Any suggestions on how to troubleshoot a scooter that, suddenly, no longer starts up?
June 29, 2006 10:10 AM   Subscribe

My girlfriend has a 2006 Vespa scooter (still under warranty, less than a year old). Last night, it simply wouldn't turn over. No warning signs before this, no problems. Full tank of gas. I can hear it click, but the motor simply doesn't catch. I'm not much of a gearhead. Any suggestions on how we might troubleshoot this more ourselves, before we have it towed to a dealer? Any basic checks that we can do, before taking it in to the shop?
posted by avoision to Travel & Transportation (20 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I have no idea, since I don't own one, but do you kick start a Vespa? Given how fucking effeminite those things are, I tend to doubt it. Ergo, have you checked the battery?
posted by ChasFile at 10:19 AM on June 29, 2006

Did it rain? Could something have gotten wet? Maybe let it dry out for a day or two.

Also, call the dealer -- maybe this sort of thing happens with frequency, and they can offer an over-the-phone solution.
posted by penchant at 10:22 AM on June 29, 2006

(Oh, you're in Chicago. Yeah it rained!)
posted by penchant at 10:24 AM on June 29, 2006

If it's electric start, and the starter clicks but the engine doesn't turn over, then the battery is drained. AAA didn't help with two-wheelers last I knew, but you can buy a small charger that clips onto the battery terminals and charge it from a wall outlet. You could also take the battery out. The battery is small, and you can easily carry it to somewhere for charging.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:28 AM on June 29, 2006

"Given how fucking effeminite those things are, I tend to doubt it. "

So, you obviously know nothing about scooters (and was the effeminite comment really necessary or are you just a dick?). Seeing as how from the 1940's through the 1980's the only way to start a Vespa was with the kick start.

Anyway, check your battery and your sparkplug. I'm not real familiar with the newer bikes but it sounds like the battery to me.
posted by m@L at 10:36 AM on June 29, 2006 [1 favorite]

I have a Yamaha scooter and when it has those symptoms, it is the battery. I have a charger I plug in, but a previous poster was correct in saying that the batteries are small and lightweight and can be carried to get charged.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:45 AM on June 29, 2006

I agree with everyone that says it's the battery. If you hear a clicking noise but it doesn't turn over, that's the most obvious sign of a dead/half charged battery.

It could also mean the solenoid that engages the battery is bad, but that's rather unlikely.
posted by fake at 10:57 AM on June 29, 2006

Classic dead battery. Those little bike batties are pretty cheap, you might want to think about swapping it for a new one. A lead-acid starting battery that is drained more than about 10% starts to be damaged. One that is dropped below 10V has had it's charge holding ability noticably damaged.
posted by Mitheral at 11:00 AM on June 29, 2006

can vespas be push started? that might help.
posted by lester at 11:01 AM on June 29, 2006

following lester -- if your vespa has gears that you control (rather than automatic gears like some small 2-wheelers), and if there's a little juice in the battery (e.g does the headlight glimmer when turned on?) then a push start should be quite easy, particularly if there's an incline to help. Get it rolling at fast walk speed or better, with ignition turned on, put it in gear and let out the clutch ... brooom, off you go
posted by anadem at 11:14 AM on June 29, 2006

It probably doesn't have a manual transmission, so you're just going to have to jump start the battery.
posted by knave at 11:18 AM on June 29, 2006

I'll nth the battery. If you've steepish hill, you may be able to get it going by 'bump-starting' it in 2nd gear. [On preview, never mind.]

The charger idea will work too, but be sure to use a 2 Amp charger designed for motorcycles; one designed for a car will boil a scooter battery.

But the question is: why did it die so soon? While bike batteries are small, and OEM batteries crappy, it should have lasted more than a year. Check the electrolyte levels in the cells, and electrics for a short or other drain on the system
posted by mojohand at 11:20 AM on June 29, 2006

There is a kill switch on the right hand handlebar. Sometimes it looks like it is in the ON position but it ain't. Flik it back and forth a couple of times to the ON or RUN position and squeeze the brake lever and hit the start button. (assuming the battery is OK).

I know this because it only occured to me to check mine after pushing a "dead" vespa a few blocks.
posted by Gungho at 11:27 AM on June 29, 2006

As additional info get a battery tender rather than just a battery charger.
They are slightly more expensive but a much better investment.
posted by stuartmm at 11:44 AM on June 29, 2006

As Gungho says, the brake lever, kill switch, and key must all be in the correct positions when you press the start button.

You could try squeezing the other brake lever, to rule out a broken brake lever switch.
posted by mbrubeck at 12:11 PM on June 29, 2006

I have a Puegot Looxor and I can't electric start my bike at all. Same problem as you. I just kick-start it.
posted by jasondigitized at 12:39 PM on June 29, 2006

When my battery was dead after the winter, the dealership towed it free of charge (was still under 1-year warranty). "Towed" means guy with van shows up and wheels it in up a ramp.
posted by saffron at 1:00 PM on June 29, 2006

From your description, I can't tell if you mean that the starter is clicking like it's not getting enough power or if it's getting enough power and the engine is not turning over. Definitely check the kill switch first. But if the starter sounds normal and the engine is not turning over it may mean you have a fouled plug as others have said. Try replacing the plug. This is probably the case if kick starting won't work either. It may also be a fuse. Lastly, if it's a 50cc two stroke automatic, it may need to be manually choked. Your scooter will have an air box just above the engine, and if it has an air intake on the bottom of this box, cover it with your hand while starting it. If there is no air inake, take of the cover of the box, remove the air filter inside and try it again. Once it starts put the airbox back together. FYI, this won't work if it's a four stroke engine.
posted by Dr. Lurker at 1:11 PM on June 29, 2006

Try here maybe: Scooter BBS.
posted by o0dano0o at 1:48 PM on June 29, 2006

I agree about checking the spark plug since it just takes a few seconds. Just take it out, if it is oily, wipe it off with a cotton rag and put it back in and see if the scooter will start. If it is not that, it is probably the battery.

Also, as o0dano0o says, check the scooterbbs. That community has helped me solve almost every problem that I have had with my old Vespas.
posted by toddst at 1:25 PM on June 30, 2006

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