Trouble starting Honda Rebel 250

I have a 2007 Honda Rebel 250 cc. It sat for 4 months unused and I had to replace the battery. Afterwards it was running fine, although never with the choke all the way off because I wasn’t using it that frequently. Since it has gotten cold-ish (in the 50s and 40s) I have only been able to get it to start once, and it took 30 minutes to get it there. It has now been three weeks since I got it to run at all, the starter engine works and sometimes I get a few chugs out of the engine before it dies and then each attempt at starting afterwards results in a buzzing battery. When it was running there were no problems with it. The starting routine I’ve been using is turn fuel on, turn ignition on, put in neutral, compress clutch and push starter button. I can’t run fast enough with it and I don’t live on a hill, so jumping it while moving isn’t an option.

I’m wondering if it just is having trouble starting with the cold fuel after not running for so long and if pushing it into my friend’s garage would solve the temperature problem? or if I should be looking for some other problem.

How old is the fuel? What do the plugs look like?

Before doing anything else, try draining your gas tank and carburettor float bowl and putting in some fresh gas. Not only is the gas in your tank fairly old but it likely is a low vapor pressure summer blend to boot.

Refineries mix up a different gasoline blend for winter, it vaporizes more easily for cold weather starts. Summer gasoline has a lower vapor pressure to prevent vapor lock problems when it’s 100 degrees out there.

What you are experiencing is a common problem with engines that see seasonal use, lawn mowers, outboards, motorcycles, etc. Cars get used regularly enough that they turn over the fuel in their tanks before it can get stale and so this problem is seldom seen in cars.

Drain the oil and refill with 5W-30 or 0W-30 for winter starts on a motorcycle. The 10W-30 oil gets thick in cold weather and the starter on a cycle isn’t that strong so it turns over “slow” and makes it harder to get the bike started. Putting it in a warmer garage (with the heat on) should help it start.

If it won’t run smoothly after a few minutes to warm up you could have a problem with the carb. You should not need to keep the choke on to keep it running after it is running for 1 or 2 mins. If you must keep the choke on there is a problem that could contribute to the hard start. Since you use the bike infrequently you might have stale gas in the tank. Drain and refill with fresh gas and stabilize the fresh gas too.

To be on the safe side only use Honda motorcycle oil. Automotive oil may not have the right formulation for use on a motorcycle. My two Hondas, an 82 V45 Sabre and a 99 Shadow 750, both required Honda oil since the oil is shared between the engine and transmission.

A motorcycle battery’s best friend is a Battery Tender:
A Battery Tender will keep the battery at full charge, otherwise the battery will not last long at all.

Ed B.

you have a weak battery and probably shouldn’t be running this in the cold unless you change oil weight, and also clean up the spark plug.

the carbs are always going to be on the touchy side as everyone’s above comments are adding to your lack of success.

clean out the carbs and you will have more success.

Thanks for the tips guys. The gas is fairly new, filled it a few weeks ago the last time the tank ran and I cleaned out the carb last spring. But I’ll try for the oil change, battery care and getting the thing into a warmer environment

edb1961, Honda brand oil is no better than other brands of motorcycle oil. I ride a 2005 Shadow 750, and while the owner’s manual recommends Honda brand oil, any motorcycle oil that meets the specs is what is really required. I’ve never used Honda oil in any of my Hondas (a 1998 Civic, a 2005 Shadow Aero, and a 2003 Nighthawk 750), and I’ve never had an oil related issue.

portlandrebel, the choke is only for warming up the engine. You should never ride the bike with the choke out because the rich fuel mixture isn’t good for the engine. If the engine won’t idle with the choke in, you probably need carb work, but whatever you do, don’t ride the thing the the choke out.

Just make sure you are using the proper viscosity, and make sure you are using motorcycle oil, not motor oil for cars.


i don’t use motorcycle specific oil due to cost. i buy super tech at Wally World and make sure on the back it is not labeled enegy conserving. ie 5W30 is energy conserving so i don’t use that, but 10W40 is not so I can use that for my inline 4 sport bike and the Vtwin gets 20W50(I think/can’t remember exactly off the top of my head)

Oil is oil as far as your bike is concerned…just use the correct weight for the current temp outside and you will be fine…Dino or Synth your choice…but moto cycle oil is no different than car oil…it may have some other additives but nothing major…I’ve been using conventional oil in all of my VAST fleet of bikes for years and years with not a single oil related issue. Dont believe the hype and DONT pay 8 bucks a qt for Motorcycle specific oil…it makes no dif. I have put over 30K on my Blackbird with normal oil…I think I have been using Semi-Synth for a while…but not needed really.

Your carb is dirty on the inside… The fuel has probably turned to molasses at one time and this will clog up the very small ports or holes in the main jet and pretty much any other small orifice in the carb… Remove your tank…drain the carb bowl and take off the carbs… YOu can then buy a gallon of carb cleaner and put all of the metal carb parts in there to soak for a couple days…then remove the parts and make sure all of the small holes in the carbs are clean…I usually use a bit of copper wire from a stranded piece of speaker wire or other fine gauge wire…sometimes I pull a few wires from a long bristled wire brush to go thru all of the small ports on the carb jets and ports. Compressed air helps a lot here too. Remember to NEVER IMMERSE ANY RUBBER PARTS in the carb chemical bath. Then put everything back together and you will have a perfectly running Rebel…if you did all of this carefully and everything is back where it should be.

Motorcycles are one of my long time hobbies…I’ve been working on them since I was 12yrs old…now 39. I have resurrected more dead motorcycles than anyone I know…FAR more than 200 to date…each of them that has sat for years or more ALL need the same thing… YOu can do this without the carb chemical…the stuff is REALLY REALLY NASTY, so be careful with it…its not essential…but when you do as many carbs as I do its nice to have as it restores carbs to near new…it melts the old gummy fuel no problem and does a pretty nice job… I am sure with your bike you could do all of this work with some carb spray and the fine wire I described…Your choice… I always have a gallon of that nasty stuff on hand tho…it has made me a lot of money over the years and totally worth it.

** If you DO find thew gallon of carb cleaner…remember to WEAR GLOVES!!! The stuff STINKS to high heaven and it will make your skin STINK TOO>…and it wont go away for about a week or longer…Trust me… Oh yeah its also highly Cancerous…lol… YOu can tell by the smell that its bad stuff…works great…but its EVIL stuff man.


“moto cycle oil is no different than car oil…it may have some other additives…”

Which is it? Are they same or does motorcycle have different additives? I don’t see how both statements can be true.

I don’t pay $8/quart for my motorcycle oil. I pay $5/quart, and I think the additives make motorcycle oil a different product. I think since my bikes hold less than 3 quarts each, I am going to stick with it. After all, motorcycle oil is used by the engine, the transmission, and the wet clutch. Car oil is only asked to do one job, not three at a time.

True I should’ve said that they could be different…

The only difference I have ever been able to discern are the statements that they say motorcycle oil has a higher film strength due to the oil both lubricating the engine internals as well as lubricating the transmission. I dont know if this is true or not…could be and does make sense. But at any rate I have put over 100K collectively on motorcycles using conventional automotive oil with never a single problem.

So MAAYBE they are slightly different, I just have’nt seen any issues with using normal oil… To be honest I dont really care that much about the subject to argue about it… Use whatever makes you feel confident in your machine

In the beginning…I believe Automotive oil was all there was… Motorcycle specific oil is a relatively modern item…is’nt it? I mean in the days of the British invasion of cycles…in the 60’s there was only one type of oil to select…that was automotive oil. I believe this to be true.

At any rate those spending top dollar for cycle specific oil are of course free to do so I just think it is wasting money IMHO… I could be wrong, but none of my bikes have told me otherwise thus far. Until they do I am not going to deviate from what has been rock solid reliability. All of my bikes are still going strong…very strong

I’m sure this topic could go on and on…

Honda bikes are all very cold-blooded…When starting cold, use full choke and do not open the throttle at all! Some of these had an “automatic” fuel shut-off valve or an electric fuel pump to feed the carb…Follow the fuel line from the tank to the carb looking for strange things…

Not that this is your issue, (I’m 99% sure its a gummed/dirty carb) but…Most Honda cycles of this vintage also have a vacuum diaphragm on the fuel petcock… When you turn the fuel on to 'run" The fuel will not actually run out the tap so to speak…it relys on engine vacuum pulse to open (flutter actually) the diaphragm on the petcock… Many X these spring loaded rubber diaphragms get hard instead of being very flexible…this hardness affects the way it responds to the vacuum pulse…usually they either stick open allowing fuel to flow…or they don’t flap properly…each issue causes different problems… I have resurrected many diaphragms with a soak in brake fluid to get them flexible again until I can obtain a new one…it works surprisingly well actually… Not sure why I volunteered this info as I know it isnt your issue…Just something to be aware of maybe…


Motorcycle oils have to be compatible with a wet clutch, unless you ride a dry clutch motorcycle, such as a BMW, Moto Guzzi, or some Ducati models or the primary and clutch has its own separate oil apart from the engine such as old Triump, BSA, Norton and older Harleys.
Look for JASO-MA or JASO-MB on the oil label.
I use Shell Rotella 5W-40 in my bike which meets the JASO standards.

That Rotella is made for Diesel Trucks…NO?

Yes it is specifically made for diesel trucks, just like car oil is made for cars. It has served me quite well however

“moto cycle oil is no different than car oil…it may have some other additives…”

Which is it? Are they same or does motorcycle have different additives? I don’t see how both statements can be true.

Let me try to explain this again. The major difference in some “car” oils is that they have friction modifiers added to be more smooth and more efficient. Not good for motorcycles that use that same oil for the clutch. You can tell if these added modifiers are in the car oil or not by the “energy conserving sign” on the back of the bottle.

If it says energy conserving, then you don’t want to use it for your motorcycle. (not that you can’t/as Blackbird has proved with over 100K miles) but that is the major difference. Car oil with friction mods can make the clutch slip. So just avoid those types and you will be fine.

Jesus…should I do a retraction? I was only trying to say that Ive used automotive oil in all my cycles for over 100K with no probs… I admit I was a bit cocky so I guess I deserve the onslaught… But hey you can learn something every day…today is one of those days and I appreciate the info… I will use this info in the future for sure. I dont propose to be an oil chemist. Now that you mention it…I dont claim to have used the energy conserving oil either…in fact I think I havent… I bet I have been fumbling thru with dumb luck thus far…

I see your point about the additives possibly messing with the clutches…and that makes sense…but being ignorant of this…I’ve used regular oil…who knows about energy conserving oil…not sure if I ever used that as they are usually thinner, no? I usually use valvoline 10-30W 10-40W or even 20-50W Nothing fancier than that…maybe if I did choose the wrong automotive oil I would have seen issues…quite possibly it was just dumb luck for me. SO perhaps a retraction in light of new evidence is in order?

I’m a man…I can admit if I am wrong…YOu guys certainly make a good case for this. Gdawgs…How is the Diesel truck oil different? No super slippy additives then? I think I have used this in the past as well…in cars and cycles.

I can tell you that the Blackbird is NOT suffering from ANY clutch issues…as the last quarter mile pass was 10.1sec at 142mph I think? Shes putting down 150ish at the rear wheel… Its FAAAST to say the very least and with me weighing in at 150lbs wet…she doesnt even know I am on it…lol Top speed acheived thus far was in the 175+ range…and I backed off it definitely had more as I was still accelerating rather hard at the time…I got a little too puckered up to go further and didnt even glance at the speedo after it swept 170…so…Trouble I know

I bet that I never encountered the energy Star stuff…that is entirely possible!!! I believe you about the slippery additives… SO

OFFICIAL RETRACTION: Motorcycle Oil IS DIFFERENT than automotive oil…DO NOT USE ANY auto based oils with the Energy Star logo…they are too slippy for our wet clutches… OK? OK… LOL… I have no issues with this info at all.

Honda Blackbird, I think gdawgs was attempting to answer my question, and add to your answer, not participate in a pile-on on you. Perhaps you should read more of his post than just the beginning.

A few years ago, when money was tight, I used normal 10W-40 (without the energy conserving icon on the label) in my Shadow, but I waited with anticipation for my next oil change to get that stuff out of there and use motorcycle oil. I’ve read in other forums that you can use normal oil in a motorcycle, but if you do, you should probably change it more often than if you use motorcycle oil.

This is an interesting debate, but I am pretty sure the oil isn’t what’s causing the OP’s problems.

Since most Honda motorcycle dealerships I’ve seen charge at least $60 for an oil change, I figure I am coming out ahead if I pay a little extra for Valvoline motorcycle oil and do my own oil change for less than $20. I could probably get away with $12 motorcycle oil changes, but I don’t really see the point.