2011 Harley Softail Cranks But Won’t Start

The title “2011 Harley Softail Cranks But Won’t Start” pertains to a scenario encountered in motorcycles, particularly the 2011 Harley Softail model, where the engine’s crankshaft is turned over in an attempt to start the engine, but the bike fails to ignite and begin running. In essence, while the act of turning the crankshaft initiates the process to activate the engine, the motorcycle does not fire up and turn on as expected. This situation highlights a common issue in internal combustion engines, where the engine goes through the motions of cranking and turning over, yet the necessary combustion to start the engine and sustain its operation does not occur. This phenomenon can be attributed to various underlying factors and requires a comprehensive diagnosis to identify and rectify the problem.

Applicable Models

The provided troubleshooting guide is tailored to correspond with the specific year of each model. This guide is directly applicable to the following motorcycles listed below:

  • 2011 Softail – FXST Softail
  • 2011 Softail – FLSTC Heritage Softail Classic
  • 2011 Softail – FLSTN Softail Deluxe
  • 2011 Softail – FLSTSB Cross Bones
  • 2011 Softail – FXCWC Rocker Custom
  • 2011 Softail – FLSTF Fat Boy
  • 2011 Softail – FLSTFB Fat Boy Low
  • 2011 Softail – FLSTFB Fat Boy Special
  • 2011 Softail – FLSTC Shrine
  • 2011 Softail – FLSTSE2 CVO Convertible

Engine Turns Over But Does Not Start 

Here’s a brief explanation for each of the listed probable causes of why the 2011 Harley Softail cranks but won’t start:

  1. Fuel Tank Empty: The motorcycle’s fuel tank lacks the required amount of fuel needed for combustion. Without sufficient fuel, the engine cannot start and run.
  2. Fouled Spark Plugs: The spark plugs, responsible for igniting the fuel-air mixture, are covered in deposits or contaminants. This hinders their ability to generate a spark and initiate combustion.
  3. Discharged Battery, Loose or Damaged Battery Terminal Connections: A weakened or dead battery, along with loose or damaged connections between the battery and the motorcycle’s electrical system, can prevent the necessary electrical power from reaching critical components for ignition.
  4. Engine Lubricant Too Heavy (Winter Operation): During colder weather, if the engine’s lubricant (oil) is too viscous, it can impede the internal components’ movement and make it difficult for the engine to turn over smoothly.
  5. Spark Plug Cables in Bad Condition and Shorting, Cable Connections Loose or Cables Connected to Incorrect Cylinders: Damaged or shorted spark plug cables, loose connections, or incorrect cable placements can disrupt the flow of electrical current, preventing proper ignition.
  6. Loose Wire Connection at Coil, Battery, or ECM Connector: Loose connections at the coil (which generates spark), battery, or ECM (Engine Control Module) can result in intermittent or no electrical contact, impacting ignition.
  7. Ignition Timing Incorrect Due to Faulty Coil, ECM, or Sensors: If the timing of the spark generation is off due to a faulty coil, ECM, or sensors responsible for engine information, combustion won’t occur at the right moment for the engine to start.
  8. Bank Angle Sensor Tripped and Ignition Switch Not Cycled OFF then Back to IGNITION: If the motorcycle has been tipped over or the bank angle sensor has triggered, the ignition system might need to be reset by turning the ignition switch off and then back to the ignition position.
  9. Fuel Filter Clogged: A clogged fuel filter restricts the flow of fuel to the engine, leading to insufficient fuel supply for combustion.
  10. Sticking or Damaged Valve(s) or Wrong Length Push Rod(s): Valves that are stuck open or closed, damaged, or push rods of incorrect length can disrupt the intake and exhaust process necessary for combustion.
  11. Plugged Fuel Injectors: If fuel injectors are blocked or restricted, they won’t be able to deliver the proper amount of fuel into the engine cylinders for combustion.

Remember that these explanations provide an overview of the potential issues that can cause a cranking-but-not-starting situation in a 2011 Harley Softail. Diagnosing and addressing the exact problem might require careful inspection and troubleshooting by a skilled technician.


Harley-Davidson. (2011). Softail Service Manual: Chapter 1.27 Troubleshooting, Page 83.

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