ATV Dies When Give It Gas (Check these first)


Aragh I know the feeling, there’s never a good time for a mechanical fault, not to worry, we’ll get it figured out.

The top 4 reasons an ATV dies when you give it gas:

  1. Not enough gas
  2. Too much gas
  3. Ignition fault
  4. Plugged muffler

In this post you’ll learn about the most likely causes of a stalling ATV, and what you can do to fix them.

In my experience, three common faults cause this condition, dirty main fuel jet, incorrect fuel mix setting, and incorrect needle clip position.

We’ll cover all of these in this post and other possibilities too.

Fuel System Outline

Most stalling issues are caused by a fueling issue, either too little or too much. Before we get into the detail your problem, it may be helpful to have an outline of how an ATV fuel system works and the fuel ratio it likes.

Some modern ATV’s use closed loop ECU controlled fuel systems, this guide doesn’t cover those type models. If you have a closed loop type system, begin your diagnoses by reading DTC’S. (Diagnostic Trouble Codes).

Most older ATV’s run carburetor type fuel systems, and this guide will cover those.

Your ATV carburetor is a precise piece of kit and is tasked with three distinct jobs.

  1. Mix air and gas together to a precise ratio
  2. Supply the correct quantity for the given engine load
  3. Hold a sufficient store of gas in reserve

Gas engines like to run with an air fuel ratio (AFR) of 14.7 parts air to one part gas. This is the optimum ratio and is know as “Stoichiometric”.

When a technician tunes your carburetor, this is the ratio he’s chasing. As you’ll learn, lots of things effect the AFR, most can be controlled by the rider but some can’t.

Diagnosing

To help narrow down the cause of our problem, it is first helpful to get the answers to a few questions.

Question 1:

Does your condition improve if you apply the choke lever? If it does, you have a lean condition. See adjusting your carburetor below.

Question 2:

Does removing the air filter help? If it does, your engine is running rich. See adjusting carburetor below.

Question 3:

Does the engine only die if you open the throttle quickly? If it does, you accelerator pump may need attention.

Question 4:

Does your engine die if you open the throttle both quickly and slowly? If it does your main jet may be clogged.

Question 5:

What’s the spark plug condition? A black plug indicates a rich running engine and a grey/white plug indicates a lean condition.

Question 6:

Have you made any mods like bigger air filter or exhaust, or change in altitude or temperature? These type changes will require a fuel adjustment and possibly a re-jetting of the carburetor.

All diagnoses should begin with fresh gas in the tank and a clean air-filter. You should also know that clogged carburetor jets cause the most running issues. It never hurts to remove and clean your carburetor thoroughly.

The answers to the above questions will put you on the correct path.

Running Lean

When your engine isn’t receiving enough gas in proportion to air, it’s know as running lean. Or another way to look as this situation – the engine is getting too much air.

Symptoms of a lean engine vary by how lean it’s running, but here’s a few of the more common ones:

  • Hanging idle
  • Surging
  • Bogging
  • Stalling
  • Popping
  • Starts and dies
  • Only runs on choke
  • Dies when give it gas

The causes of a lean engine are just as varied, here’s a list of the more common ones:

  • Cold ambient temperatures or higher altitudes – adjust mix
  • Mix out of adjustment – adjust mix
  • Stale gas – replace with fresh gas
  • Blocked carb jets – remove and clean carb
  • Low bowl fuel level – adjust float
  • Engine mods – mods like bigger air filters or quick flow exhausts will likely require re-jetting the carburetor
  • Vacuum leak – check carb bolts are tight and carb gaskets and manifolds for leaks
  • Faulty fuel pump – check fuel flow
  • Valve lash out of spec – adjust

Accelerator Pump

A very common cause of stalling when giving it gas is an accelerator pump fault. The pump is only used when you gun the throttle from idle.

Its purpose is to inject a shot of gas into the carburetor which helps counteract the lean condition caused by the rush of air as you nail the throttle wide open.

How does it work? The system employs two main components:

  1. Pump
  2. Leak jet

The Pump consists of a rubber diaphragm, fuel orifice and adjustable cam. When activated, the throttle assembly pushes on the pump cam causing the diaphragm to shoot gas through an orifice directed at the venuri.

Adjusting the point of contact between the throttle and pump cam effects the timing and duration of the gas shot. A good gas shot should last about one second and be timed to barely miss the slide as it opens.

If the gas shot hits the slide, its effectiveness is reduced. Adjust the cam so that the shot arrives just after the slide lifts.

Problems with the pump include:

  • Timing off
  • Worn Diaphragm

You can check your pump operation by removing the intake ducting and operating the throttle quickly and observing the gas shot.

The Leak jet removes gas when not needed by the pump. When the throttle is opened slowly, the gas simply passes through the leak jet and back to the carburetor bowl.

The quantity of gas supplied by the pump is directly effected by the size of leak jet. Smaller leak jet supplies more gas to the pump, and a bigger leak jet reduces the volume of gas to the pump.

Problems with the leak jet include:

  • Incorrect sizing
  • Blockages

The volume of gas supplied by the accelerator pump is directly effected by timing, duration and the leak jet fitted.

You can eliminate this as a possible cause, by opening the throttle slowly. If the problem doesn’t present, your accelerator pump needs attention. If the problem does persist, try adjusting the carburetor, see below.

Running Rich

Your engine is said to be running rich (aka fat) when it’s receiving too much gas in proportion to the volume of air it’s receiving. Or another way to look at this – your engine isn’t receiving enough air.

Symptoms of a rich running engine, include:

  • Bogging
  • Stalling
  • Backfiring
  • Black smoke
  • Misfiring
  • Wet plug
  • Black plug

Common causes of a rich running engine, include:

  • Mix out of adjustment – adjust
  • Dirty air filter – clean or replace
  • Leaking float needle – replace
  • High bowl float level – adjust
  • Faulty Petcock – replace
  • Faulty carb – replace
  • Incorrectly jetted carb – re-jet

Adjusting Carburetor Fuel Mix

Adjusting your mix is a little technical but not brain surgery. Most ATV carburetors will have 3 fuel circuits.

  • Pilot – supply’s gas at all throttle stages but is solely responsible for idling to 1/4 throttle
  • Needle jet – supply’s gas between 1/4 to 3/4 throttle
  • Main jet – supply’s gas to needle jet circuit, but is solely responsible for 3/4 to full throttle

A standard adjusting procedure looks like this –

Step 1

Begin with a warm engine, check how the throttle responds throughout the range.

Turn engine off, find your base setting by turning the mix screw all the way home (clockwise) until it seats, count the number of turns. (1.5 to 2 is normal).

Return the screw to its original setting.

Step 2

Start the engine and turn the mix screw clockwise until the engine stalls.

Step 3

Restart the engine, now turn the screw anti-clockwise until the engine stalls.

Step 4

Restart the engine and turn the mix screw clockwise until the engine rpm is at its highest.

Step 5

Now reduce the idle screw to where the idle is smooth, anywhere from 1000- 1500 rpm.

If after this procedure, your mix screw is set to more than 2 turns out or less than one turn out, it’s a strong indication your carburetor needs re-jetting.

Your mix screw is now set correctly, the throttle should respond sharply and without hesitation or bog.

If it does bog, your:

  • Needle clip position may need adjusting
  • Carburetor main jet is dirty
  • Carburetor needs re-jetting

Needle Clip Position

Your needle lives in the hart of your carburetor and to access it you’ll need to remove it from the bike. The needle moves up and down inside the emulsion tube in response to throttle application.

The higher the needle inside the emulsion tube the more gas the engine gets.

A clip at the top of the needle sets the base height of the needle. At its tip, it has 5 positions, the clip is usually set to the 3rd position down.

Moving the clip down one position, will hold the needle higher up and help supply more gas.

Adjusting clip position is a trial and error procedure, a systematic approach works best as removing and fitting some carbs can be a pain in the ass.

Ignition Fault

An ignition fault can allow a bike to idle but fail at higher rpm. Here’s some the checks you can make.

Some bikes will run without a battery while others require a strong fully charged battery. Use a volt meter and check your battery, check also that the battery is charging at idle, anything over 12.65 indicates it’s charging.

Visually check the condition of your plug, cap, plug wire and coil. Using a simple in line spark tester, fit the tester and check spark as you give the bike gas.

If the spark in the inspection window is failing, you’ll need to check the resistor cap and run a resistance test on the coil, stator, and pickup.

Plugged Exhaust

This isn’t a hugely common cause of stalling but it does happen. The spark arrester inside the exhaust becomes caked in soot, so thick that exhaust gases can’t get out and it causes the engine to stall at anything above idle.

With the engine idling, hold a shop towel firmly over the tail pipe using a gloved hand. Release it after 3-4 seconds, the pressure built up should be great, if it s weak it suggests a partial blockage.

Go ahead and remove your spark arrester and clean it.

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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