ATV Won't Start After Washing: How to Fix It

There’s an extra challenge involved with maintaining an ATV. We have to wash them after every ride to keep them in good shape, but spraying all that water can loosen or damage internal parts that are necessary for the vehicle to run. This post will tell you what to do if your ATV won’t start and how to keep this from happening next time to give your ATV a good clean.

There are several potential causes for an ATV not starting, but you can simplify the situation starting with diagnosing the problem by noticing the symptoms.

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ATV Cranking Over

If your engine turns when you hit start, but it doesn’t go on to run, this is called cranking over. It’s usually caused by a loose battery terminal or neutral switch wiring or it could be a problem with the starter solenoid.

This happens when the ignition system is wet. Water disrupts the voltage flow, causing a short so that the voltage never reaches the spark plug and the 4 wheeler won’t start.

You can prove if this is the cause by accessing the spark plug wire. You may have to take off a side cover to get to it. It will take some twisting and tugging to get the plug wire out. Then, you’ll want to look at the spark plug, the coil wire cap, and the coil for water.

Fixing a Wet Ignition System

This part is pretty easy. You can dry out the ignition system in several ways:

  • Spraying compressed air on all of the wet components.
  • Towel drying all of the wet components.
  • Spraying WD-40 on the wet components to push the water out.
  • Air drying indoors if you aren’t having humid weather or the room isn’t humid.

Compressed air Is the best all-around option.

Engine flooding

Things may be more complicated. When you cranked your engine, particularly if you did it several times to make sure you couldn’t get it to start, you may have flooded your engine with gas and potentially fouled your spark plug.

If you dry out the ignition system, but the engine is flooded, your four-wheeler won’t start.

Thankfully, many engines will fix themselves because the gas simply evaporates. This should take around half an hour. If this isn’t your engine or you don’t want to wait, you can crank the engine with full throttle and no choke.

If the ATV won’t start after that, you can use a plug wrench to remove the spark plug. Make sure the space you’re working in is well-ventilated and put on some eye protection because you’ll need to crank again and doing so with a spark plug removed will spray gas. Also make sure to remove the coil power supply before cranking to prevent a fire around that gas. You do this by removing the plug wire, removing the plug, removing the coil power feed, and covering the plug hole with a rag. If the spark plug is fine or only slightly dirtied, you can clean it and replace all of the parts you just removed.

A heavily fouled spark plug will probably need to be replaced. You can try to clean it, but it may not work. Even if it does, you’ll probably experience reduced performance.

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Not Cranking At All

If your engine won’t even turn over, you probably knocked something loose while pressure washing.

This could be caused by a loose:

  • battery terminal
  • main fuse
  • ignition switch wiring
  • starter solenoid
  • transmission neutral switch
  • start button

Other Reasons for a Quad Not Starting

If none of the above apply, there are still more reasons you may have to be searching why my ATV won’t start.

Your ATV may not be starting because there is water in the:

  • CDI unit or ECU
  • stator housing
  • air filter
  • carburetor
  • fuel injector

There could also be dirt in the kill switch or switch for the starter button. You can clean those.

If the quad was running while you washed it, you may have damaged valves or piston rings.

You can check each option. Start with the air filter because it’s the easiest. You can then research what to do about which ever of those scenarios is causing your problem.

How To Wash Your ATV Without Causing a Problem

First, some people recommend using a pressure washer to clean an ATV, but it shouldn’t be necessary and makes it much more likely that you’ll knock something loose or get water somewhere it shouldn’t be.

You can use a regular garden hose and some soap to get most of your vehicle as clean as it needs to be. The main problem may be your radiator. It does need to be thoroughly cleaned, but you can purchase a cheap tool to help you get all the debris out of there without having to use a pressure washer.

If you do need to use a pressure washer, turn down the psi.

Be very careful spraying around the:

  • engine
  •  transmission
  • axle
  • brakes
  • chain

Don’t spray at all around:

  • the ignition system
  • carburetor
  • air box
  • battery
  • CDI
  • dash clock
  • throttle controls

You can also spray WD-40 on various parts you want to protect from water to repel the moisture. Wrapping no spray components in plastic before you begin washing can help too.


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