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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 »


36 Comments »

  • 1
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    Pingback by VespaLife.com » Battery and 2000 Miles

    October 14, 2006 @ 2:02 pm

    [...] Last Thursday I called to have my Vespa towed into the local service center. Since the towing is free (covered under warranty) I figured it was better to do it that way than risk another kick start. I had also just hit 2000 miles on my Vespa a few days before, which means it was time for another service. [...]

  • 2
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    Comment by Claire

    November 14, 2006 @ 1:23 pm

    Thank you SO much for this information. I also needed to kick start my vespa lX and had no idea how to do it. I googled as you did and found your post so it is definitely helpful!

    Thanks very much and happy vesparing!

    :)

  • 3
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    Comment by jane

    February 10, 2007 @ 6:09 pm

    I scoot to work in the warmer weather, when there’s no ice about. After needing a tow after a few weeks of these short trips (I wish I’d been warned that the Vespa wouldn’t be ideal for my brief commute–not that it would have stopped me from purchasing the vehicle!), I bought a battery tender. My battery, following days of below-freezing temps this Jan-Feb 2007, seemed dead. I looked for instructions on removing the battery for charging and found none. Plus, the copious instructions for charging the battery say to be “within hearing distance” of someone should you need to call HELP. I decided to try kickstarting my 2006 LX150. Nowhere in my manual does it describe how to do this, either. I never would have figured it out on my own! Many thanks. I’ll be in touch.

  • 4
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    Comment by Susan

    February 28, 2007 @ 3:26 pm

    This tip worked a treat on the first kick with my 2001 LX150, and I did it by myself. Just needed to stretch across to the throttle abit. The manual does tell you that you can kickstart if the battery is dead but it doesn’t give you the important tip to use the throttle. You saved me a tow. Thanks!

  • 5
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    Comment by puff ryder

    April 10, 2007 @ 2:14 pm

    THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!! havent started in a yr, with lots of frustration this morning, i finally got it going after many attempts at kickstarting!

  • 6
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    Comment by jssstudio

    June 23, 2007 @ 5:09 pm

    NOT HOLDING THE BRAKE is the key…and the throttling. Thanks for this concise and useful addition to the “missing knowledge” of the manual. J
    My little 2007 LX150 is outweighed by its rider and zips even so.

  • 7
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    Comment by frank

    July 2, 2007 @ 6:46 am

    THANK ! with lots of frustration tonghit, i finally got it going after many attempts at kickstarting!

  • 8
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    Comment by Chris

    November 11, 2007 @ 3:20 pm

    Thank you… this works. I found the slow, progressive throttle increase while kicking to be the trick that finally allowed my Vespa to turn over.

  • 9
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    Comment by Jeff

    January 8, 2008 @ 5:23 pm

    Question: how do i prevent this from happening? my engine won’t start for no reason at all…i rode it fine the days before and just got a new battery and had it serviced. is something wrong with my engine?

  • 10
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    Comment by Noah

    January 24, 2008 @ 7:47 am

    My uneducated guess: I think part of the difficulty is in the fact that this is a 4 stroke single cylinder engine. The spark plug only sparks on one of the four strokes which then ignites the gas in the cylinder. If you kick in one of the other three strokes nothing will happen. Perhaps if you kick hard enough you can go through all 4 of the strokes in one kick but of course you still have to have the right amount of gas in the cylinder as well which I think can be a problem if you have been trying a few times already. Ones I kick started my Vespa right on the first kick! Perhaps this was because the engine was already in the spark phase or stroke at the time of my kick?

  • 11
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    Comment by Jerico

    June 11, 2008 @ 9:02 am

    I bought a brand new LX 150. I asked to see the kick start demonstrated. Two service techs and then the service manager attempted to do it. They could not. I drove home, read your blog, kept my hands off the hand brakes as instructed, and sure enough, Zooooooom! You should apply for a job as VP for Vespa User Manuals. Thanks!

  • 12
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    Comment by Gray

    July 14, 2008 @ 6:32 pm

    Thanks for the tip. My new 2008 LX 150’s starter is not working so I’m trying to kick it. I’ve only been successful once.

    Is the NO BRAKE rule still valid for the 2008 models?
    THANKS!

  • 13
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    Comment by wei

    October 23, 2008 @ 12:34 am

    hi so must the ignition button be pushed while kick starting?

  • 14
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    Comment by Jeff

    November 22, 2008 @ 1:19 pm

    It’s 22F in Sag Harbor, NY and and after a week of rest Senore Vespa doesn’t want to start. It whirred for a while and then silence. I’m told there is a Bendix gear in the starter which needs to be “thrown” at the flywheel but gets stuck or doesn’t have enough impetus to reach the flywheel gear awhen the battery is weak. I tried kickstarting and so far absolutly nothing is happening, not even a sputter. Maybe it has to be warmer for the kick to start. It’s clear that Italians have their mothers come and get them when the battery dies. I was told I must use a battery tender or use the Vespa regularly in cold weather because my battery would die and being unrecoverable, I would need to buy a new one. It seems the Vespa only barely retains the battery charge but has no ability to actually charge in running mode. I called my Vespa mechanic and he said that the brake lever MUST BE PULLED closed in order to have the kick start work so I don’t know which version of the truth is correct. Good Luck all.

  • 15
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    Comment by m sherman

    December 22, 2008 @ 7:27 pm

    THANK YOU. Although it took maybe 35-40 attempts, my 2007 Vespa started up!! Don’t get distraught when it takes many kicks. It works! At least it did this time after I left my baby out in the snow and ice for several days!!! Thanks again,
    Michael

  • 16
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    Comment by Chris

    January 11, 2009 @ 7:55 am

    Hi

    Great advice! Thank you. After 1 day trying with your tipps it finally worked. You should write a do-it-yourself guide!!!

  • 17
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    Comment by Ryan

    July 6, 2009 @ 6:51 pm

    This did absolutely nothing for me. I did exactly what you said and it wouldn’t work. It feel like the kick start gets chocked up about every 3 inches. Then I’ll pull it back with my foot…it’ll lock, lock, then one time it will let me push it. Is this what it’s supposed to do? Well, either way, my new Vespa S150 doesn’t start and the kick start was a total waste of time.

  • 18
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    Comment by Will

    September 16, 2009 @ 4:32 pm

    After work, my Vespa wouldn’t start and a parking officer (who has a scooter) managed to get it starting for me but I was in a hurry and didn’t find out how it was done (he did try many times before it worked). I then rode to the other side of London (about 30 mins by train) to a noodle bar in a quiet street and at about 10pm, decided to head home. Surprise surprise, my scooter wouldn’t start, and pretty soon the battery started going flat. I tried to start my Vespa with the kickstart for about 20 mins to no avail. I was just about to give up when I decided to look up “kick start vespa” on google on my blackberry and found your instructions. It didn’t happen first time, but after about 5 minutes, it jumped to life! You have no idea how grateful I am for your instructions!!

    Anyway – I will say that yes, it does feel like the kick start is a total gimmick. It’s not like you feel the scooter is getting closer and closer to starting. It’s basically nothing, totally no signs of life and then all of a sudden it kicks to life.

    Now does anyone know whether it’s a case of a flat battery? The lights seem quite bright when it first doesn’t start. I get once chance with the electric ignition and if it didn’t work after one push, it feels like the battery is discharged. I’m curious if it could be anything other than the battery, as I’m assuming if it is possible to kick start, then everything else (eg starting motor, spark plugs etc) must be working fine. I don’t want to go to the trouble of getting a new battery if it turns out that it is something else.

  • 19
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    Comment by Jeff

    October 1, 2009 @ 10:38 am

    Thanks very much for that.
    Couldn’t get mine to kick start this morning and actually had to boost it.
    Felt pretty dumb.
    Now I know the throttle and no brake trick. Interesting. Jeff

  • 20
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    Comment by cheetohh

    October 2, 2009 @ 12:12 am

    I’ve been having cold weather starting issues w/my s150 since temps started getting below 65. the s150 is essentially the same bike as the lx150 particularly the leader engine. I’ve had the same problem w/bendix gear as stated earlier. I’ll start bike up let it run on low throttle for 15min then cut it off wait 5min & engine kicks over. after warming up bike I tried kick start no success. then I pulled in brake kicked & bike started 3 different times. my s150 is an 08 so maybe there is some change to the 08 & 09 leader engines that allow for the brake lever to be in when kick starting.

  • 21
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    Comment by cheo

    November 22, 2009 @ 2:28 pm

    You rock!!!!! My wife’s vespa couldn’t start, I goggled ideas, sent her your method and she just called me to say that you fucking rock!!!
    Thanks man!!

  • 22
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    Comment by DKL

    December 27, 2009 @ 10:18 am

    best to get the engine on “Top-Dead-Center” or TDC. This is the point that Noah @10 was explaining. If you gently push the kick-start lever down it will be easy and then it will seem to stick. At that point you are at TDC. Now let the lever return to the top and then give it good kick. Don’t stomp on the lever, but rather push your foot down – there is a difference. Should work the first time assuming you haven’t flooded the carb with too much gas.

  • 23
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    Comment by angie

    February 21, 2010 @ 8:50 am

    i have a 2008 vespa which as the weather is cold i have not been riding needed to move it from my brother in law garage as he was moving but could not get it started called out recovery but the man could not start it either in the end i had to get it sent back to the dealer where i bought it as it started leaking out all the fuel. This was repaired and my husband who is a biker a rides very large bike rode it home for me .He was told that we need to start it often or it will not start even if we are not riding it during the cold period.So we have been trying to start the damn thing for ages without much luck. I google today and found your instructions i wrote it down then went down stairs and we tried it and bingo the scooter started and is now running away happily outside.Thanks for sharing your experience with others .

  • 24
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    Comment by Sacha

    April 9, 2010 @ 7:01 pm

    Hello,
    I was wondering why there was a kick start on an automatic, when they guy who sold me the vespa said it was only cosmetic. so I’m glad i found your information. thank you so much. I hope I won’t need it, but it’s a great read and very informative

  • 25
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    Comment by ken

    April 25, 2010 @ 5:22 pm

    I found that if I stand behind the bike and hold the chrome hand grab behind the seat and kick with my left foot I have a lot more control . When warm does not need any gas. When cold needs gas and a second person. Hope this helps.

  • 26
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    Comment by Demir

    May 25, 2010 @ 6:53 am

    Hi – I find that by turning the throttle 2 or 3 times before starting to kickstart, then following the steps from step 5 (above) also helps. This is mainly because by auto choke is weak. Mine is an ET4 1999.

  • 27
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    Comment by Kate Ward

    July 25, 2010 @ 4:14 pm

    Your advice was right on. I started my 2007 lx50 (on the kickstand) after about 20 kicks (with no brakes … 1/2 throttle) and there was no difference between kick #1-#20 … had no idea it was going to start but was certainly thrilled when it did. Had to try this after I got something out of glove box and left the key in the on position (the lock is acting up too) I rode it for over 25 miles (thought that should recharge the battery) then tried the electric start – and nothing. Glad I can at least kick start it now !!

  • 28
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    Comment by eric

    August 30, 2010 @ 2:51 pm

    cheers it worked first time! ur a life saver!

  • 29
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    Comment by Bruce

    January 23, 2011 @ 11:20 pm

    I have a 2004 ET4; wouldn’t start this weekend, despite signs that the battery has at least some charge left in it. I have tried the kick start technique, but it doesn’t seem to do anything. No spinning of the rear wheel, no noise- but it does look like it turns the post the pedal itself is connected to. Any ideas? Still worth trying the kick start w/ throttle as you recommend?

  • 30
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    Comment by Jay Dee

    August 29, 2011 @ 12:31 am

    So, keep the stand down.(I think that’s where I am going wrong!!!!) Let go of Break & Clutch lever (ensure neutral is selected – obviously?) Pull choke half way. And kick. I’ll try that. I “know” my battery is flat – I just want to start it and charge up the battery!!! Mine is a 1963 Classic!!!

  • 31
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    Comment by BGA

    November 16, 2011 @ 11:22 pm

    Not that it matters, but why does not holding the brake make a difference? My battery is dead and will recharge/replace tomorrow. I’ll try the no brake thing in the morning but for today’s purpose, it took me about 5-7 minutes of kicking before it turned over (on all 3 occasions). I had no idea how much gas to give/holding the brake/TDC or anything. It was all just wasted energy. – I couldn’t wait to get on it today after kick starting it as I had sweat up a storm trying to get it stared! Hahaha. Will comment again tomorrow for results.
    Thanks so much for the ‘free’ advice. (I’m in a country where I pay for MB downloaded to my phone! Wah wah wah…). I miss the USA. God bless you all.

  • 32
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    Comment by KLD

    December 10, 2011 @ 5:09 am

    The original post is over 5 years old and still going strong unlike my LX50!

    I tried to start it yesterday after the poor thing sitting in the cold and ice for a few weeks and nothing…..

    Today I will endeavour to get it started using the kickstart. I don’t have a central stand so hope the side stand is strong enough to take the kicks. I will feedback on my success (or failure).

  • 33
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    Comment by pascal

    February 16, 2012 @ 4:39 pm

    hello, i would like to know if anyone has the same problem I have with my ET4:
    I tried several times in the past to kick start and now the kick is doing an awful
    sound like “trrraaaack” when I try to use it, also it doesn’t come back upwards
    after kicking anymore. if some parts are broken inside the kickstart of the engine
    does it may harm other parts of the engine? or does it needs to be greased
    somewhere ?
    thank you for any advice!

  • 34
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    Comment by Borje

    April 3, 2012 @ 11:41 am

    I have been working witth Vesa sales and service for more than ten years.
    The kick start funktion is there to help you get started in an emergency with a flat battery.
    Using the kick start daily as a replacement of the electric starter will grind down the claw grip kick mechanism. Easy to repair but an unnecessary expence.
    My experience is that the 125 cc bikes are much easire to kickstart than the 15o cc (I don” know why).

    As someone else posted, 4 stroke engines will only start on every four cycle.
    You can, with a bit practice “feel” when the compression is building up by carefully move the kickstart up and down with your foot until it reaches a state where is feel very heawy. At that position force the kick down and give a bit of throttle.
    It should start the bike. Thus get the engine in the starting position.

    The stand need to be down. The stand is designed to block the kick as an Automatic otherwice may run off with out the rider. The rear wheel should not touch the ground while starting, using the electric starter, the break circuit ensure that the rider has their hands on the brakes – giving same safe result.

    Do not attempt to force down the kickstarter if the restistance from the engine feel very, very heawy, you may have something in the cylinder (such as gasoline from a leaking fueltap) blocking the piston and you may harm the engine forcing it to rotate.

    The most common problem with the electric starter is a broken brake circuit. If the electric starter don’t work, try using the other break handle at the same time as you push the start button (or check if the breaklight work using either breakhandle).

    Finally: the 125 and 150 cc fourstroke vespas have a acceleration pump in the carburator. twisting the throttle while trying to start the engine will flood the cylinder with gasoline and the engine will not start. To avoid it to happen open the throttle carfully twisting the gashandle once and keep it in the desired position while kicking. You should be able to start in on one to three attempts. (unless it has been stored for a long period of time)

  • 35
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    Comment by Beth

    April 5, 2012 @ 4:22 pm

    I’ve got a 2005 Stella (same as older Vespas). The NO BRAKE did it for me, second kick after sitting with a low battery. Thank you! This brought back memories of when I first got the scooter and couldn’t figure out why if started in first it would kill when releasing the clutch. I was told it is a safety feature, but not mentioned in the manual that I could find…so could the brake feature also be a way of forcing the start in N safely? ~Happy Trails!

  • 36
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    Comment by gavin

    November 15, 2012 @ 2:28 pm

    holding or not holding the brake handle should not make any difference, this is merely a safety device for the the electric starter. Also it should start with out throttle. As a previous post pointed out the accelerator pump squirts a tiny bit of petrol into the air intake every time you turn the twist grip, so careful not to flood it. The auto choke should take care of the mixture if cold starting. If the kick starter itself is stiff and doesn’t return on its own you will need to free it up by removing the transmission cover and servicing the mechanism – not for the faint hearted! Oh, by the way the scoot should kick start, even without a battery. I refer to the ET4 and LX 125’s – I have rebuilt 4 of them and they are the same.

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