All-terrain vehicles (ATVs) offer recreational opportunities for individuals who enjoy outdoor activities and want a fun way to get around where conventional motorized vehicles cannot. Whether you use your ATV for pleasure or work, keeping it mechanically sound ensures that it is ready to go when you need to use the vehicle. The ability to start your ATV is a primary maintenance consideration; if it does not work, you are not likely to get very far. As an ATV owner, you can benefit from knowing how to keep your machine ready to go at a moment's notice.
Components in an ATV Starter System
Most late model ATVs come with push-button starting systems; hop on the driver's seat, put the transmission in neutral, and hit the starter button. Some models require the clutch to be disengaged for the starter to spin. Check the operating instructions of your ATV to be certain that you are following proper starting procedures. Pushing the ATV starter button opens a power feed to the starter relay, which, in turn, provides battery voltage to the starter. A failure in any one of these components is likely to prevent the engine from turning over and starting,
Common ATV Starter System Failures
A weak or dead battery is the most common cause of ATV no-start conditions. If battery voltage is good, a failed starter relay does not allow voltage to reach the starter. Voltage at the starter with no activity generally means that the starter has experienced an internal failure and likely requires replacement. If the starter spins and the ATV's motor does not start, this indicates a failure in the ignition system. Most ignition system no-start conditions require following a diagnostic procedure laid out in the ATV's service manual to determine the exact cause of the failure. Problems isolated in the three basic components of the starting system are much easier to diagnose.
Testing an ATV Starter
Begin your starter test by checking the battery for proper voltage. Using a multimeter, set the indicator to voltage test and touch the positive lead to the positive terminal of the battery, the negative lead to the negative terminal of the battery, and read the voltage. Your ATV battery should hold 12 volts. A reading in the 10- to 12-volt range should provide enough power to adequately spin the starter. Battery readings of less than 10 volts require recharging the battery. Use a trickle charge battery charger for best results. With the leads in contact with the battery, try to start the ATV. If battery voltage drops dramatically below 8 volts during starting, attempt to replace the battery if charging fails to rectify the issue.
With good battery voltage, trace the positive battery cable to the input side of the starter relay. Using the voltmeter, place the positive probe on the input connection of the relay, ground the negative probe to the chassis of the ATV, and hit the starter button. Voltage at the starter relay should read close to the voltage reading of the battery. Perform the same test on the output side of the starter relay to make sure current is flowing through the relay.
Locate the positive battery input to the ATV starter. Perform the same voltage test at the starter itself. If voltage is reaching the starter and the motor is not turning, starter failure is the most probable cause. To verify your findings, remove the starter from the vehicle and perform a bench test.
Bench Testing an ATV Starter
With the starter motor removed from the ATV, securely clamp the starter into a bench vise. Be careful not to crush or damage the starter casing. Using a battery with jumper cables, attach the cable connections to the battery; red to positive and black to negative. Take the opposite ends of the cables and attach the black negative lead to the case of the starter and the red positive lead to the starter's power input connector. If the starter fails to spin, replace the ATV starter.
How to Buy an ATV Starter on eBay
If you need to replace your ATV's starter, a great place to shop for parts is on eBay. Enter the make and model of your ATV along with the words "starter motor" into the search bar on any page and click on the search button. Seller listings display with all of the items that match your keywords. Use the filter menu to narrow down the search selection to find the exact part you need. The sense of accomplishment when performing the job yourself only matches the satisfaction of saving the expense of paying someone to do the job for you.