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How To Kick Start a Vespa

By lem at 9:02 am on September 28, 2006 | 36 Comments

After what happened last night, I decided to peruse Google in search of instructions for kick starting a Vespa LX 150. I was surprised that the results were fairly light, and other than a few warnings about possible damage to the engine casing, I didn’t find very much on the subject. Based on my own experiences, and the little scraps I found on Google, I have decided to write the definitive guide “HOWTO: Kick Start Your Vespa”.

What good would free advice be without a few caveats? First my Vespa is a 2006 model LX 150, so people with older models may have an entirely different experience. Second, I’m not an expert but am merely trying to provide some help to anyone who may be in need. Please keep the hate mail to a minimum! Third, I’ve been told my the Vespa service folks that the kick start is merely aesthetic and is mostly non-functional, especially in situations where the battery is dead or nearly dead. While I don’t disagree, my results obviously vary from theirs.

You’ll most likely need the assistance of a second person to make this happen. The reasons will become apparent soon enough. Without further delay, here goes:

  1. Turn the key to the on position so the headlight is illuminated.
  2. Make sure the Vespa is on the kickstand. Since the kick start and the kickstand are located in close proximity, it is physically impossible to have a successful kick start without the bike being on the stand.
  3. Have the person who will be using the kick start level (we’ll call him the “kicker” for now) stand on the side of the Vespa with the kick start and the “helper” (that second person I mentioned) on the side with the throttle.
  4. Unlike using the electric starter, DO NOT grasp the brake handles. The brakes must not be engaged.
  5. Have the kicker make complete movements of the kick start lever with their foot while at the same time the helper is gently opening the throttle (no more than halfway) to give the engine some gas.
  6. Continue to kick and open the throttle until the engine kicks over.

It may take several attempts to get the coordination just right, and the kicker’s kicking leg is sure to get tired and sore very quickly. But in a pinch, this can save you from an expensive tow. Of course, you’ll want to drive the Vespa immediately to a place where either you or a Vespa service person can diagnose the cause of the electric starter failure.

Please leave a comment if this has helped you, or if you have further insight to offer. I’d love to update these instructions as warranted!

Filed under: Maintenance, Tips and Tricks36 Comments »


Dead Battery?

By lem at 11:25 pm on September 27, 2006 | 6 Comments

I’ve noticed for the past few weeks that the electric starter on my Vespa LX 150 has been a little sluggish. I had to hold the button longer to get the engine to kick over properly. While I didn’t consider this to be normal behavior, I wasn’t sure if it was something worth making the drive out to the Vespa service center for.

And then tonight, my girlfriend and I were downtown picking up dinner at Lindy’s with a plan of taking it home to eat. When I went to start the Vespa, I noticed the headlight was considerably dimmer, and the starter was barely cranking. Immediately I recognized the problem: a nearly dead battery.

My girlfriend is an AAA member, and after waiting for over two hours for them to show up we decided to try kick starting the Vespa. When I first bought it, I read the instruction manual cover to cover (well, at least the English portions) and the only part about kick starting said something about why it was a bad idea. But I figured getting stranded downtown DC at 11 PM on a weeknight couldn’t be much of a better option. After several attempts, we figured out how to get the kick start to work properly and we were off.

I know that like cars, motorcycle batteries charge themselves while the engine is running. We drove around for a while and parked back at home. My hope is there will be enough charge to get the Vespa started in the morning. We’ll see how it goes in a few hours!

Filed under: Maintenance6 Comments »