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7 Common Reasons Your ATV Won’t Start

ATV not starting

Nothing is worse than getting ready to use your ATV or UTV and realizing your ride won’t start. Now, instead of getting your adrenaline pumping on the trails, your blood pressure is rising as you try to figure out what’s wrong with your off-roader. To help you out, ATV Trader has put together seven common reasons your ATV or UTV won’t start.

1. Your Kill Switch is Engaged

The kill switch, also known as the run switch, is used in emergency situations to shut off the engine of your off-road vehicle. Kill switches come in various forms, depending on your ATV or UTV, such as buttons, pulls, tethers and remote control. 

For your quad to start, the kill switch should be in the “on” or “run” position. This is one of the most common reasons a four-wheeler or side-by-side isn’t starting up, and it’s also the simplest to fix.

2. Your ATV Battery is Dead

Maintaining your off-roaders battery is a critical part of ownership. If the battery level is too low, or you’re riding with an old battery, you’ll likely have a problem starting up your ATV or UTV. You can check the battery’s level using a voltmeter. Just be sure to follow the battery’s recommended charging rate to avoid overcharging.

You  should also check that the battery lead connections are tightened and the terminals are clean and free of corrosion. These issues can also cause your engine to turn over slowly or not start.

3. You Have No Fuel

Along with regularly checking your battery level, you should also make sure your ATV or UTV has enough gas in the tank before you head out to tear up the trails. In fact, checking the fuel levels is one of our steps for conducting a pre-ride inspection

Off-road vehicles are equipped with a fuel level warning light that will come on when the gas drops below a certain level. Instead of putting it off until your next ride, refuel your quad as soon as possible to avoid a headache in the future. Be sure to also frequently check your fuel line for cracks and leaks that can cause your off-roader to lose fuel faster.

4. Your Fuel is Bad

It’s not just a lack of fuel that can cause your engine to not start. Water or old gas can cause corrosion in your fuel system. This can often happen when you try to ride after your ATV or UTV after its winter storage. If this is your issue, you should drain your fuel system and refuel with your manufacturer’s recommended gas.

5. Your Engine Isn’t Getting Any Spark

The spark plug is what starts the engine of your off-road vehicle, continuously firing to keep the engine running. It can be easy to neglect the condition and care of the spark plug, causing the engine to not start.

You should, however, periodically check the condition of your spark plug. Heat and deposits can cause your spark plug to slowly erod, so it may need to be cleaned to ensure it’s working effectively.

Fortunately, spark plugs are inexpensive and easy to replace just by using a wrench. Just make sure you buy the right spark plug for your engine so it’s gapped correctly. Your vehicle’s owner’s manual should have the recommended spark plug to use, as well as the gap size.

6. You Aren’t Getting Enough Air Flow

Kicking up dust or riding on mud-covered trails can wreak havoc on your off-roaders air filter. The air filter keeps particles and other debris from getting inside the engine. A dirty or clogged air filter can cause your engine to stall or not start because air can’t get in.

To avoid this, make sure you follow your manufacturer’s recommendations to know how often to clean and replace the air filter. You should also make a habit of doing this more often if you ride in unusually wet or dusty conditions.

7. You Aren’t Getting Enough Compression

The compression in your four-wheeler or side-by-side pulls fuel into the cylinder to keep your ride running smoothly. Low compression can cause a number of problems, including trouble starting up your ATV or UTV. Performing a compression test can indicate whether or not your off-road vehicle has low compression. Check out this video to learn how to do an ATV compression test on a Polaris ATV.

There are a few solutions for fixing low compression, depending on what specifically is causing the issue. Most often, low compression results from problems like broken valves, worn out piston rings, a cracked spark plug, and more.

If your ATV or UTV won’t start because of one of these seven reasons, you can typically make a quick fix and spend the rest of the day bearing down on the trails. While most of these are relatively easy and inexpensive fixes, it’s always a safe bet to take your off-road vehicle to a skilled mechanic if you aren’t familiar with the type of maintenance required.

Shopping for a new or used off-road vehicle? Begin your search on the nationwide online marketplace at


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Arielle Patterson
Arielle Patterson

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