ATV Click No Start (This is why)


Click! click! click! Don’t let it spoil your day, I’ll bet we can have her up and humming in no time at all.

The most common cause of a click sound when attempting to start an ATV, is a flat battery. Other possible causes of a click sound include:

  • Loose battery connections
  • Dirty battery connections
  • Faulty battery
  • Bad starter solenoid
  • Bad starter
  • Bad start button/wiring

In this post you’ll learn about all the most likely causes of your ATV click sound, you’ll learn how to diagnose it and also how to fix it.

Loose ATV Battery Cables

Loose battery connections causes high resistance which prevents battery voltage getting to the starter motor, it also prevents your battery receiving a proper charge.

Loose connections will mimic the sound of a flat battery. You can still start your ATV if your engine is fitted with a pull starter.

It’s a common fault and a really simple fix. A battery is pretty heavy and if a battery isn’t secured firmly with a bracket, the cables tend to work loose as the battery is moving about.

To check, just give the battery cables a little wiggle and see if they’re loose. Tightening will solve the problem and you’ll need to secure the battery if it’s loose.

Dirty ATV Battery Connections

After checking for loose connections, go ahead and check that they’re clean. Rusty battery wires or white acid corrosion on the battery posts will cause high resistance.

You’ll need to remove them to clean them thoroughly. Acid will burn the skin, so gloves and eye protection is advised.

To easily remove the white crusty corrosion sprinkle some baking soda on the terminals and add a small amount of water, this will neutralize the acid and remove the corrosion.

Use a wire brush to clean the surface. Now remove the terminals and clean around the poles and the terminals. Apply a coat of petroleum jelly to help protect against corrosion.

Flat Battery

This is the most likely cause of the clicking sound as you hit the key. A flat battery is sooo common, especially in ATV’s that lay up for a time. Batteries usually give the most trouble in the colder months of the year.

How to check your ATV battery volts

The best way is with a battery tester or a DVOM (Digital Volt Ohm Meter). But if you don’t have one just go ahead and turn the lights on if they’re dim, you can bet you found your problem.

If you have a DVOM, then go ahead and connect it up, set the meter to 20v DC – Red test cable to positive (+) pole of battery and the black test cable to the negative pole (-) of the battery.

Your ATV is known as a 12 volt system, even though your battery is actually measures 12.65 volts when full.

Hold the test leads firmly on the battery and record the reading.

  • 12.65 volts 100% charged
  • 12.4 volts 75% charged
  • 12.2 volts 50% charged
  • 12.0 volts 25% charged
  • 11.9 volts discharged (Flat)

A reading below 12.4 volts and your ATV may struggle to crank the engine.

If your battery is low, you can attempt to jump start from another vehicle or charge your battery with a battery charger.

Charging ATV Battery

All batteries need to be charged and discharged, it’s what keeps them healthy and alive. Batteries hate the cold and they hate being left to discharge. It’s not uncommon for a battery to prematurely die because it wasn’t used regularly.

If you have a battery charger, they’re easy to attach. Ideally you’d disconnect the negative terminal, but it won’t hurt if you don’t. Just don’t attempt to start the engine with the charger attached.

Connect the charger Black to negative battery pole and Red to positive pole before plugging the charger in. Your battery may take 2-3 hours to charge fully depending on the amp rating of the charger and how low the battery is.

If you don’t have a battery charger, considering buying a smart charger. It will charge your battery, and is designed to be connected to your ATV when not in use.

The smart charger charges your battery only when needed without risk of over charging, and you’ll never avoid disappointing click click click!

If your battery is very discharged, your charger may not turn on. This is a safety feature of the battery charger and will need to be overridden. Here’s the hack –

  • Disconnect your charger for the moment.
  • Connect another good battery using booster cables. Your car, truck, riding mower all run the same 12v system. Connect your boosters cables Red to Red and Black to Black.
  • Now reconnect your charger and turn it on
  • After about thirty minutes, you can remove the donor battery and booster cables and continue charging your battery.

Jump Starting ATV

Your ATV is a 12 volt system as is your car, truck and riding mower. All can be safely used to boost start your ATV. You’ll need a good set of jump cables and obviously a donor vehicle.

Position the vehicle so that the cables reach your ATV’s battery posts comfortably. Connect your jumpers in the following sequence:

  1. Connect both Red Positive (+) jump cable ends to ATV’s and cars Positive (+) battery post.
  2. Connect one end of your Black Negative (-) jump cable to the cars Negative (-) battery post and the the other end to ATV chassis ground (Chassis ground is any rust & paint free metal such as engine block).
  3. Start your ATV.
  4. Remove the jumper cables in reverse order.

Checking ATV Battery Health

Battery failure is common these days, batteries seem to only last 3 to 4 years, but when I was a lad…..

Checking the voltage is only part of checking your battery health. Your battery will need to be at least 75% charged for this test. So if it’s soft, you’ll need to charge it.

Cranking Battery Test – It is possible for a faulty battery to show a full 12.65 volts. For this test we’ll connect a DVOM to the ATV and have a helper crank it over. If the battery voltage on the DVOM reads below 9.6 volts while cranking for 3-4 seconds, you’ll need to make a trip to the auto store.

Bad ATV Starter Solenoid

ATV starter solenoids give lots of trouble and it doesn’t surprise me really. The places they bolt these things, honestly, I find it hard to understand. Some of them double as a mud flap.

To locate your starter solenoid, follow the positive wire from the battery and you’ll eventually reach the starter solenoid.

Corrosion on the connectors is common as is broken or corroded wiring on older bikes. The wiring might not be noticeably damaged, but internally the copper wiring corrodes. You can try the wiggle test as you hit the start button to see if it makes a difference.

Testing ATV Starter Solenoid

Testing is straight forward, make sure your bike is in neutral with the brake applied. We’re going to attempt to crank over the engine by crossing the solenoid.

Your engine won’t start unless you want it to, if so, turn on the ignition switch, but for this test you can leave it off.

  1. Go ahead an remove the rubber shield covering the solenoid battery cable terminals.
  2. Using a suitable plastic handled screwdriver cross the solenoid poles.

If the engine cranked over without issue, replace the solenoid.

If, however your engine still won’t crank over, you may have a battery issue. You can eliminate this as a possibility by connecting a known good battery and repeating the test.

If the engine still won’t crank, you may have:

  • Hydro-locked engine – cylinder full of gas caused by a leaking carburetor needle seal. Remove the spark plug to release the gas.
  • Jammed starter motor – starter motor caught in the ring gear, remove the starter, test and refit.
  • Excessive valve lash – cylinder compression too high, adjust the valves.
  • Jumped timing – engine crank and cam shaft timing is critical
  • Internal engine fault – component such as con-rod come loose and locking the engine or engine seized. Strip to diagnose.

Bad ATV Starter Motor

Starter motors wear out like any motor, they have a pretty tough job. Symptoms vary from intermittent starts to no sound at all when you hit the button, and starter motors can simply seize.

Remove the spark plug and if you have a pull start on your engine try to turn it over and check the starter again by crossing the solenoid. If it still won’t crank, remove the starter for bench testing.

The starters are easy to remove but be mindful of the O-ring seal when re moving. With the starter on the bench, try turning it with your hand, it should be free to turn.

If it’s not you found your problem, have the starter reconditioned or replace it.

If your starter does turn freely by hand, get a set of jumpers and a battery.

  • Hook up your battery and jumpers and place the Red Positive jumper to the power terminal of the starter.
  • Now, using the Black Negative jumper cable end, strike the body of the starter motor. A good starter motor will spin freely.

Bad ATV Start Button

This isn’t a hugely common complaint, but I’ve had a few that have tested my patience. The start button is as you know right out there when it comes to catching the weather as is most other don’t get me wet electrical kit.

Moisture and wiring don’t work well together, a loose, corroded or almost broken wire or failing relay, dirty fuse or bad grounds will all cause high resistance. Which means when you load the circuit, it fails.

Troubleshooting these kinds of problems isn’t hugely complex but it can be tedious as your tracing wiring and stripping components to check and verify.

A wiring diagram for your model will make life a lot easier but it isn’t essential.

Try the wiggle test before investing a lot of time. Often wiggling the wiring loom around the ignition switch, start button, solenoid, relays will reveal the problem.

An engine related such as jumped timing could cause the engine to lock, check the engine turns over, use a wrench or go ahead and check the timing marks.

Related Question

Are ATV batteries 12 volts? Most ATV batteries are known as 12 volt systems. The battery voltage actually measures 12.65 volts when fully charged. Your ATV can be safely jump started from a car or truck, as they too run 12 volt systems.

John Cunningham

John Cunningham is an certified mechanic and writer on ATVFixed.com. I’ve been a mechanic for over twenty years, I use my knowledge and experience to write articles that help fellow gear-heads with all aspects of ATV ownership, from maintenance, repair to troubleshooting.

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