Is your ATV having starting issues? One of the common culprits when an ATV won’t start is a faulty starter solenoid. Knowing the symptoms of a bad solenoid can help you diagnose the problem quickly and prevent costly or unnecessary repairs.
What Is an ATV Starter Solenoid & How Does It Work?
A starter solenoid is an electromechanical component that plays an essential role in an ATV starting system. On ATVs, it is typically mounted near the battery or on the starter motor housing, and depending on its location, it serves one or two main functions.
- Starter solenoids mounted on the starter housing control the starter motor’s activation and the starter motor’s engagement to the engine’s flywheel.
- Starter solenoids mounted away from the starter motor, typically near the battery, only control starter motor activation.
When the rider turns the ignition switch to START or presses the starter button, a small electric current is sent from the battery to the solenoid, which uses that energy to create a magnetic field.
This magnetic field attracts a metal plunger inside the solenoid, which closes a high-current switch that connects the battery to the starter motor. The movement creates the characteristic clicking sound you might have noticed when starting your ATV.
This action sends a large amount of electrical current from the battery to the starter motor, causing it to spin and crank the engine.
Where the solenoid is mounted on the starter motor housing, the plunger movement also shifts a pinion gear to connect the starter motor with the flywheel ring gear.
ATVs with the starter solenoid mounted remotely use a different mechanism known as a “Bendix” to engage the starter motor with the engine.
As soon as the rider releases the starter button, the solenoid disengages the starter motor from the flywheel and cuts the electric power so that the starter motor shuts off.
Symptoms of a Bad ATV Starter Solenoid
A bad ATV starter solenoid can cause several symptoms, including:
1. The ATV Does Not Start
When a starter solenoid fails, the starter motor won’t receive any electric power, and the ATV cannot start.
However, a faulty starter solenoid is just one of many possible causes to look into when an ATV doesn’t start.
2. Intermittent Starting Issues
If a starter solenoid is starting to fail but hasn’t completely stopped working, you may notice intermittent issues with starting your ATV.
Sometimes, the engine will start as usual, but other times, it won’t crank and shows no signs of wanting to start.
3. The Solenoid Clicks, But the Engine Does Not Crank
If you turn the ignition key or press the starter and hear the solenoid click, you know the solenoid is receiving power but is not engaging the starter motor.
A “click, no-start” scenario is usually caused by a poor connection inside the starter solenoid due to corrosion, dirt, or wear.
When this happens, the solenoid may make a clicking sound but fail to engage the starter motor.
Other times, a mechanical failure may prevent the solenoid from closing the circuit.
4. Buzzing Sound
A buzzing sound from the starter solenoid is likely caused by low voltage or a bad battery. A proper charge should fix the issue if the battery is in good condition.
This is how you test whether your battery is still good or needs a new one.
Also, ensure the solenoid and starter motor grounding is good and has not corroded or come loose.
In rare cases, the starter motor might have seized up and does not turn, causing an electrical buzzing sound when you turn the key. When this happens, turn off the key immediately and address the issue.
Other times, the starter solenoid internals have seized up, so the plunger cannot move, and you need a new solenoid.
5. Starter Stays Engaged
In some cases, a faulty solenoid can cause the starter motor to remain engaged with the flywheel even after the engine has started.
When this happens, shut down the engine immediately and correct the issue to prevent damage to the starter and flywheel.
6. Excessive Battery Drain
A faulty solenoid may draw excessive current from the battery, leading to dimming headlights and, eventually, a dead battery. Other times, a problem with the solenoid or the wiring may cause a small parasitic current draw that completely drains the battery over time.
7. Solenoid Not Clicking
Suppose the starter solenoid receives power but does not click when turning the key.
In that case, it is likely because the starter side of the solenoid is not grounding properly due to an internal connection issue with the starter.
In this case, I recommend removing the solenoid to test it on your workbench to verify it’s working and the problem is with the starter.
How do you know that your ATV starter solenoid is bad?
Besides considering the symptoms outlined in this post, several ways exist to test if a starter solenoid works.
- Ensure the solenoid receives power.
- When pressing the starter button, test if there is power on the solenoid starter side terminal. This tells you that current flows through the solenoid and to the starter motor.
- Use a multimeter to do a voltage drop test across the solenoid.
- Use a screwdriver with a plastic handle to briefly bridge the two large solenoid terminals, which should cause the starter to spin.
Please refer to our complete guide on how to test a starter and starter solenoid for further instructions.
How Does an ATV Starter Solenoid Go Bad?
There are several ways an ATV starter solenoid can go bad, including:
Like any other electrical component, the starter solenoid stops working due to electrical problems such as corrosion, loose connections, or wiring issues. These issues can cause a weak or intermittent electrical connection, preventing the solenoid from engaging.
Worn Internal Contacts
The contacts inside the solenoid that make and break the electrical connection between the battery and the starter motor can wear or become diary over time, which may cause a poor connection.
Extended use or a high electrical current can cause the starter solenoid to overheat, cause it to fail, or become permanently damaged.
The mechanical components of the starter solenoid, such as the spring, electromagnet, and plunger, can wear out and fail over time due to regular use.
Other possible causes with similar symptoms
If the starter solenoid just clicks or if the starter motor does not spin, it’s easy to suspect a faulty starter solenoid.
However, often, you’ll find that the issue was caused by a problem with any of the other components in the starting circuits, such as:
- A bad battery
- Loose, damaged, or corroded wires or wire connections.
- A grounding issue.
- A blown fuse.
- A faulty starter motor.
The fastest way to identify the root cause is to note how the ATV behaves when pressing the starter and systematically test the possible causes based on your findings.
In our complete guide to testing an ATV starter solenoid and starter, we walk you through the process.
What to Do When Your ATV Starter Solenoid Goes Bad?
If your testing verifies that the starter solenoid is not working, you’re usually better off replacing it with a new unit. Starter solenoids are relatively cheap and generally not worth trying to repair.
Ensure you get a solenoid that’s compatible with your ATV and starter. Things you need to know include:
- Is it a three-prong or four-prong solenoid?
- The required currency rating.
- Mounting compatibility if mounted on the starter motor casing. Getting an OEM unit is recommended to ensure a proper fit.