9 Reasons Your ATV Turns Over But Won’t Start

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One common issue ATV enthusiasts face is when their ATV turns over but won’t start. This troubleshooting guide was made to help you quickly identify and fix what is causing your “crank – no start” issue.

Check out our comprehensive guide for a complete overview of ATV not starting issues.

Troubleshooting an ATV that Turns Over but Won’t Start

A scenario where your ATV turns over but refuses to start can be puzzling. It indicates that the engine is mechanically capable of rotating, but something prevents it from firing up.

This issue is often tied to several key areas: fuel delivery, spark generation, air intake, compression, and various mechanical and electrical components. 

Troubleshooting should start with the simplest and most common issues, like checking fuel levels and the condition of the spark plug, before moving on to more complex problems. 

A systematic approach, starting with the most accessible components, can save time and effort, ensuring a quick return to optimal ATV performance.

Always refer to the ATV’s user manual for specific guidance related to your model. 

Common Reasons an ATV Turns Over but Won’t Start

These are the most common causes when you’re able to get the ATV engine turning over but unable to get it to fire up. 

1. Fuel Issues

Empty Fuel Tank

It might sound simple, but sometimes the problem is as straightforward as an empty fuel tank. If your ATV turns over but doesn’t start, the first thing to check is whether you have enough fuel. 

This is a common oversight, especially if the fuel gauge is inaccurate or not working. Simply filling up the tank can often solve the issue and get you back on the trail.

Stale or Contaminated Fuel

Fuel that has been sitting in the tank for an extended period can degrade, leading to difficulties in starting the engine. If your ATV has been idle for a while, the fuel may have become contaminated with moisture or lost its volatility. 

Draining the old fuel and refilling with fresh gasoline can make a significant difference. You’ll typically notice that the engine attempts to start but fails, indicating that the fuel quality could be the culprit.

This is how you know if your ATV has bad gas, and this is how you know if it is contaminated with water.

Clogged Fuel Filter

A clogged fuel filter is another common issue that can prevent your ATV from starting. The fuel filter’s job is to keep contaminants out of the engine, but over time, it can become blocked, restricting fuel flow. 

If your ATV struggles to start or sputters, it might be time to either clean or replace the fuel filter.

Regular fuel filter maintenance and replacement according to your ATV’s service schedule can prevent this problem.

Fuel Line Blockages

Blockages in the fuel lines, whether due to debris or kinks, can stop fuel from reaching the engine. This issue often manifests as an engine that cranks but won’t start. 

To fix this, inspect the fuel lines for visible blockages or damage and clear or replace them as needed. It’s a simple yet effective fix that’s often overlooked.

Related: Fuel Delivery Issues in ATVs – Causes and Solutions

2. Spark Plug Problems

Dirty or Worn Spark Plug

The condition of the spark plug is crucial for starting your ATV. A dirty or worn-out spark plug can fail to ignite the fuel-air mixture in the engine.

If your ATV is experiencing misfires or refuses to start, removing and inspecting the spark plug is a wise step. 

A spark plug that’s dirty, worn, or damaged should be replaced. Regular checks can keep you ahead of this issue.

Related: ATV Keeps Fouling Spark Plugs – Common Causes and Symptoms

Improper Spark Plug Gap

An incorrect spark plug gap can also cause starting issues. 

The gap between the spark plug electrodes must be set to the manufacturer’s specification for optimal performance. If the gap is too wide or narrow, it can lead to inconsistent starting or engine misfire. 

Adjusting the spark plug gap is a simple tweak that can significantly impact how easily your ATV starts.

Faulty Spark Plug Wire

Don’t overlook the spark plug wire; a damaged or worn wire can disrupt the electrical connection necessary for the spark plug to function. This can result in engine misfires or a complete failure to start. 

Inspecting and replacing a faulty spark plug wire is a straightforward fix that can resolve such issues.

Related: Troubleshooting an ATV That Cranks but Has No Spark

3. Electrical Issues

Weak or Dead Battery

A common misconception is that the battery must be okay if an engine turns over. However, a weak or partially discharged battery might not provide enough power to create a spark, even if it can turn the engine over. 

Slow cranking, a clicking sound, or a complete failure to start are telltale signs. Testing, charging, or replacing the battery can often resolve this issue.

Faulty Ignition Coil

The ignition coil plays a pivotal role in starting your ATV. It converts the battery’s low voltage to the thousands of volts needed to create an electric spark in the spark plugs. 

A malfunctioning ignition coil can, therefore, prevent your ATV from starting. 

If you’re facing a no-start situation or inconsistent engine performance, consider checking the ignition coil. Replacing a faulty ignition coil can bring your ATV back to life.

Wiring Problems

Electrical issues can also stem from wiring problems, such as corrosion, damage, or loose connections. These problems can cause intermittent electrical faults or prevent the ATV from starting altogether. 

A thorough inspection of all electrical connections, followed by repairing any issues found, can often resolve these types of problems.

4. Air Intake Issues

Clogged Air Filter

Like humans, engines need to breathe; a clogged air filter can suffocate your ATV’s engine. 

If the air filter is dirty or clogged, it restricts the airflow necessary for combustion. This can lead to reduced engine performance or difficulty in starting. 

Cleaning or replacing the air filter is a simple yet effective way to ensure proper airflow and engine functionality.

Obstructions in Air Intake

Similarly, any obstructions in the air intake system can prevent the necessary air from entering the engine, causing it to struggle or fail to start. 

Checking the air intake for debris or blockages and removing them can quickly resolve this issue.

5. Compression Problems

Worn Piston Rings or Cylinder

The engine’s ability to build and maintain adequate compression is vital for starting and running efficiently. Worn piston rings or cylinders can lead to low compression, preventing the engine from starting. ‘

Symptoms include poor performance and an inability to start. A compression test can diagnose this issue, and repairing the worn components is often necessary.

Valve Issues

Incorrect valve clearance or damaged valves can also lead to compression problems. 

If your ATV is difficult to start or shows poor engine performance, checking and adjusting the valve clearance or repairing damaged valves might be required.

6. Carburetor Issues (for carbureted engines)

Dirty or Clogged Carburetor

In carbureted engines, a dirty or clogged carburetor can impede the proper mixing of fuel and air. Symptoms include the engine stalling, misfiring, or refusing to start. 

Thoroughly cleaning the carburetor can resolve these issues.

Improper Carburetor Adjustment

Improperly adjusted carburetors can also affect engine performance. Inconsistent engine running or difficulty in starting can often be rectified by adjusting the carburetor settings according to the manufacturer’s specs.

7. Choke Malfunction

Faulty Choke Operation

A malfunctioning choke, particularly in colder conditions, can hinder your ATV’s ability to start. Ensuring that the choke functions correctly is crucial for cold starts.

8. ECU or Sensor Issues (for fuel-injected engines)

Faulty Sensors

Faulty temperature or oxygen sensors in fuel-injected engines can significantly impact the engine’s ability to start. 

Symptoms can include erratic engine behavior or a complete failure to start. Replacing faulty sensors can remedy these issues.

ECU Problems

Problems with the Engine Control Unit (ECU) can lead to a range of starting and performance issues.

Diagnosing and resolving ECU problems can be more complex and might require professional assistance.

9. Environmental Factors

Extreme Temperatures

Extremely hot or cold temperatures can affect your ATV’s engine start. In such conditions, it may have difficulty starting. 

Allowing the ATV to acclimate to the temperatures or taking measures to moderate its temperature can help.

Wrapping up

By methodically addressing each potential cause, you can effectively resolve starting issues with your ATV.

Stay proactive with regular maintenance to enjoy a smooth and reliable riding experience.

Related: Guide: How to Start an ATV That Has Been Sitting

Haavard Krislok
Haavard Krislok
Haavard Krislok is an ATV and off-road enthusiast with a rich background spanning two decades in owning, maintaining, repairing, and utilizing ATVs for farming, logging, and hunting. Outside his professional life as an engineer and project manager, he cherishes recreational trail riding and is the creative force behind BoostATV.com, serving as its owner, editor, and content creator.

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