Why Do Motorcycles Have Kill Switches?

Recently, my friends decided to reunite for a bike ride, because we had a bike gang in secondary school. People called us Five Pumpkins’. Well, because we mostly wore yellow to look cool back then. My 18-year-old cousin joined us too. On the road, we shared old memories and our trash jokes.

It was a lot of fun and joy. But as a biker, I noticed an absurd mistake my cousin was making every time we stopped at a signal. Despite having a kill switch, he used ignition key every time. so me being me, I decided to give him a quick rundown on the benefits of using the kill switch.

What’s a kill switch?

Kill Switch is a red colour safety mechanism button on the right side of the handlebar of the motorcycle to quickly shut down the engine and switch back on without reaching for the keys.

Kill switches are not limited in the definition. The kill switch or the engine cut OFF’ switch or emergency switch on a motorcycle is made to optimize the rider, as it helps to switch the engine on and OFF’ without lifting hands from the throttle. It’s particularly helpful in case of emergencies and also in saving fuel which will be discussed below but before jumping into that.

What's In This Guide?

      How Do Kill Switches Work?

      The kill switch is installed to cut the power supply from the engine as quickly and safely as possible. Of course, this depends on the type of kill switch that’s installed, but the most common way it works is by involving the spark plug.

      Understand this, the kill switch is connected to the engine via wires. So there is a certain amount of electricity and power that is being regularly flowing till the kill switch is ON’ (The electric circuit is complete). And when the kill switch is OFF’ the electricity is blocked and the electric circuit is broken which blocks the combustion of power from the engine.

      In simple language, when the kill switch is, the flow of electricity through wires to the spark plug is cut out, due to which the motorcycle engine stops supplying power to the device, making the motorcycle eventually stop.

      A lot of people have this question in mind whether they should use the ignition key or kill switch to turn OFF’ the motorcycle. So here below is the answer to this question. We will be discussing both the ways to turn OFF’ the engine of the motorcycle.

      The Best Way To Properly Turn Off A Motorcycle?

      As discussed above why do motorcycle have to kill switch and how it works let’s see what is the best way to turn OFF’ the motorcycle. Depending on whether the turn OFF’ has to be short or long. Here are the ways by which you can turn OFF’ your motorcycle.

       There are two ways to turn OFF’ a motorcycle:

      1. Ignition Switch method

      2. Kill Switch method

      In the ignition switch method, there is a connection between the fuel pump and engine. There are 3 positions in the ignition switch. Number one is OFF’’ position where the engine cannot start and the key can be safely removed. Number two is On’ position the engine can be started, and the key cannot be removed in this position. Number three is Lock’ position where the steering is locked. All electrical circuits are disconnected in this position.

      In kill switch method full power of the engine is not cut OFF’, only the engine is turned OFF’ and the battery is still in power, if the ignition key is on. Means the light gauze and other digital monitor are on’ when the kill switch is OFF’. 

      Everything has its pros and cons. The use of the Ignition key switch is to completely switch OFF’ the engine, useful when the motorcycle has to be parked for a long period of time whereas kill switch only kills the engine power leaving the battery on, useful in signals and traffic and emergencies. Both are useful if used in the correct way.  

      Do All Motorcycle Have Switches?

      Every motorcycle is unique in its structure and design and undoubtedly expensive in some or the other way, so safety instalment is a must. The kill switch was made especially for emergency crises to quickly shut OFF’ the power from the device.

      In the modern era, there is no motorcycle that comes without a kill switch. Technology is advancing and so are the risks. And to at least minimize the risk manufacturing companies make sure they install a kill switch in their motorcycle. 

      Before the red button kill switch, there were motorcycles that had the kill switch but not on the handle. The rider has to bend towards his either side and turn ON’ and OFF’ the key or pull the lever in the vault which was mounted close to the fuel tank near the rider’s knee.

      Do Kill Switches Affect The Health Of Your Engine?

      The kill switch controls the ignition. That means there is a lot of power and energy in control of your hand. As mentioned above the functions of a kill switch, it’s up to you how frequently you use the kill switch.

      Surely the kill switch was made to be used in case of emergency power OFF’ but regular use of the kill switch can definitely affect the health of your engine. Here is how. The kill switch is a mechanism and with regular and intense use of a machine, it deprives its functioning.

      When there a continuous flow and break of electricity and fuel, the engine combustion gets disturbed, eventually leaving the battery to deteriorate. But don’t worry it takes a lot of breaking to completely shut down an engine. Unless used pointlessly kill switches are safe to use. 

      How To Know When A Kill Switch Has Been Operated?

      When a responsible and optimized rider is on the way to its destination, he\she has to make sure to save the motorcycle resources as much as possible that include fuel and batteries and eventually money. And as we know that when the kill switch is used for a long period of time, battery drain can be an issue.

      So to be aware and know whether or not your kill switch is being operated, here is something you should know.

      The kill switch is the ‘red button‘ on the right side of the handlebar and beside the throttle with an ON’ and OFF’’ writing or semi-circle with an arrow sign printed below and the same sign cut out with a cross is above the button.

      So, in order to operate the kill switch, you have to press it upwards. Which means now the engine is turned OFF’ but the lights and, gauze, indicators still work as kill switch does not turn OFF’ the battery. Also, self-start does not work.

      How To Install A Kill Switch?

      Here below are the instructions to install a kill switch on your motorcycle. Step by step ways for installation. 

      1. Determine what model your motorcycle has and accordingly get an ON’ and OFF’’ switch. You can buy it from a store or online.
      2. To install the kill switch you will need to access the ignition switch wiring of your motorcycle. To access the wire remove the motorcycle head visor and you’ll find the wires. 
      3. Cut the wire long enough so that it can connect the kill switch and the ignition wire which is under the head visor.
      4. Once gained access to the wires, connect the ignition wires with the switch wires. You can do it with the help of your vehicle manual or simply by contacting the manufacturer or dealer.
      5. Mount the kill switch in the motorcycle handle once the wires are connected and make sure the wires run through the meter not hanging around.
      6. Check by ignition ON’ and then turn ON’ the kill switch, then turn OFF’’ the kill switch and check again while keeping the kill switch ON’.

      Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

      What happens when you press the kill switch on a motorcycle while speeding?

      The motorcycle will slow down and eventually come to stop as the engine will not produce power to operate.

      Is the kill switch on a motorcycle just as on\’OFF’ switch?

      Yes, it is the same as the on and OFF switch.

      Why do we use kill switch in bikes for?

      There is a full article above explaining every aspect of the kill switch, but besides that here is what kill switch in bikes are for.

      • It lowers the fuel consumption as in signals when the motorcycle is stationary still the engine consumes petrol for power but if the kill switch is ON’, then the engine does not supply power and thus saves fuel.
      • Check Pollution Emission Rate.

      Can a faulty kill switch cause a motorcycle to stall?

      Yes, it can. The kill switch and engine are connected through wires and different springs, so a loose wire or faults in the spring may result in stalling the motorcycle.

      Should I have a strict habit of using a kill switch?

      Kill switch’s frequent use won’t hurt the engine but remember to turn off the ignition key after you have turned the kill switch OFF’ or else the battery will run out.


      With the information provided above I hope it is clear to you why do motorcycles have kill switches and how does it function. Along with the most important questions that have been already answered, here below are some frequently asked questions to definitely check out to clear more doubts, if it pops on your mind, so read on.

      Leon Angus

      Leon Angus

      I love bikes. All types, but mainly motorbikes (or motorcycles for those in the U.S.). I'm a qualified Motorsport Engineer that currently lives in the UK and drives trains for a living (weird combo, don't ask), I love to cook, into fitness and ride bikes for funsies! This website is my path back into the motor industry where I can share helpful advice for bikers along the way. Learn More about my mission here

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      Leon Angus

      Leon Angus

      I love bikes. All types, but mainly motorbikes (or motorcycles for those in the U.S.). I'm a qualified Motorsport Engineer that currently lives in the UK and drives trains for a living (weird combo, don't ask), I love to cook, into fitness and ride bikes for funsies! This website is my path back into the motor industry where I can share helpful advice for bikers along the way. Learn More about my mission here

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