If you’ve ever lost your motorcycle key, you probably wish you had read this article first! Note, we are not promoting bike theft here, just how to get out of trouble if you cannot find your bike key.
You can start a motorcycle without a key, but how difficult it is depends on the age of the bike and how easy it is to get to the ignition system.
Will a motorcycle start without the key?
Yes, it is possible. There are two basic methods, and they both involve some mechanical knowledge or damaging the bike. Finding your key is usually a less stressful solution!
Hotwire the bike
The least intrusive way to start a bike without the key is to hotwire it. This involves bypassing the ignition switch with a wire to switch on the bike’s ignition system.
The biggest problem with this method is that most modern bikes have a straightforward theft protection system installed in the ignition switch. This takes the form of an ignition switch resistor. We discussed in an earlier article how to bypass a faulty ignition switch resistor.
Another issue with hotwiring could be finding the ignition switch cable connector. On fully faired bikes, you may need to remove some panels, while on others, such as on my Suzuki SV1000S, the connector is under the gas tank.
Hotwiring will work if your motorcycle doesn’t have the ignition switch resistor. You can quickly bypass the ignition switch and get your bike started in a few simple steps.
- Prepare a short piece of electrical cable by stripping the ends. Alternatively, you could use a bent bit of fine steel or a paper clip.
- Locate the cable coming out of the ignition switch
- Trace the ignition cable until you find where it connects to the main wiring harness
- Disconnect the ignition cable
- You now use the wire you prepared earlier to short out the wiring harness end of the cable until the bike’s ignition turns on. Finding the correct combination of connector terminals may take trial and error. When you find the right connections, the dashboard lights will come on.
- Start the bike using the engine start button.
Use a screwdriver
This method will wreck your ignition switch, so you should only use it as a last resort. Also, there is no guarantee that it will work. It’s akin to using a sledgehammer to crack open a walnut!
However, this could work if you no longer have your key but desperately need to get your bike running. You will, of course, have to replace your ignition switch as soon as possible because once you can start your bike with a screwdriver, so can anyone else.
In simple terms, you are trying to break the ignition lock so you can turn the ignition switch with the screwdriver and make the connections inside the switch. This will be a case of trial and error using a small enough screwdriver that fits inside the barrel of the ignition switch when you tap it in with a hammer.
We certainly do not condone this way of starting your bike, as thieves often use it, but sometimes you just need to do whatever it takes!
The last bit!
As you can tell, starting your bike without the key is no longer easy on modern bikes – and it shouldn’t be. On older motorcycles, you may have a fighting chance.