charged while the motorcycle is running.
  • It’s vital to trickle-charge your motorcycle battery if you leave it unused and sitting for lengthy periods.

If you’re experiencing symptoms of the parasitic drain but haven’t left your Indian moto sitting for a significant amount of time, it might result from a faulty ground wire or a short circuit.


  1. Use a multimeter to test your battery. First, set the multimeter to DC Voltage.
  2. Follow the meter instructions to hook up the meter to your battery terminals.
  3. If the multimeter reads just a few shy of 12V, you might be able to charge your battery enough to get the bike started.

That said, if your battery reads less than 9V, it might be expired for good, meaning it won’t recharge and will need to be replaced to get your bike started.

Side Stand Extended

  • Modern Indians also have a side stand or kickstand safety switch that senses when the kickstand is extended, alerting the ECU not to start the bike until the side stand is up if the bike isn’t in neutral.
  • The switch will allow the bike to start with the kickstand down if the transmission is in neutral, but as soon as you shift it into gear, the engine will die. 

If the rider forgets to lift the kickstand before riding, an Indian motorcycle will die and won’t start back up until the kickstand is raised.

That said, if the side stand sensor gets blocked by grime or is damaged, it will tell the ECU the kickstand is down even when it isn’t.

Sometimes, the solution is to clean the dirt and corrosion off your side stand sensor located on the frame near the stand. If that doesn’t work, the stand sensor might need to be replaced.

Kill Switch Set to OFF

Your Indian’s Kill Switch needs to be set to the RUN position for the bike to start. Occasionally, riders accidentally flick the starter to OFF while mounting their bike.

Indian Won’t Start Just Clicks or Cranks

An Indian Motorcycle that cranks but won’t start probably has a faulty starter system, especially if it’s an Indian Scout. A weak Polaris battery can also cause an Indian bike to click and not start.

  • In 2017, Indian service departments alerted customers to a “soft recall” on the 2015-2016 Indian Scouts due to starter problems.
  • Apparently, the ball bearings were leaking oil into the starter system, causing erratic functioning.
  • In some cases, the starter would crank cycle numerous times before starting.
  • In others, the Indian Scout motorcycle would crank but not start.

The issue can be fixed at an Indian dealership, complete with a new starter, and covered by the Polaris Indian warranty at no cost to the bike owner.

In the instance of an oil-damaged starter, when we say crank, we’re referring to the coughing sound of the bike trying to come to life repeatedly.

In other cases, the bike makes a clicking while trying to fire up.

If your Indian Motorcycle is clicking but not starting,  the culprit is likely one of the following three reasons:

  1. Your Indian starter has a magnetic power-transferring component called the solenoid. If the solenoid fails, the clicking you hear could be the starter magnet shedding the power and failing to activate.
  2. The last starter part is the starter motor. If your Indian’s starter motor is faulty, the clicking is the weak starter motor trying to spin the flywheel to start the Indian’s motor.
  3. Finally, a weak or dead battery won’t render enough energy to trigger the starter magnet, which creates a clicking noise at the start-up.

Related: Indian Motorcycle Keeps Stalling (9 Causes & Solutions)

Indian Won’t Start in Gear

Indian motorcycles won’t start in gear if the side stand is down. If you lift the side stand, it won’t start in gear unless you pull the clutch lever to disengage the clutch.

This is due to the neutral or clutch sensor, a safety feature that prevents the bike from leaping forward and shutting off.

Both side stand and clutch sensors can get corroded in time due to moisture and grime.

Several Indian owners have also reported their side stand sensors getting scraped off by a pothole or debris.

Additionally, these sensors are governed by the Electronic Computer Unit (ECU), which requires occasional updates by the service technicians at the Indian dealership.

Indian Won’t Crank

If your Indian Motorcycle won’t crank or click at all and won’t start,  the issue could be the bike’s fuel injector, starter relay, or a compromised battery. It could be a safety feature if the bike is in gear or the side stand is down.

A faulty fuel injector is another common cause of crank failure on modern Indian motos.

A faulty fuel injector will eventually die for good. The result is the motorcycle won’t crank over when you push the starter switch.

Your Indian Motorcycle’s fuel injector might be wearing early if you experience:

  • Irregular RPMS when idling
  • Lacking performance
  • Drop in Fuel Economy
  • The motor fails to reach its standard RPMs.
  • Tail Pipe Smoke and Pollution Increase
  • When throttling, the motorcycle jerks and shakes inconsistently.
  • Issues with the motorcycle starting.

If your Indian motorcycle has a faulty fuel injector, the solution is to replace it.

If you’re fortunate and there’s only a pinched fuel line causing the symptoms, then unbending it is all you need to do.

Indian Won’t Start In Cold

More than a few riders have experienced problems with their Indian motorcycle not starting when it’s cold outside.

In the case of an Indian Scout, it may be a faulty starter, especially if you notice the bike is “coughing” for more crank cycles when the temperature drops.

In the case of one of the Thunder Stroke models, it appears in the consumer reports online that the usual culprit is a weak Polaris battery nearing the end of its life.

“Today was the coldest day I have thus far cranked my Chieftain and at 28 degrees showing on display, plugged up to a green-lighted Battery Tender in my garage; it did not want to crank. It turned over very slowly, popped a time or two, and even backfired before finally giving in and spitting to a poor idle. I rested several times during the process so that I wouldn’t drain the battery, and after it cranked, I gently raised the rpm until it would idle smoothly. I am guessing the OEM battery doesn’t have the amperage to spin it fast enough with the cold, thick Indian oil in the bottom of the crankcase; I am guessing I should put a better battery in it.”

The above-quoted consumer report isn’t the only example illustrating the battery as the cause of the issue.

  • Riders surmise that if their Indian bike sits unused in the cold for multiple days, the battery’s charge dips faster due to the dropping temperature.
  • The oil solidifies during this time, forcing the battery to work harder on less of a charge. 

In frigid weather, if you’re not storing your Indian motorcycle in a climate-controlled environment or riding it regularly so the starter can recharge the battery, you may experience starting problems.

Indian Won’t Start After Laying Down

In some situations, Indian motorcycles lay down to their left onto a curb or raised pavement in a way that damages their side stand sensor. Once damaged, the sensor thinks the side stand is extended even when it isn’t, causing the bike not to start.

  • The most thorough fix for this is to replace the side stand sensor.
  • If this happens in the field, you can cut the sensor on both ends and use electrical tape to attach the remaining wires to eat where you need to go.
  • Some riders choose to bypass the sensor by soldering the wires together, but replacing the sensor is India’s recommendation.

Indian Won’t Start After Winter

Indian motorcycles may develop problems starting after winter if they were not put on a battery tender, as the Polaris battery drains when the bike is inactive and stored in the cold.

That said, proper winterization and storage preparation per Indian’s recommendations will avoid all these problems.

Indian Won’t Start Oil Light On

If your Indian motorcycle won’t start and your oil light is on, inspect your spark plugs immediately.

  • If the spark plugs are worn, replace them.
  • Now try to start the bike and examine if the oil light has turned on.

Some of the more cutting-edge, recent Indian motorcycle models have an oil pressure sensor to detect a problem with the pressure and temperature in your oil reservoir.

If it detects a temperature or pressure issue, the oil pressure sensor tells the ECU not to start the motorcycle. 

  • If the sensor is corroded, it may detect an issue where there isn’t one and override the ECU.
  • To know for sure if there’s a legitimate problem, you can unhook your battery terminals and reattach them to reset your ECU and sensor systems.
  • If the oil light comes on and the bike still doesn’t start after the reset, you either have a legitimate problem with your oil system or the sensor is damaged and needs to be replaced.

If the bike is hot, let it sit long enough for the oil to cool, and the light may go off on its own.

Once cooled, the ECU can safely start the bike.

Indian Won’t Start When Hot

Indian motorcycles won’t start when it’s hot outside if the notorious starter problem develops and the starter is already lagging. Once hot, the starter’s internal electronics expand, preventing a complete power transfer to the starter motor.

Indian Won’t Start With Key Fob

Some of the bigger Indian models come with keyless ignition.

The rider carries a battery-powered fob, which signals the bike to start at the press of the starter button, as long as the fob is nearby.

If the key fob is too far away or your key fob’s battery is weak, your Indian motorcycle won’t start.

Furthermore, if your fob is stored close to metal or electronic objects, the resulting interference can cause the Indian motorcycle not to start.

Finally, make sure the battery is installed correctly.

  • Keep a spare fob battery on the bike at all times to prevent issues.
  • That said, Indian dealerships allow riders to create a pin code that can be entered at start-up to bypass the need for a fob.

Indian Won’t Start With New Battery

If you or an Indian technician recently installed a new battery and now your Indian motorcycle won’t start, it’s probably due to loose battery terminals.

While inspecting your terminal screws for tightness, check both the terminals and the battery for grime.

Finally, a bad battery ground can also cause an Indian motorcycle not to start with a new battery.

Indian Motorcycle Won’t Start After Changing Handlebars

If your Indian motorcycle won’t start after you’ve changed your handlebars, it’s likely because the clutch cable needs to be adjusted to fit the new bat height. Otherwise, the clutch won’t fully disengage when you pull your lever in, and the bike won’t start.

Indian Motorcycle Won’t Start With Clutch Pulled

An Indian motorcycle won’t start with the clutch pulled if the micro clutch switch or kickstand sensor is gunked up, corroded, or faulty.

Road wear can knock the plastic pegs that hold the sensors in place and break loose.

If the switch is thrown out of position, the contact with the lever reduces, so the switch is not fully open when the lever is pulled.

In other cases, the metal tab will break off and remain wedged in position, holding the switch closed, which will not allow you to start with the bike in gear, requiring the switch to be open.

Indian Won’t Start Lights Flashing

Modern Indian motorcycles have safety systems that will activate the lights to flash and stop the bike from starting if the key fob isn’t present or after the motorcycle falls over.

If you do have the fob, it could be the fob battery is weak or dead, or the battery isn’t inserted into the switch correctly.

If the motorcycle recently fell over and you set it upright, it won’t start, and the lights will flash, alerting you to inspect the bike for safety issues before riding.

  • After standing up the fallen motorcycle, inspect it of severe problems.
  • Next, turn the power totally off.
  • Let the bike stand for a few minutes, and then turn the motorcycle back on.
  • If there’s no problem, the lights should stop flashing, and the Indian motorcycle should start right up.

Related: Are Indian Motorcycles Worth the Money? (Reviewed)


  • 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...