Motorcycle Stalling – Why Does It Happen? [How to Fix]

what happens when a motorcycle stalls

Hardly is there a single motorcycle rider that has not witnessed their bike stalling. Even expert riders still find it challenging to keep their new bikes from stalling. As you’d agree, it takes time to understand and get used to the needs of a new bike. Contrary to popular opinion, stalling your motorcycle won’t destroy or wear out the engine.

Of course, it will have a negative effect in the long run, but it’s not on its engine. Instead, it could shorten the lifespan of other components like the battery and starter. It could also affect the piston heads, sprockets, chains, and even the bike’s valves. We’ll take an in-depth look into what makes a motorcycle stall and how you can stop it. However, the concept of stalling needs to be understood first.

What Is Motorcycle Stalling?

black and silver cruiser motorcycle

Stalling is the aftermath of not releasing your motorcycle’s clutch slowly. When this happens, there is a sudden increase in the load imposed on the engine. And because this load is greater than the force produced by the engine, the rear wheels cannot move forward anymore. Therefore, the motorcycle stops abruptly with a slight jerk. The jerk is the final forward movement the engine can afford before it shuts down. Although it does not affect the motorcycle when it happens, it can be quite hazardous to the rider.

If your motorcycle stalls in dense traffic, the final jerk could plunge the bike to hit the automobile in its front. Sometimes, it could be a tarmac, poles, or other road equipment involved in the collision. In both cases, the motorcycle cosmetic cover can become severely damaged. And the rider could get injured. This injury could get fatal if stalling happens on the highway.

This is why motorcycle riders are often advised to practice releasing their motorcycle’s clutch in an empty area, probably a field. By doing this, they can get more familiar with their bikes, know what works for them, and drive them smoothly.

The Clutch

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Now, you must be wondering what the clutch has to do with the motorcycle stalling. Knowing when to pull the clutch in and release it is crucial to the careful stalling of your motorcycle. The engine output and transmission input shaft slowly disengage when you pull your bike’s clutch in. Their rotations become independent of each other. The clutch plates also start spinning differently, although still quite close.

When it’s time to release the clutch, you’ll need to do it slowly, so it doesn’t spring off. As you do this slowly, the clutch plates draw closer and rub against each other. This contact creates a level of friction that forces power out of the engine. And the engine and transmission shafts begin to engage each other again. To do this successfully, you’ll need to twist the throttle to ensure that the bike gets enough fuel. If this is not done, the engine’s speed drastically reduces as it expands its power to keep the bike moving.

When it can no longer handle it, the engine cuts out. And this is what causes the slight jerk we talked about earlier. The front and rear sprockets and the chains get pulled like a tug of war when it jerks. This is what causes them to wear when your motorcycle stalls too many times. However, if the bike gets enough fuel, the motorcycle will continue to move forward, and you’ll finally be able to release the clutch. It may seem like a lot to handle, but it is worth it. The more you practice it, the smoother your transitioning will be. As a matter of fact, those who are awesomely good at it have failed several times before.

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Since your clutch plays a vital role in stalling your motorcycle, you want to ensure that it’s always in good health. If your clutch is terrible, it will be challenging for you to move to gear one from neutral. The reason is your clutch is what separates your motorcycle’s engine from its transmission gear. As you pull and release them, the clutch plates join and disjoin to allow you to change the gears. Some people claim to do this quickly regardless of the clutch. However, the long-term effects on the bike’s transmission are not worth it.

Motorcycle Stalling in Traffic

man riding cruiser motorcycle at the road during day

Your motorcycle can stall anywhere, including in traffic. While it may seem controllable to experts, it can be quite a dangerous scenario for new riders. And those who just got the bike but aren’t used to it yet. Although the best thing is always to avoid stalling at that time, anyone can fall victim to it. So what do you do if your motorcycle stalls in traffic?

  • If stalling happens in a traffic jam, the best thing is to pull away. First, ensure that there’s no other automobile, person, or even road equipment behind you.
  • If your back is clear, carefully move the bike out of the road. However, be sure to do this quickly because another vehicle could approach your position sooner than you think.
  • Sometimes, your back may not be clear, probably because you’re at a standstill. Your best option here is to restart the motorcycle. If it keeps stalling, get it out of the road at all costs and get it inspected. It may be stalling due to some mechanical problems, which we’ll discuss soon.
  • If your motorcycle stalls while the road is free of traffic, immediately restart it. If it stalled accidentally, pull in your clutch right away, so your rear wheel doesn’t lock up.

Reasons Your Motorcycle Keeps Stalling

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If you just got your bike and it keeps stalling, you need to learn clutch control. However, if you’ve been using your motorcycle for a while and it suddenly starts stalling, it’s time for a check-up. This type of stalling is most likely due to some mechanical issues and can be fixed.


There’s no way your motorcycle will begin to function correctly if you’ve abandoned it for months or years. Of course, there are exceptions to this case- those being that you secured it properly before leaving it dormant or you’ve repaired it before setting it on the road. When you leave a motorcycle for too long without proper care, it begins to rust and leak. While the gaskets and seals rust, the fuel tank could start to leak. The oil left in it also degrades, leading it to malfunction. These problems could affect the air-fuel ratio of the bike, which in turn breeds more problems like stalling.

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Bad Throttle Cable

Like your motorcycle’s clutch, its throttle cable also has a lot to do with its stalling. If your throttle cable is bad, it will make you unable to control your bike’s stalling like you should. The throttle cable’s problems include aging, slacking loose, and falling out of place. Your throttle cable is also vital because it controls the air-fuel mixture that the combustion chamber receives.

For carb bikes, a slack throttle cable will not produce enough tension needed to open the butterfly valve. And in a fuel-injected bike, the CPU won’t receive signals timely. It leads to a loss of power while the bike is accelerating and, eventually, stalling.

Broken Carburetor Spring

Like your throttle cables, a broken carburetor spring can contribute to the frequent stalling of your motorcycle. When the carburetor spring breaks, the butterfly valves won’t open. Even if you keep twisting the throttle, nothing will happen. It will only lead to a decrease in engine power.

A broken carb spring also reduces the quantity of air available to mix with the fuel. This concept, known as “running rich,” can weaken your ignition and stall your motorcycle.

Clogged Carburetor Jets

A Man Fixing a Motorcycle

This is as bad as the other problems mentioned above as it also causes a disproportionate air-fuel ratio. If you use a carb motorcycle, it could get clogged from time to time. Most times, it could be by inorganic debris and bad fuel. If your jet is clogged, your fuel won’t make it through combustion. An inefficient combustion process is bound to make your motorcycle stall.

Leaking Vacuum

Your motorcycle’s intake manifold is another vital element of its admission system. It controls the air that enters the combustion chamber. If a vacuum in the intake manifold suddenly starts leaking, it will increase the amount of air that goes in. When this happens, the air-fuel ratio becomes too rich. And will, in turn, lead to stalling.

What often leads to a leak in the vacuum is rust and corrosion. And it happens if the bike has been left dormant for a long time. Some other parts of the intake manifold that could affect the air-fuel ratio are the intake boots and the hose clamps around them.

Disproportionate Air-Fuel Ratio

Your motorcycle’s air-fuel ratio becomes abnormal when it’s either rich or lean. The issues mentioned above are not the only contributions to an odd air-fuel ratio. Other contributors are dirty or clogged air filters and poorly set air-fuel mixture screws.

As a matter of fact, without the correct air-fuel balance, your motorcycle’s combustion process will fail. The combustion system allows your motorcycle forward every time you twist the throttle. If it fails, your bike is bound to stall.

Wrong Timing

This mainly affects fuel-injected motorcycles. If your motorcycle’s timing is wrong, it can cause many problems. Some are pinging, overheating, delay in spark-plug timing, and lack of power. When your spark-plug timing is bad, it malfunctions and leads to loss of power. As you’d expect, your motorcycle stalls when it loses power. Another thing that could happen is backfiring when you hit the throttle.

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How to Fix a Stalling Motorcycle

man riding touring motorcycle during daytime

If your motorcycle has technical or mechanical issues that make it stall, you’ll need to fix them. How good you are at handling clutches won’t matter if your bike crashes. If you’ve discovered your motorcycle has any of the above problems, this section is for you. Follow the steps outlined below to get your bike functioning properly again:

  • Winterize your bike. Before leaving your motorcycle, it is best to store it properly to avoid future problems. However, if you’ve failed to do that, you should take your bike to the auto shop for a complete repair. Fix the leaks, replace the gaskets and seals if needed, and apply the necessary upgrades.
  • Fix your throttle cable. The next thing to do is to check your throttle cable. As we mentioned earlier, a slack cable won’t provide enough tension needed to open the valves. First, turn off the bike to discover if your throttle cables are slack. Then check if your valves open as you hit the throttle. You’ll need to adjust your cables with the tightening nut if they are. If it’s not adjustable, you should get a new one.
  • Replace your carburetor spring. If your carb spring is broken, it’s time for a new one. You can discover if it’s broken or not by checking your bike’s butterfly throttle. You’ll have to turn the bike off and twist the throttle to see if it opens. If it doesn’t, replace the carb spring immediately.
  • Clean your carb jet. The carburetor jet will often get clogged as long as you use your bike. This is why you need to clean it at intervals. One way to do this is through the use of carb cleaners. This way, fuel can flow easily and reduce the rate of stalling.
  • Check your intake manifold. Your intake manifold houses vacuums that could leak due to dormancy, rust, corrosion, etc. Replace your intake boots if you notice leakage. Also, check your hose clamps to see if they’re tightened well. For carb bikes, you might want to check the carb gaskets to see if they need fixing.
  • Inspect your air-fuel mixture screws. If they are too tight, it could prevent the flow of air. Loosen them, but don’t make them too loose. If you can’t do this well, consult an expert to help adjust it rightly.
  • Fix your bike’s timing. It would be best if you didn’t do this yourself. If your timing is wrongly set, visit a professional. Otherwise, you could inflict more problems on the bike than it already has.


Stalling is not necessarily bad if you know how to control it well. If you don’t, it could lead to wear and tear of some motorcycle components in the long run. It could also pose safety risks to you as the rider, especially in traffic or on highways. Since you can never tell when it could happen, it’s always best to put on safety gear. Also, do not forget that the more you practice with your clutch, the better you get at it.