How to test your starter on a polaris atv

How to Fix a Bad Starter Solenoid on an ATV

The starter solenoid on your ATV plays a significant role in starting your machine. The starter solenoid collects a small electrical signal when you turn the ignition key and converts it into a high-voltage signal required to start your ATV engine.

This means your ATV cannot start without a solenoid. Hence, your vehicle not starting might signify a bad solenoid, and you want to test the component and ascertain if a bad solenoid is preventing your machine from starting.

Common signs of a bad solenoid include clicking sounds and intermittent starting problems.

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How to Identify a Bad Starter Solenoid

Different signs point to a bad starter solenoid, but the basic one is the ATV not starting. When you turn the key, you hear the clicking sound of the starter, but the engine is not coming to life.

The starter solenoid can be faulty with minor issues, and the engine still starts. Now, how do you know if the starter solenoid is bad when the ATV engine starts?

A starter solenoid becomes bad gradually before it finally stops functioning. You know your starter solenoid has minor problems when you hear a continuous clicking sound after the engine has started.

Another way to know if your ATV starter solenoid is losing its value is intermittent starting. If you face difficulties starting the machine when you turn the ignition key multiple times before the engine starts, you may need to test your ATV starter solenoid.

The good part of a bad ATV starter solenoid is that while some faults are not repairable and only demand a replacement, you can fix other faults yourself. However, the best way to know if you need to repair or replace a bad ATV starter solenoid is by establishing the type of fault.

How to Fix a Bad Starter Solenoid on an ATV

Again, there are different means to fix a bad solenoid on an ATV starter. The right fix for your solenoid depends on the type of fault. Here are common issues with solenoids and how to fix them:

Blown Fuse: the fuses are a good place to start looking for faults on a solenoid. When a fuse is blown in the circuitry of the solenoid, the starter doesn’t function correctly, but people often overlook this. If any fuses are faulty, you have less work to do as they are easier to repair than any other jobs on the solenoid.

Corroded Wiring: this is more common in old ATVs. The wiring in the circuitry of the solenoid is old and can result in bad connections. Hence, check for a corroded wire in the circuitry if you have an old ATV. If you find any, replace it.

Alternator: when your ATV engine fails to start, you cannot outrightly blame it on a bad starter solenoid. There are other reasons why an ATV engine might not start. A faulty alternator is one. The alternator powers the electrical systems of your ATV and charges the battery when the engine is working. When this component is bad, the ATV might fail to start. Replacing the alternator will solve this issue.

Starter: fixing a bad ATV starter solenoid can mean replacing the whole set of starter and solenoid. This is the case when the solenoid shares a housing with the starter. Hence, if this is the type of system on your vehicle, you want to replace the whole set.



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5 x Most Common Polaris Sportsman Starting Problems! –

When you are an owner of an ATV, your vehicle will encounter many problems. Some may simply be something that causes you to slow down when you’re riding or a minor inconvenience, some might make your vehicle totally useless. Which is more or less what a starter problem does to your ATV.

If you are unable to start your Polaris Sportsman, there are a number of problems that could be causing that, something from an oil change to swapping out batteries could be the solution. But before acting hastily, a little diagnosis is best.

Also read: Are Polaris ATVs Reliable, Check Your Model Here!

Join our free Facebook group and ask your question there. We promise you, you’ll get an answer from one of our team members or group members. Join the group here!

Table of Contents


Battery Problems 

The first thing you might want to check if your Polaris Sportsman doesn’t start when you turn the key would be the battery. Not only is it one of the easiest to access out of most of the other problems, but it is also possibly one of the worst-case scenarios. So knocking that out of the question will surely ease your mind. 

If your engine sputters or if your engine suddenly stops or if you experience sudden power loss and then there is the case of it not starting at all, it would all suggest that the culprit is a bad battery. If you’ve equipped aftermarket electrical accessories that draw power from your battery, it could very well be the cause of your Sportsman starter problem. Your battery can barely power your vitals, and the moment you overload with aftermarket accessories, your battery will fail.

The easiest way to determine if your Polaris Sportsman battery is doing good is to conduct a simple voltage test. All you need to do is find out the recommended voltage output of your sportsman model and hook up the voltage meter.

You have to first take the reading with the ATV idle both with lights on and off, then take another reading while it’s at about 3000 rpm. Cross-reference with recommended voltage output and voilà! You should be able to find out how your battery is performing.

If it does turn out bad, you will need to replace your battery with an aftermarket battery. You should be able to get a good enough replacement in the range of $150 to $200, but if you want to opt for a more powerful battery, it will cost you about $300. Remember, if you are still on the warranty, you can go to your nearest Polaris dealership and get it swapped out.

2. Bad Starter

If you are buffeted by ear-screeching rackets every time you try to get your ATV to turn over, then the possible problem is a bad starter. An owner said:

“2013 Sportsman 500. New battery, but won’t start. Just a loud, obnoxious sound. Assuming it’s a starter problem. Even tried jumping with my quick start and won’t turn over.

This is also a pricey piece to replace, so seeking professional advice on whatever your starter problem is, is not a bad idea. A new starter can cost somewhere from $180 to $400 depending on your model and make. 

Before blaming anything on the starter, it’s best you check the wires first, just in case. If the problem is the starter, then your schedule just got busier. It’s going to take you a few hours to switch out your starter. One of the best ways to do this is to attack it from the left footrest, remove the cover there and go a little deeper, and you’ll get to the CVT. You will need some special tools to get through the outer CVT casing, but the secondary should be easy and that’s it. All you have to do is switch the starter and piece it back together. 

3. Backfiring 

If you can’t start your ATV and hear the engine starting and then stopping, followed by a few loud claps from your exhaust, then there would be a good chance that the spark plug has worn off.

Before you check your spark plug, it’s better if you leave your vehicle out for a little while since this also happens when your vehicle is flooded, so it’s best to eliminate that before you move on to the solenoid.

“Hi, I have a brand-new sportsman. I’m only on my second tank of gas, less than 200 hours on the unit. I have already had to replace the spark plug once. It was severely fouled up. I am less than 5 hours into the new plug and already fouled up bad.
It smells like unburnt fuel on a start-up and pops, hesitates, and dies. Seems to me like the EFI is over-fueling. Has anyone else had problems like this? It was so bad this morning it was backfiring terrible and died. Now it won’t restart at all.”

Spark plugs are considered consumable items since they often wear and need replacement. It is fairly easy to replace one, and they usually only cost about $10 to $15. If the spark plug isn’t what’s wrong, it might be the flywheel timing key. This is also known as a rocket key.

The rocket key of your Polaris Sportsman plays an essential part in your vehicle’s ignition. And if that is damaged, the ignition timing of your ATV goes off instantly. You can easily replace one at home, though it is not that expensive. You may need a few YouTube videos to guide you. 

The flywheel is located on the crankshaft, meaning you have to take that off and access the flywheel, you will need a special tool called a flywheel puller to do this, but once you take apart the flywheel, just remove the broken parts of the old timing key, and install the new one and piece it back together.

4. Inability To Start At Low Temperatures 

One of the small and overlooked issues when it comes to starter problems is actually the temperature. It is common for ATVs to not start in cold temperatures. This is caused by the engine oil used, as it might not be suitable for the weather.

People don’t notice, but in cold climates, you need engine oil with low viscosity and in hot climates, you will need engine oil with high viscosity. If you take it to your dealer, they would advise you to use a different engine oil and this will set it up so that it can work in low temperatures.

This isn’t exactly a hard thing to do or a hard fix, but it is overlooked when you are searching for starter problems. So making sure you have the correct engine oil for the temperature is always a good thing to do.

If you do have the wrong engine oil on your Sportsman, you better drain the oil and pour in new engine oil with the right viscosity. 

5. Buzzing When Trying To Start

You might keep hearing a rather annoying buzzing noise every time you try to start your vehicle. This means the buzzing noise is probably coming from the solenoid. This doesn’t necessarily mean the solenoid has gone bad.

This usually happens when there is not enough power reaching the solenoid. First, you should check the voltage near the solenoid and near the battery’s output, if both are lower than usual, it may be because of a bad battery, and you’ll have to follow the steps mentioned earlier and find a solution for your weak battery.  

If that is not the case and the readings are lower near the solenoid, that means there’s a problem with the wiring.  If you have worked on the wiring of your ATV, then the most probable cause is a loose connection, which should be easy once you find the problem wire. Or there could have been a carbon build-up on the solenoid’s terminals due to sparking. If that’s the case, a good cleaning will do the job.

If the problem is with the wiring, it will cost you next to nothing to get it fixed, but it will take time to figure out where the problem is in all the wiring.




What to do if the ATV won't start

You left the ATV in the garage on a trip or out of town, and when you return after a few weeks, you can no longer start it. Common situation? Even after adding a spark and fresh fuel, the engine only stops for two to three seconds. What could be the effect? After all, before the ATV, he had no problems: it was enough to pass a periodic thorough inspection.

Don't panic: in this case, you can say with almost 100% certainty that the problem is only in gasoline, and not in ATVs. Like any hydrocarbon gas, petrol mixture is volatile and should not be relied upon for a long time. Some of its fractions evaporate, and the remaining gasoline liquid loses its ability to ignite and is no longer a fuel mixture. So your ATV didn't want to ride after a long break.

Causes of ATV failure and troubleshooting

No response starter after turning the key

  • Shut-off valve closed: open it or set it to the “reserve” position. There is old and/or contaminated fuel in the tank: empty the float chambers (small screw at their bottom), check if necessary if they are dirty and top up with new fuel.
  • The fuel vacuum valve does not open: remove the hose from it and crank the engine. If fuel is not flowing, the vacuum diaphragm in the cock or the suction vacuum line is probably to blame. Turn the valve to the PRI or Reserve position.
  • Clogged pipe or fuel cock filter: Remove the pipe from the cock and see if fuel flows when you open it. If so, the secondary fuel filter is clogged and needs to be replaced. If not, remove and clean the faucet.
  • A flooded engine: remove the spark plugs and dry them, turn off the fuel cock, turn off the lights if you can. Fully turn the throttle and engage the starter - the spark plugs should be on the wires and on the engine. Don't touch the candles. Put them on and start the engine.


won't start ATV
  • Air filter clogged: clean or replace.
  • No spark at spark plugs: install new spark plugs, check sockets, wires and ignition coils.
  • Malfunction of the ignition system or engine electrical equipment: check the connection and charge of the battery. Try to see if the bike starts on a different battery. Check the ignition system: the contacts are dry, the cables are in order, the ground is secure.
  • Compression ratio too low: Fault in loose spark plugs, worn piston rings, worn valve seats, or damaged cylinder head gasket. Check the tightness of the spark plugs and, if necessary, the engine compression. If it's still too low, check the heads, pistons and cylinders.

ATV does not start : Electric starter does not turn
  • Engine off - red light on the right side of the steering wheel.
  • Battery voltage is too low, i.e. characteristic chirping of the starter relay is heard: charge or replace the battery.
  • Dirty contacts in the ignition lock or starter button: turn the switch out and clean the contacts, use a special spray for electrical installations.
  • Main fuse or ignition relay blown: check and replace if necessary.
  • Starter motor failure, e.g. due to burnt stator or armature coils: contact a qualified technician.


quad won't start: Starter cranks engine slowly
  • Battery low or cables connected incorrectly: charge or replace battery, clean clips and terminals, check cable connection.
  • The oil is too thick: you bought an ATV in the fall and did not have time to change the oil? It's time for this.

ATV will not start : Starter works but engine is quiet removing it from the motorcycle).

ATV stalls : Starter relay clicks but engine does not start

Loose starter cord or short circuit due to broken wire: check connection, remove rust, check current with multimeter.


stalls : Engine starts hard, chokes, runs erratically and stalls frequently
  • Dirty fuel, rust in tank, dirt in fuel lines, in carburetor: Drain gasoline, clean tank and carburetor, fill with fresh bottle.
  • Idle speed too low: increase it with the speed control knob.
  • Clogged fuel tank vent: Clean vent (plug) or vent tube at engine outlet.
  • Stuck line or choke lever causing engine to run too rich: Remove and clean this item.
  • The engine sucks left air due to damage to the carburetor nozzles: tighten the rubber nozzles and check for cracks.
  • Battery too weak: charge it, check all connections, remove tarnished cables, replace spark plugs if necessary, check ignition pipes or cables.
  • Incorrect electrode gap or ground connection to spark plug: check the type of spark plugs and their condition, set the distance between the electrodes, replace the spark plugs if necessary.
  • Open/broken wire or connector of ignition coil and spark plug tubes, incorrectly installed tube: Pull or unscrew the ignition wire, cut off a small piece and reinstall/screw. Make sure the tube is not rusted and the hoses are properly installed. The engine starts reluctantly, at low speeds there is little power.
  • Incorrectly set valve clearance, worn valve levers; Broken valve springs or worn camshafts: Check valve clearances and adjust them correctly, assess the wear condition of valve clearance adjustment bolts, valve springs and camshafts.
  • Burnt valve seats, worn valve guides, valve sticking: Check compression.
  • Damaged cylinder head gasket, bent or cracked cylinder head: Check cylinder head for oil leaks, note the color of the exhaust gases. On a liquid-cooled engine, white indicates damage to the cylinder head gasket.

The engine is weak and consumes a lot of gasoline

  • Air filter dirty, air intake system clogged: clean / replace the filter. Make sure that all air intake holes are not blocked and that air flows freely into the engine.
  • Ignition or electrical system failure: check that the battery is charged and properly connected, the ignition contacts are dry and the wiring is in order.
  • Too low voltage in the ignition system: charge the battery, check the condition of all connections, remove rust.
  • Faulty candles: check the condition of the candles; Check the gap between the electrodes, adjust if necessary, screw in new spark plugs.

Engine idling rough

  • Valve clearance too large or too small: Set valve clearance correctly according to motorcycle owner's manual.
  • Incorrect mixture ignition timing: adjust.
  • Spark plug sockets or wires not touching the spark plugs properly: pull/unscrew the spark plug wires, cut them piece by piece and reinstall/screw.
  • Ignition module failure: you will find if you try how the equipment talks to a properly working module from another motorcycle of the same type; make sure the ground connection is correct.
  • Out-of-timing carburettors: Adjust the carburettors with a vacuum gauge.
  • Incorrect idle adjustment: adjust.

Engine not running, exhaust gases black

  • Mixture too rich, carburetor out of adjustment, carburetor nozzles worn out and fuel level in float chamber too high: install new nozzles, install float, adjust carburetor.

Engine not running, blue exhaust

  • Too high oil level causes oil to enter the combustion chamber, the crankcase ventilation system transfers oil drops to the air filter container, from where it is sucked back into the engine: check the oil level with a dipstick or eyelet, clean air filter.
  • Worn cylinders and/or pistons, worn or broken piston rings: measure compression ratio; if it is too low, remove the pistons and piston rings and check the installation dimensions, replace, repair the engine.
  • Worn valve guides or stems: disassemble cylinder heads, check valve and guide settings; replace if necessary. Insert new valve stem seals.

Engine not running and overheating

  • The mixture is too lean due to clogged carburetor nozzles: drain all gasoline from the tank, disassemble and clean the carburetor, fill with fresh gasoline.
  • Mixture too lean due to incorrectly adjusted carburetors or injectors: adjust carburetors.
  • Carburetor catching left air: Carburetor not installed/tightened, intake manifolds cracked or porous.
  • Pinched, seized or kinked fuel line: check for condition along its entire length.
  • Oil level too low: add oil as needed.
  • Oil pump failure or oil circuit clogged: stop the engine immediately and contact a workshop.

What needs to be done to improve the situation? At the bottom of the carburetor there is a screw that is screwed in horizontally (the guide can serve as a return pipe with a fitting next to it). This screw must be unscrewed so that the old gasoline drains. The liquid will be cloudy, yellowish. As soon as it turns into pure gas, the fuel must be drained. To do this, just tighten the screw.

Now you can try to start a quad: most likely there will be no problems. Therefore, before leaving the ATV in the garage for a while, you need to drain the gasoline left in the carburetor. When you return, it is filled with fresh fuel, so you can safely continue driving the quad bike.

ATV won't start. Troubleshooting.

ATV won't start? Don't know where to start troubleshooting? Then let's try to find out the main reasons why an ATV may refuse to start.

Unfortunately, the equipment of any manufacturer sooner or later starts to act up, no one is safe from this, but finding a malfunction and starting an ATV that refuses to start is not so easy, especially if you are far from a service station.

No matter how trite it may sound, the first thing to do is to check the presence of gasoline in the gas tank: believe me, very often a person tries to start an ATV with a dry tank.

Check if the engine power button is disabled, it is usually located on the steering wheel on the left side, and also pay attention to the fuses, one of them may have blown.

Next, take a multimeter and measure the ATV battery charge level: a charged battery should produce from 12.6 to 12.8 volts and confidently turn the starter, if the battery is low, charge it.

It is also necessary to pay attention to the battery terminals, they must be clean and not oxidized, and the clamping bolts must be tightened.

If, when trying to start the ATV, you notice that the starter does not turn, you must first check and, if necessary, replace the starter relay. To check if the starter itself is working, you need to make sure that the engine mass is in good condition (oxides, no contact, wire damage) and apply positive to it directly from the battery (observing the polarity), if the starter spins, look for a problem in the wiring. If there is no reaction to your actions, most likely the starter is out of order.

Check spark plug condition and spark. This is what a spark plug looks like when installed in a serviceable and tuned engine:

If you notice a significant deviation in the color of the spark plug, you may need to tune the ATV carburetor.

In order to check the presence of a spark, you need to unscrew the spark plug, insert it into the candle cap, lean it against any metal part of the ATV (do not forget about safety precautions: there should be no gasoline smudges nearby) and turn the starter, the spark should be sure and distinct noticeable. If there is no spark, it is necessary to replace the spark plug, if there is no spark, look at the wiring, and also replace the ignition coil.

Make sure your ATV's air filter is clean and saturated and the air pipe from the filter to the carburetor is free of damage or blockage.

Determine if fuel is entering the carburetor, if the fuel filter is clean, if the fuel pipes are intact, clean the carburetor with cleaning fluids and blow out the passages.

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