How-To Hotwire A Motorcycle

What to do if you've misplaced your key

Motorcycle keys seem to delight in vanishing, but if your machine is of a certain age, getting going again is as simple as a slip of wire and a bit of tape. Hot-wiring a machine isn’t just a black art reserved for thieves. We’re strong believers in knowing your machine from top to bottom, and knowing how your ignition works is no different. Besides, if you think we’re teaching sticky-fingered thieves how to poach your bike, you’ve never met the internet.

Gather Your Tools

Your tools may vary, but you'll need a small flathead screwdriver, a few short lengths of wire, some electrical tape, and a wiring diagram, regardless of your model. A quick internet search should produce a serviceable electrical layout. Newer machines may have immobilizers or other theft deterrents that could stymie your efforts.Zach Bowman

2. Locate Your Key Switch Connector

Follow the wires from your key switch; they should terminate in a plastic connector. Using your small screwdriver, open the connector to reveal the terminals inside.Zach Bowman

3. Complete the Circuit

Your key switch serves a simple function: disconnecting the bike’s ignition circuit when in the off position. Your piece of wire can complete the circuit just as well as the key switch. Locate the ignition terminals on your diagram and connect them with the wire.Zach Bowman

4. This Isn't the Movies

If you’ve done it correctly, your lights should come on and you can start the bike. There shouldn’t be any sparks. Some machines may isolate the ignition circuit from other important functions, such as lights or the instrument cluster. You may need to make additional wire jumpers if you want those to function correctly. Finally, tape your connections in place. If they fall out, the bike will die just as if you turned off the key.Zach Bowman