ATV Won't Start: Fixing the Most Common Problems

When your ATV doesn’t start, it can be frustrating, inconvenient, worrying, and confusing. There are so many things that cause an ATV to not respond to your will, so it's good to know the most common reasons for an ATV to not start and the symptoms that will clue you in on the real reason behind your quad’s stubborn refusal to get going.

Why isn’t my ATV starting?

atv inspection.jpg

To start, an ATV needs enough fuel, air, spark, and power in the battery. When any of these things are lacking, your ATV won’t start up. 

If these things have been taken care of, there could be a problem with the electrics, such as the kill switch. To work out which of these issues is the most likely, first consider whether the engine is starting at all. 

My ATV engine isn’t turning over at all

atv kill switch.jpg
Image from www.boostatv.com

Is the ATV in gear?

Many ATVs won’t start up if they’re in gear as a safety precaution. Double-check that your ride is in park.

Is the kill switch engaged?

OK, though this is the simplest possible answer to your problem, it’s also the most common reason an engine won’t crank up at all. The kill switch, also known as the run switch, should be in the “RUN” or “ON” position. Some ATVs have a kill switch with a tether pull cord, so make sure this is connected correctly before you start taking apart your machine in frustration.

Is the ATV battery dead?

atv battery.jpg
Image from www.boostatv.com

Your ATV won’t start if the battery doesn’t have enough charge. Check the battery using a voltmeter or multimeter. If you’ve somehow completely discharged the battery, you can use a smart battery charger designed for ATVs to bring it back to life. Sometimes, you’ll simply have to replace the battery if it’s past its prime.

Is the ATV solenoid getting power?

When you turn the key or hit the start button, you should hear a clicking sound. This clicking sound is the solenoid, which is a switch used to send current to your starter. If it’s not getting power from the battery, your ATV won’t start.

You’ll find the solenoid near the starter. Connecting a multimeter (red to red, black to ground) to the solenoid will show you whether the solenoid is getting power. If not, and your battery is charged, there’s a problem with the wiring or connections between the battery and the solenoid.

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My ATV engine turns over but doesn’t start

atv spark plug.jpg

If everything above has been taken care of, your ATV engine should turn over. If it turns over but doesn’t start, we should now consider a potential problem with the fuel, spark, or air systems.

Is the ATV engine getting fuel?

Let’s assume your ATV has adequate fuel and the fuel shut-off valve has not been closed off. Find your spark plug, which is usually behind some protective casing. On a carbureted ATV, remove the spark-plug wire, while on a fuel-injected ATV, remove the ignition coil. To take out the spark plug, use a spark-plug removal tool. 

Check to see if the spark plug is dry. If so, the fuel isn’t getting to your cylinder. There is a problem either with the fuel pump or the lines between the gas tank and the carb. This will require finding the location of the problem through a process of elimination and then cleaning. 

If the problem lies in the fuel intake system, there are different repair steps for carbureted ATVs and electronic fuel injection ATVs. It will be required to consult your manufacturer’s user guide for details on how to repair the fuel filter, fuel pump, or fuel injector.

Is the ATV engine getting enough spark?

If the spark plug is wet, it may still not be getting enough spark. The easiest way to diagnose this is to use an inline spark tester that fits between the spark plug and the coil/wire. Pressing the starter button should cause the test tool to light up, allowing you to eliminate this as the source of the problem.

If the tool shows there’s a problem with the spark, try testing the kill switch with a multimeter, checking for damaged wires, replacing the spark plug. If none of these relatively simple fixes restores the spark, you may have to replace the ignition coil.

Is the ATV getting enough air?

Your gas tank or gas cap will have a small vent for air to enter and escape. As fuel is pumped out of the gas tank, air is pulled in to replace it. If your gas vent is clogged, the fuel pump won’t be able to draw gas from the gas tank.

These are the main reasons an ATV won’t start and how to troubleshoot the issue. Check them all in turn, and you’ll quickly find the root of your problem and have your ATV back on the road in no time.

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