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The motorcycle kill switch is a safety button (normally red in color) located on the right side of your motorcycle handlebar and it has an on/off mechanism.
Most modern motorcycles have this safety feature on the right side of the handlebar within the reach of the thumb.
Your motorcycle kill switch is important because in case of emergency you can access it easily and stop the engine or start it again by pushing it to the ‘off/on‘ position without removing your right hand from the handlebar (throttle) and without reaching out for the ignition key.
What is a Kill Switch on a Motorcycle?
As the name indicates, your motorcycle kill switch kills or cuts the engine from the ignition circuit.
You may face many emergencies during a motorcycle ride like tipping the motorcycle over on yourself with the engine on, the throttle is stuck and you are not able to decelerate, there is a crash, etc.
On all these occasions the motorcycle engine can be shut down with the kill switch either by you or a stranger on the road who comes to help you.
The color (red) and the prominent location of the kill switch make it easy even for a stranger unfamiliar with motorcycles to shut down the engine.
In simple words, your motorcycle kill switch is an emergency and safety switch that you can easily access to switch off the engine, especially when you are not in a position to do so using the ignition key.
The location of the kill switch is normally on the right side of the handlebar and you can reach it with your right-hand thumb to switch it off or on, without lifting your hand from the throttle. The kill switch shuts the power to the engine and the engine stops.
The motorcycle kill switch is important because it helps you in emergency situations as explained below:
- The motorcycle is tipped onto you with the engine on and you are not able to reach the ignition key. The kill switch can help you here to stop the engine.
- During a crash, you may not be able to turn off the ignition key due to reasons like the key is damaged or bent, or the crash makes it inaccessible, and in such conditions, you can use the kill switch to shut down the engine.
- In case of accidents, the kill switch looks prominently due to its red color, and even strangers can assist you by easily locating it and turning off the engine.
- Assume a situation where you are riding fast and want to bring down the speed, but the throttle is jammed and does not operate. You are not in a position to take out your hand to reach the ignition switch, but you can easily stop the engine using the kill switch.
How a Kill Switch Works
The inner workings of the kill switch on your motorcycle are simple.
When the kill switch is in the ‘on‘ position the ignition circuit of your motorcycle is complete and the spark plug gets the current to produce the spark for combustion.
When you turn ‘off‘ the kill switch, the ignition circuit is broken, the spark plug does not get current, and the engine shuts down.
In other words, the kill switch breaks the connection between the engine spark plug and the ignition coil when you push it to the ‘off‘ position.
When you push the kill switch to the ‘on‘ position, it reconnects the spark plug with the ignition coil, and the spark plug can produce the spark for combustion.
Tips on How toUse the Kill Switch
- Ensure the kill switch is in the ‘on’ position when you are starting the motorcycle. If the kill switch is in the ‘off’ position, your repeated effort to start your motorcycle with the ignition key can create troubles (like the flooding of the engine with gasoline in motorcycles with carburetors).
- Always use your right-hand thumb to operate the kill switch, you can make it a habit.
- Some owners’ manuals may call the kill switch an ‘emergency stop switch’, but they are the same and have the same function.
- Many motorcycles owner manuals advise the rider to use the ignition key for normal riding and use the kill switch for emergencies. It further tells that an ignition key turns off all the electrical connections of the motorcycle, but the kill switch turns off only the ignition circuit. If you turn off the engine using the kill switch, keeping the ignition key on, you may face trouble starting the motorcycle the next day due to a drained battery.
- Slowing down after hitting of the kill switch can be compared to what happens if your fuel tank becomes empty while you are riding fast.
How to handle the motorcycle after hitting the kill switch?
Hitting the kill switch does not put a sudden brake on your motorcycle engine. It breaks the current flow into the spark plug and the engine slows down to a gradual stop. You will have time to apply the brake and bring the motorcycle to a stop safely.
However, if this happens when you are riding fast, you should keep calm and handle the situation with caution.
When the motorcycle is still moving, you have the option of turning on the kill switch to resume your ride.
Now you are fairly aware of the importance of the kill switch on your motorcycle and how it works. Continue to enjoy your rides and make use of all the safety features including the kill switch, to make your rides safer.
Be careful, about hitting the kill switch, especially when you are riding at high speeds.