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My Harley sportster will not start and there is a loud click

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My Harley sportster will not start and there is a loud click on pressing the start button. Battery is up to full charge could it be the solenoid?
Chat Conversation Started
Brian :

Good day and welcome to Just Answer. My name is XXXXX XXXXX I'd be happy to help you with your problem today. Do you have a multi meter?

Customer :

No, sorry i dont

Brian :

We will need one to determine your issue & test any components for failure, is there anyway that you could borrow or get one?

Customer :

Yes i could probably get my hands on one

Customer :

Am i write in thinking the starter and solenoid are joined together

Brian :

That would help considerably. Otherwise you play guessing games & maybe buy un-necessary parts.

Brian :

Yes on your 94 the solenoid is on the starter.

Customer :

It has been suggested that I bridge the terminals on the solenoid and if all is well the engine should turn over and probably start

Brian :

The likely issue is the battery itself. Although it has voltage, the plates & electrolyte/electrolytic gel have lost their ability to create the needed amperage to push that voltage. We need the meter to do a load test.

Brian :

I do not recommend jumping the solenoid.

Brian :

it can be a diagnostic a few steps from now if needed..

Customer :

I see so the solenoid could be ok but the problem lie with the battery so I need to test what amps the battery has?

Brian :

No, you check battery voltage with the start button depressed. If the voltage drops below 9.5 vdc, the battery is junk. If the voltage stays at 12, the start button, or more likely the starter relay is junk, that also holds true with a "click" & is the next diagnostic, a new starter relay. If the voltage drops but stays above 10-11 vdc, & there is a "click" check the battery cables & again, the starter relay. After that you go after the starter/solenoid/jackshaft.. but it all starts at the battery...

Customer :

Thanks Brian that sounds good, can I get back to you later in the week? Garrick

Brian :

just reply to the links in the emails that you get about this, or bookmark this page.. thanks Garrick

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Customer: replied 6 years ago.
have tested battery with a metre there is a drop on trying to start but it does not drop belo 11.5.Tested lead continuity and that is ok.Where is the starter relay?
That is good, the battery is ok, thanks for checking. I'd now check the negative battery cable at the frame mount. On your model they tended to get brittle & crack under the shrink tubing & you can't see it. You generally just replace that battery cable if it is cracked. I'm pretty sure your starter relay is behind your left side cover but I'll need to confirm that.
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Both earth and positive cables have been replaced while it has been off the road. We tested the continuity of both new cables last night and they were both fine. Have spotted what could be the starter relay under the seat where all the wiring connections come together. It is a small plastic box attached to the frame at the top of it with a rivet and has a series of numbers on it, could this be what we are looking for?
Yes that is your starter relay. Checking continuity on battery cables is not a good check. You would only need one strand in that cable to be good to show continuity, that one strand however will not allow power to flow correctly through the system.
Customer: replied 6 years ago.

Hi Brian,


I have removed the starter relay. I there a way of checking it? as under the plastic cover it looks in tact, in fact it looks like new. With regard to the battery cables they are brand new, just had them made slightly longer than the originals to make them easier to fit.

No you just try a new one.
Customer: replied 6 years ago.

I anticipated that and have ordered a new one, will get back to you when it has arrived and I have fitted it if that is ok?


You shouldn't need to order one, your local auto parts store should have them on hand.
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Too late now I have got one coming off ebay
They're like $6 at Autozone... sorry to hear about that..
Customer: replied 6 years ago.

I have just checked out your location, what time is it and what is the weather like in Florida?

I am in the UK and $6 buys you nothing when it comes to Harley parts

10:30 ish, AM & it's hot today.. yeah I guess $6 won't get you much there. That is a GM/Bosch part though & widely used on many different types of vehicles.. very, very common & not unique to HD in any way... well we'll see what happens when you get it.. let me know..
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
will do
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Just had new relay arrive and fitted it. I am afraid to say there is no change, still just a loud click on pressing the start button
You have a battery or ground issue then. In a worst case scenario the starter jackshaft is stuck out, or the starter itself needs a rebuild, but those are fairly unlikely.. I'm still thinking it's a bad ground.
Customer: replied 6 years ago.


What is the best way to check the ground issue. Do I try and move the existing ground cable or can I bypass it with another cable from the frame back to the battery?

After re-reading these, it appears that you already replace the - battery cable, no?.. if so, you just need to make sure that is super tight & the frame is clean where it attach's, otherwise you are onto the starter itself either being hung up or needing rebuilt/replaced.
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
I have already fitted new cables, but I will check the fitting on both and see if they will go any tighter. If they are ok can I short out across the solenoid as I suggested earlier to see if it will start that way?
You can but you have isolated it to the starter, or solenoid that is on the starter at this point.
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
If I do have to remove the starter is it a straight forward job and what is the order to remove parts
You would be best served to pick up the HD factory service manual if you are not already familiar with that procedure. It's actually pretty involved for a novice mechanic & you might be better with professional help. You will need to analyze your skills. You will need to drain & remove the outer primary cover, which involves that foot control & clutch cable, then the starter from the other side.
Customer: replied 6 years ago.

On starting to remove the starter motor i discovered a second connection under the main positive connection had come off. What does this smaller cable connect to and could it cause the problem described?


That is your solenoid wire from the relay. It goes right there to the solenoid, there should be a shiny spade right there looking for a connector. Those rarely come off, if ever without being taken off. Have any "friends" looking to mess with you?... was your bike in an area where it could have been stolen?

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