What Is A Motorcycle Kill Switch? How Does It Work?

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If you ride a motorcycle, then there is a very good chance that you noticed a big red button on the handlebar. Well, that is called a kill switch. Apart from the name, it serves a very important purpose.

So, what is a motorcycle kill switch? In layman’s terms, it is an emergency off button which allows you to turn your motorcycle off with the press of a button. It exists to turn off your bike suddenly but without causing any damage.

This article will focus on why a kill switch exists and why it is important. It will also be going through scenarios where it might be useful.

So, without any further ado, let’s get straight into it!

What Exactly Is A Motorcycle kill Switch?

Wondering what will a motorcycle kill switch do? Learn how does that work through my guide

Let’s answer the main question first. A kill switch has been designed to shut down a motorcycle suddenly.

Before you ask, no, it does not pose any danger to the rider or the motorcycle itself. It turns off the connection with the ignition coil, which will shut the engine down.

In more complex terms, turning the switch on will break the circuit between the ground and the ignition coil.

This will prevent it from delivering any sparks, which will result in the spark plug not being utilized at all. Without a spark, the engine cannot function.

Difference Between A Kill Switch And An Ignition Switch

Some of you may still not understand the key difference between both of these. You may be wondering why a kill switch is needed if the ignition can be killed.

Well, the first thing that you might already know is that both of these switches are located in different places.

The location matters because the time it takes to shut down your motorcycle using a switch can prevent injury or even death. The ignition switch can be found anywhere, from the tank of a bike to the handle.

On the other hand, a kill switch is always present on the handle and can be reached with a thumb.

Do All Motorcycles Have A Kill Switch?

Yes, they do. I have seen and rode plenty of motorcycles, and every single one of them featured a kill switch. It is a basic necessity, which is used in case of emergencies.

There may be some bikes out there that don’t have a switch, but they will be custom-made ones. Motorcycle manufacturers have to include the feature.

If you strictly talk about motorcycles that have been manufactured in the USA, then you should know that every single one of them is required to include a kill switch. This is possible due to rules and regulations introduced by the US Department of Transportation.

Does A kill Switch Affect Your Motorcycle?

No, nothing is affected when you use the kill switch. It will simply cut off the connection to the ignition coil, which will result in the engine turning off.

No part of the motorcycle will be stopped forcefully. So, you should not worry about your bike getting damaged during the process.

Yes, the ignition coil may become affected but with prolonged use only. So, it is advised not to play with a safety feature such as this one, as failing during an emergency will do you no good. So, you should not fiddle with the button at all.

Yes, it is confusing. There have been reports of battery drain if the switch is kept in the OFF position at all times.

Before I continue, the OFF position means that the engine has been turned off, instead of the general assumption that the switch is turned off. This confusion has resulted in many people complaining about battery drain.

Well, as it has been explained before, a kill switch does not cut off any connection to the battery.

People frequently use the kill switch. They forget to power down the vehicle by taking the key out. So, this can result in the battery getting drained due to all of the electronics still being powered up.

Some people also complained that using a kill-switch led to their motorcycle not starting. That is because the kill switch is actually in the OFF position. It is doing its job and preventing the engine from being used.

You need to flick it back into the ON position to start the engine. If you are a new biker, this can get confusing. But don’t worry. You will get the hang of it in no time.

Some Tips Related To A Kill Switch

  • A biker must always learn to keep his thumb on the switch at all times. This is important because it can be used at any second.
  • It is recommended to use the switch using your thumb to allow for a quicker reaction time.
  • You must be aware that the kill switch must be in the on position at all times.
  • This is important because if it is in the off position, that may result in quick draining of the battery.

When Not To Use A Kill Switch

If you flick the switch while driving, there is a very high chance that nothing will happen. As the brakes are not engaged, your motorcycle will not come to a complete stop. But that is not the case will all motorcycles out there.

Some bikes have a steering lock that is connected to the kill switch. So, if you accidentally turn the switch on, it can result in a serious accident because the bike cannot be controlled. Some models can lock the wheels too, which can get you injured or even killed.

The kill switch should also not be used for fun. As it prevents you from accelerating, it can result in your motorcycle hitting oncoming traffic or people. This can land you in serious trouble with the authorities.

Finally, you should not turn the switch on and off again and again. The system could lock up, which can prevent you from accelerating.

As explained before, you will not be able to speed up if needed without acceleration. You could injure or kill someone or even yourself.

Using A Kill Switch To Save Fuel?

A very common use for a kill switch is to save fuel. You may have heard of cars that shut themselves down when at a complete stop to prevent fuel consumption. Well, bikers use the same methodology here.

They flick the kill switch when on a traffic light in hopes of saving fuel. Although it will help, the kill switch has not been designed for such a purpose. You could end up wearing off the ignition coil, which may need to be replaced.

When Is A kill Switch Required?

This is perhaps the most important question in this entire article. There are many scenarios where a kill switch might come in handy.

  • If you suddenly see sparks coming from your motorcycle, the switch will help you turn the engine off without risking anything. This way, the problem will not be escalated, which is great.
  • The switch might come in handy if the brakes on your motorcycle fail, as a key cannot be taken out while driving. There is no proper way to stop the bike. The kill switch will allow the motorcycle to slowly come to a stop, possibly preventing injuries or even death.
  • Finally, a kill switch can be used when the bike gets extremely hot while driving. The battery is still powered on as the switch only cuts off the engine.
  • So, the bike will be able to cool itself for a few seconds before you turn the switch back off. This will allow you to continue on your journey without stopping.
  • A not-so-serious scenario where a kill switch can be used is when you see a sign stating a sharp turn ahead. Instead of pressing the brakes, you could switch the engine off, allowing for a gradual slow down of the motorcycle to the point you feel is suitable.

Can A Faulty Kill Switch Cause A Motorcycle To Stall?

Yes, it can! That is why it is strictly recommended not to use it unless needed. And it should not be used for whenever braking. As wires connect the switch and the engine, frequent usage can get disconnected.

That can result in the motorcycle stalling and resulting in an accident. Although the chances of something like this happening are slim to none, it is still possible.

Properly Turning Off A Motorcycle

Now, I know that many of you may have scoffed when reading the title of this section of the article. The reality is that there are always new bikers that don’t know everything. So, this section is dedicated to them.

Well, an ignition switch can only be used when the motorcycle has been put to a complete stop. The kill switch can be used, but you still have to turn the ignition off to shut down the electronics.


All in all, it can be concluded that a kill switch is a redundant safety system. It should be used in case of emergencies only.

If you are a new biker and were wondering about what is a motorcycle kill switch? I hope your queries were answered. It is a genius safety feature that can be used in many scenarios.

Some of them have been listed above, and it is recommended to read them. Before I end this article, I must say that you should never use a kill switch excessively. Its chances of failure could increase.

But I know that you guys are smart enough to know when to push the switch. I hope this article helped you in clearing up some confusion. Happy riding!

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