Vespa Scooter Problems

by Ma Wen Jie

Vespa is an Italian scooter manufacturer that has been in business since 1943. The Piaggio Corporation owns the Vespa brand. Because of this, identical scooter models are sometimes marketed under both the Vespa brand and the Piaggio brand, depending on the country where the scooter is sold. Although very reliable and very high quality, Vespas, like all other vehicles, can have some common problems.


Vespa scooters were introduced in 1943. Early scooter models were 2-stroke models that used a magneto to provide power to the spark plug and for the headlight and blinkers. Later models added modern features such as a battery, electric start and continuously variable (CV) transmission to do away with the need for a clutch and gearbox.

2-Cycle Issues

Two-cycle engines use oil mixed with the fuel for engine lubrication. Very early Vespas required the rider to mix the engine oil with the gasoline before adding the fuel to the scooter. Later models, which were still quite early, used an oil injection system. If your scooter has an oil injection system, in some cases this system can fail. If it does, you can still manually mix your gas. However, it is not as convenient as simply adding gas and oil separately when they run out.

Starting Problems in Vintage Scooters

Older Vespa scooters can be difficult to start during cold weather. Vespas use a manual choke system to help with cold weather starting. Once your Vespa sputters to life, it will run fine. However, getting it started can be a challenge. In reality, each scooter, choke and carburetor are a little different, so what works on one scooter might not work on another. When starting your Vespa in cold weather, start with the choke 1/4 of the way out and increase it every four or five kicks on the starter.

Older Vespa scooters that will not start even in warm weather may have a number of problems. The carburetor may need to be rebuilt on a scooter that has not run for many years. However, if your scooter has been running and now will not start, the problem may well be the scooter’s coil, magneto or kill switch. Many older models have no key, and when the kill switch fails, it may prevent spark from reaching the spark plug.

Modern Starting Problems

Modern Vespas are as complex as any other modern scooter. This is an advantage when they are working well. Modern Vespas are easy to start. They have automatic chokes and automatic transmissions. Usually, starting your modern Vespa is as simple as turning the key, squeezing the brake and pressing the start button. However, some modern Vespas have had issues with faulty kill switches. The kill switch is designed to cut all power to the engine in an emergency situation or other situation where you need to turn off the engine but cannot reach the key. If your modern Vespa won’t start, and you know the battery is good, try replacing the kill switch.

Lighting Problems

Modern Vespas are very reliable. Because they have a battery, there are very few problems with lights and signals. However, many vintage Vespas do not have a battery and may only have a 6-volt lighting system. These lights are not very bright. If your Vespa is old enough to not have a battery, the light will dim when the engine is idling. As you rev the engine, it will produce more power and your light will be brighter. Turn signals on older Vespas without batteries may stop flashing if the engine drops below a certain speed. To prevent this, adjust your carburetor’s idle speed until the engine produces enough power for the turn signals to flash when the engine is idling.

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