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@raettig avatar
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apologies, i'm sure this has come up more than once before.

my vespa has begun struggling to start, after having been left for just a few days between rides.

i can hear it churning and 'trying' to start when i hit the ignition. if i hold it down it will eventually either start up, or stop completely. i typically toggle the key then try again and it always starts up in the end. after that it rides fine, and will start up easily, eg: if i stop for petrol.

for other context i used to ride the bike multiple times per day but since early 2020 for fairly obvious reasons it /is/ getting left sat around more of the time than usual.

i am not mechanically minded. but every opportunity to just slightly reduce my ignorance helps reduce my dependence on the dealers. i have read the "won't start diagnosis page for beginners" on the wiki. but i can't tell what is most likely given that it does eventually start up and run fine.

1. is this an actual problem or is it just a case of 'need to ride it more' ? i could believe the latter, but it feels like it ought to handle at most a week of non-use.

2. knowing as little as i do it sounds like this could be a trivial thing or a complex thing (eg: fuel pump issue?). what's the most likely cause of these symptoms?

3. is there anything i can do as a non mechanical idiot to further diagnose here, or should i just book it in with the dealer for service?
@jkj-fz6 avatar
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@jkj-fz6 avatar
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UTC quote
I bet it needs a new battery, that’s all. You can replace that yourself, no need to take it to a dealer.
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JKJ-FZ6 wrote:
I bet it needs a new battery, that’s all. You can replace that yourself, no need to take it to a dealer.
thanks for replying. the bike is just over 3 years old. 21,000 miles. it hasn't had a new battery in that time, so i guess it wouldn't hurt to have one at this stage in its life and i'd be comfortable fitting that myself.

i guess the thinking is it starts when warm because i've been riding it and topping up the battery, whereas if i leave it for a day or two its losing charge.

i have a trickle charger so as a diagnostic i could try trickle charging it after the next few days of non-riding and see whether that affects its reluctance to turn over.
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Yes, you could try charging it. But the battery may be old enough that it won’t hold a charge anyway. Using a trickle charger is a good idea if you’re using the scooter for infrequent short rides.

In the US we have Batteries Plus stores which will test your batteries for free. Maybe you have something similar in the UK?
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JKJ-FZ6 wrote:
I bet it needs a new battery, that’s all. You can replace that yourself, no need to take it to a dealer.
+1 Battery life is inconsitent...my GTS still has the original at 6 years, likely any day now, but, well, any time after the warranty is done. 3 years isn't unprecedented. Depends on how far/long you ride. I forgot the ideal minimum for recharging itself, but a couple of mile runs likely doesn't do enough.

Putting it on the tender might be an easy experiment, but as stated, might not give you the proof you need either...
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thanks. my shorter runs are typically 6 miles out, quick pause, 6 miles back.

i'll try the tender.

i guess if i take the battery out i can find out the make and model i should order. i just had a quick look to see if i could see the make/model without removing it but i need to find my full screwdriver set before i can remove the retaining strap thing.

i'm guessing a yuasa ytx12-bs would be the appropriate thing, though?
@fledermaus avatar
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raettig wrote:
i'm guessing a yuasa ytx12-bs would be the appropriate thing, though?
Sounds right to me.
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i think it might not be the battery. but it was likely due a new battery, and i have at least learned a bit about batteries and how to replace them. i fitted a new battery on thursday and rode it, then left it on the tender overnight then unattended until today (sunday). i just went out for a ride but it took two or three long holds on the ignition and some toggling of the key to coax it into life. my current plan is to leave it a few more days, then put it on the tender right until i ride it and see if that makes a difference but it sounds like it may be something more complicated. my ride was about 20 miles, with a short break in the middle. as expected it started up just fine after the short break.

fitting the battery was an adventure for me, given how non-mechanical i am. bear in mind i've never owned a car and the vespa is my only form of transport. but every opportunity to reduce my ignorance slightly gives me a little more confidence for the future. the dealer said they couldn't send me a battery because the oem battery they'd fit isn't fully sealed and they can't mail me the acid. and they didn't have any in stock anyway. if they did have it they say the cost would be £110, presumably plus fitting. they suggested a fully sealed honda battery instead. they confirmed the oem was a yuasa ytx12-bs, and having removed the retaining strap i confirmed that was what was already installed.

i did a little research and found halfords sell the yuasa ytx12-bs and advertise it as "ready to fit". they could deliver, or i could go and collect. i went to collect. i guess halfords fill the acid themselves then charge the batteries so they can sell them ready to fit. i decided to try and fit it in their car park. that way if it was the wrong product i could talk to them. and they could also dispose of the old battery for me. cost £59. fitting it myself in their car park was mildly stressful. blimey its a wrestle taking the old one out. it didn't help when it started to rain. but everything worked, so at least i know i can do this myself next time round.
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In its 3 years and 21,000 miles have the valves ever been adjusted? How about other maintenance like coolant and brake fluid changes?
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the valves have been adjusted at least once. coolant has been replaced a few times - the coolant pump itself has been replaced. not sure about brake fluid. in general i take it to the dealer at each service interval. it may be around due new belt and rollers, in case that's relevant.
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it had a major service around 5000 miles ago. but that was december 2019 before the virus hit and the bike was subsequently sat around unused for longer than usual.
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raettig wrote:
the valves have been adjusted at least once. coolant has been replaced a few times - the coolant pump itself has been replaced. not sure about brake fluid. in general i take it to the dealer at each service interval. it may be around due new belt and rollers, in case that's relevant.
Sounds like the routine maintenance and valve adjustment should be good. Belt and rollers aren’t relevant to hard starting issues. Just need to ride it more
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Make sure the new battery is fully charged before you go for a ride.
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thanks for the replies. the battery tender suggested it was fully charged after fitting the battery and riding on thursday then leaving it hooked up for a while. i would have expected if all was fine it wouldn't be hard starting having not ridden between thursday and sunday. but more time on the tender and a bit of experimentation wouldn't hurt. i guess it may be diagnostically useful to know: if i don't ride for a few days but keep it on the tender as much as i can ahead of the next ride, does it still hard start.

i used to ride around 30 miles a day, every day and all year round. i'm keen to start riding more again, and wouldn't be surprised if this is all just the bike being cranky at the lack of riding. i can relate.

if the issue persists i can take it into the dealer. its just a long way to go and likely expensive if its not something they can easily diagnose.

would it kill them to fit an easy-lift handle to the batteries?
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raettig wrote:
would it kill them to fit an easy-lift handle to the batteries?
I tie a loop of ribbon around the battery before I drop it back in the well.
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If it sat for quite a while unused, and since then has proved hard to start, I'd first of all check the idle bypass passage in the throttle body. Have a read of this:
https://cheekythoma3.wixsite.com/itsme/idle

I understand you're not mechanically confident, so perhaps you could ask the dealer to do this, and check the valve timing as well, as that would be the very next thing i'd be checking anyway. It's also due a major service.

If both those are done, and you have a new battery, it should start easily when cold.
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UTC quote
Another thing to check is corrosion on the battery cables. Some sandpaper or wire brush would clean it and perhaps some dielectric grease when you are done.
⬆️    About 2 months elapsed    ⬇️
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UTC quote
just a follow-up on this. the hard starts from cold graduated to hard starts even after a long ride. then to an abundance of white smoke when i started it up one time. i got the garage to collect the bike. they say it was something to do with fluid getting into the cylinder. they've cleaned it up and replaced head and base gaskets - i don't know the specifics beyond that. cost a bunch, but didn't need a new cylinder. runs great now. my vespa is my only vehicle and i just obtained a small dog so its a relief to be back on the road again.
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That sounds like a crack in the head inlet - just like I had a couple of years ago.
GTS300, coolant in exhaust, tried new head gasket. (solved)
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