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Florida Motorcycle Handbook: Mechanical Problems

The Florida Motorcycle Driver Handbook contains all of the information that you need to familiarize yourself with the concepts on the license exam!

Florida Motorcycle Handbook: Mechanical Problems

Table of Contents

5. Ride within your Abilities

You can find yourself in an emergency the moment something goes wrong with your motorcycle. In dealing with any mechanical problem, take into account the road and traffic conditions you face. Here are some guidelines that can help you handle mechanical problems safely.


You will seldom hear a tire go flat. If the motorcycle starts handling differently, it may be a tire failure. This can be dangerous. You must be able to tell from the way the motorcycle reacts. If one of your tires suddenly loses air, react quickly to keep your balance. Pull off and check the tires.

If the front tire goes flat, the steering will feel "heavy." A front-wheel flat is particularly hazardous because it affects your steering. You have to steer well to keep your balance. If the rear tire goes flat, the back of the motorcycle may jerk or sway from side to side.

If either tire goes flat while riding:

  • Hold handlegrips firmly, ease off the throttle, and keep a straight course.
  • If braking is required, however, gradually apply the brake of the tire that isn't flat, if you are sure which one it is.
  • When the motorcycle slows, edge to the side of the road, squeeze the clutch and stop.


Twist the throttle back and forth several times. If the throttle cable is stuck, this may free it. If the throttle stays stuck immediately operate the engine cut-off switch and pull in the clutch at the same time. This will remove power from the rear wheel, though engine noise may not immediately decline. Once the motorcycle is "under control," pull off and stop.

After you have stopped, check the throttle cable carefully to find the source of the trouble. Make certain the throttle works freely before you start to ride again.

5.18.3 - WOBBLE

A "wobble" occurs when the front wheel and handlebars suddenly start to shake from side to side at any speed. Most wobbles can be traced to improper loading, unsuitable accessories or incorrect tire pressure. If you are carrying a heavy load, lighten it. If you can't, shift it. Center the weight lower and farther forward on the motorcycle. Make sure tire pressure, spring pre-load, air shocks and dampers are at the settings recommended for that much weight. Make sure windshields and fairings are mounted properly.

Check for poorly adjusted steering; worn steering parts; a front wheel that is bent, misaligned, or out of balance; loose wheel bearings or spokes; and swingarm bearings. If none of these are determined to be the cause, have the motorcycle checked out thoroughly by a qualified professional.

Trying to "accelerate out of a wobble" will only make the motorcycle more unstable. Instead:

  • Grip the handlebars firmly, but don't fight the wobble.
  • Close the throttle gradually to slow down. Do not apply the brakes; braking could make the wobble worse.
  • Move your weight as far forward and down as possible.
  • Pull off the road as soon as you can to fix the problem.


A chain that slips or breaks while you're riding could lock the rear wheel and cause your cycle to skid. Chain slippage or breakage can be avoided by proper maintenance.

  • Slippage - If the chain slips when you try to speed up quickly or ride uphill, pull off the road. Check the chain and sprockets. Tightening the chain may help. If the problem is a worn or stretched chain or worn or bent sprockets, replace the chain, the sprockets or both before riding again.
  • Breakage - You'll notice an instant loss of power to the rear wheel. Close the throttle and brake to a stop.


When the engine "locks" or "freezes" it is usually low on oil. The engine's moving parts can't move smoothly against each other, and the engine overheats. The first sign may be a loss of engine power or a change in the engine's sound. Squeeze the clutch lever to disengage the engine from the rear wheel. Pull off the road and stop. Check the oil. If needed, oil should be added as soon as possible or the engine will seize. When this happens, the effect is the same as a locked rear wheel. Let the engine cool before restarting.