Harley-Davidson® Ultra Won't Start In Gear - Diagnosis & Repair

Harley-Davidson® Ultra Won't Start In Gear - Diagnosis & Repair

by Cliff John August 30, 2018

We had a 2014 Harley-Davidson Ultra Classic in the shop last week with an issue that the bike will not start in gear even when the clutch is pulled. The customer also mentioned cruise control is not working, so we definitely knew we had an electrical problem on our hands.

This is actually common problem on the 14+ Touring motorcycles, but we never guess what an issue/fix most likely is or could be. Our first step is always to verify the customers concern.

Verifying The Problem

So, we put the bike on one of our lifts and placed the bike in neutral to ensure it does actually start. The start in neutral was successful. So, next we turned the bike off, put it in gear, pulled the clutch and hit the start button – nothing. We confirmed the bike definitely will not start in gear.

From here, we always diagnose these types of issues further by using our Snap-on Modis Edge Diagnostic System. To do that, we had to remove the bikes saddlebag and side cover in order to gain access to the data link connector – also called Harley-Davidson's OBD-II port - and hook it up to the scanning tool.

With the Snap-on Diagnostic System hooked up, we started working through the appropriate menu items, as follows, to diagnose the entire bike (refer to video above for more details):

  1. Scanner 
  2. Harley-Davidson 
  3. We auto-identified this bike 
  4. Continue 
  5. Display Fitted System List 
  6. Ok (if displaying correct vehicle information) 
  7. Code Scan – this bike is smart enough to throw a code for problems with the hand controls 

After completing the scan the computer returned one code – that there was an issue with the left front turn signal.

Then, we went in to the Body Control Module to see if we could get live data:

  1. Body Control Module 
  2. Continue 
  3. Data 
  4. Body Controle Module Data 
  5. Hand Control Left Module 
  6. Continue 
  7. Data 

From here, we were able to access live data from the scan tool to complete the diagnostic process. The good news is the Harley-Davidson has been nice enough to give us data for everything the left switch housing does:

  • Clutch Lever Switch 
  • Odometer Trigger Switch 
  • Horn Switch 
  • High Beam Switch 
  • Flash To Pass Switch 
  • Turn Signal Switch – Left 
  • Voice Recognition Switch 
  • Home Switch (inactive on this bike) 

We worked through some of these functions to ensure they are in fact working. By doing this, we are trying to establish that the left-hand switch control module is talking to the BCM.

By working through the functions, we were able to confirm the Clutch Lever Switch status is not changing on the computer (press/released) when pulling in and releasing the clutch lever.

This is exactly why the bike is not starting in gear - because the bike needs to know the clutch is pulled in to start. This is also why the cruise control does not work because the cruise control can be cancelled by pulling in the clutch – so the bike is automatically not going to allow the cruise control to work if it doesn’t have that signal.

At this point, without a doubt, we’ve confirmed the left switch module is bad and needs to be replaced.

Completing The Repair

We disassembled and removed the left and right switch packs and replaced both sides with the lighted hand control switches (HD part #: 71500243B). Why? Well, the upgraded lighted switches go for $250 and the non-lighted stock replacement goes for $220. In our opinion, the $30 difference to upgrade to lighted hand control switches is a no-brainer.

Harley-Davidson Lighted Hand Control Switches
After installing the upgraded switches, to verify the repair was successful, we simply turned the bike on, put it in gear, pulled the clutch and hit the start button – she fired up perfectly. The repair was confirmed successful.

Wrapping It Up

As we stated above, it is a common problem that 14+ Harley-Davidson Touring models will not start in gear. It’s a fairly straight-forward diagnostic and repair process and we’ve recommended a cost-effective upgrade that gives you a little nicer motorcycle.

If you have this issue and your bike is under warranty – get it fixed. If you have this issue and your bike is under extended warranty – get it fixed. If you’re not under warranty and you just hate broken functions on your motorcycle (like we do!) - get it fixed and seriously consider the upgrade to the lighted version.

Having this issue and have a question? Give us a call at the shop (301.825.9007), leave a comment below or submit a contact form. We’ll be happy to help in any way we can.

In need of any other repair, maintenance or customization? Hit us up, even if just to kick around ideas - we are always thrilled to talk Harley-Davidson. 

Cliff John
Cliff John


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