Jump-Starting Your ATV: What You Need to Know

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Knowing how to jump-start your ATV can be useful when you accidentally leave the lights on overnight or drain the battery from excessive winch use

This post has everything you need to know about jump-starting an ATV safely and effectively. 

What Is Jump-Starting?

Jump-starting is a method to start a vehicle with a dead or weak battery using another vehicle or a booster battery as a power source. 

The external battery connects to the dead or weak battery using jumper cables and provides a temporary power boost to start the engine. 

Once the engine runs, the external power source should be disconnected, and the vehicle charging system will recharge the battery. 

The procedure is common practice and can be very helpful in a pinch. However, it is essential to do it properly, or it can be dangerous and potentially damage the vehicle.

Can You Jump-Start an ATV?

ATV batteries are prone to draining due to their relatively low capacity and the small charge output of the vehicle charging system. Using power-hungry accessories such as an electrical winch, powerful work lights, or heated grips can leave you stranded before you know it.  

So, what do you do when you turn the key and realize the battery doesn’t have enough power to start your bike?

ATVs can be jump-started if you follow the proper procedure and don’t overload the battery and electronics with a power source that is too strong.

It is important to remember that ATV electronics and batteries are not designed to handle the power output from a larger vehicle. 

The Potential Dangers of Jump-Starting an ATV

Working with batteries and live electrics can be dangerous and damage both vehicles’ electronics if performed incorrectly. Here are some of the things that can go wrong.

Short-Circuiting the Battery

It is pretty easy and surprisingly common to connect the jumper cables wrong. 

Accidentally connecting a positive battery terminal to a negative battery terminal or ground will cause a direct short that creates huge sparks and has a high risk of damaging both batteries. 

Explosion Hazard

Batteries can produce explosive gases. In rare cases, sparks from connecting the jumper cables can ignite any present gas and cause the battery to explode. 

Applying the proper cable connect and disconnect order will significantly reduce the risk of sparks forming. 

Overloading the Battery or Vehicle Electronics

ATV batteries and electronics are designed to handle the relatively low power output from the ATV’s charging system.

The stator charging system on an ATV is typically five times weaker compared to car alternators or those in bigger vehicles like tractors and trucks.

Connecting your ATV to a larger vehicle while running for a jump-start can be risky. The much higher charge output from the larger vehicle can fry the ATV wires, damage electronic components such as the voltage regulator, short out battery cells, melt lead plates, or boil the battery electrolyte.

To safely jump-start an ATV using a larger vehicle, remember this crucial step: never start the engine of the vehicle providing the jump. This avoids the risk of delivering too much power to your ATV.

How to Jump-Start an ATV: A Step-By-Step Guide

Before attempting to jump-start the ATV, please verify that the no-start situation is caused by a weak or dead battery, not something else.

Safety Guidelines

  • Always wear eye protection and hand protection when working with batteries. Battery acid is poisonous and can cause blindness and severe burns. If exposed to battery acid, flush with clean water and seek medical help immediately. 
  • No smoking, no open flames, and no sparks. Batteries can produce explosive gasses when charging. 
  • Do not lean over the battery when connecting cables, boosting, testing, or charging.
  • Be careful not to short to ground when working with metal tools near the positive battery terminals.
  • Be careful not to touch any metal with the free end of the positive (red) jumper cable when the other end is connected to the positive battery terminal. Also, ensure the red and black clamps never touch when connected to the battery. 
  • Do not attempt to jump-start a battery with any signs of physical damage to the terminals or battery casing. 

Things You Will Need

  • Jumper cables. Minimum cable size 8 gauge (10mm2). Preferably use cables with built-in protection like surge protection, low voltage protection, high voltage protection, and reverse polarity indication to reduce the risk of damaging vehicle electronics.
  • An external power source.
    • Another ATV of the same voltage, usually 6V or 12V.
    • A car, tractor, or truck of the same voltage as the ATV.
    • A Battery Booster Pack: a portable pre-charged power source with a built-in battery and jumper cables. It is usually only available if a nearby truck, workshop, or gas station has one to borrow. 

1. Prepare the ATV

  • Ensure the ignition switch is in the “OFF” position and the gear shifter is in park “P”.
  • Inspect the battery and terminals for physical damage.
  • On a conventional serviceable battery: Ensure the fill caps are tight.

2. Prepare the Power Source

When using a booster pack:

  • Ensure the booster is charged.
  • Set it to the correct voltage.
  • Select a charge mode suitable for an ATV. 

When using another vehicle as a power source:

  • Place the vehicle front to front or parallel to the ATV so the jumper cables reach between both vehicles’ batteries with good marking. 
  • Ensure the vehicles are not touching each other.
  • Ensure the ignition switch is in the “OFF” position.
  • Turn off all electrical equipment such as lights, radio, cab heater, wipers, etc.
  • Access the battery and inspect it for physical damage.

3. Connect the Jumper Cables

The jumper cables have four sets of alligator clamps. Red is positive (+), and black is negative (-). The corresponding battery terminals can be identified by the battery cable color and + and – markings next to each terminal. 

Connect the cables in this order:

  1. Attach one clamp of the red cable to the positive (+) battery terminal of the good battery on the donor vehicle. 
  2. Attach the other clamp of the red cable to the positive (+) battery terminal of the weak or dead battery.
  3. Attach one clamp of the black cable to the negative (-) battery terminal of the good battery on the donor vehicle. 
  4. Carefully connect the other clamp of the black cable to an unpainted, large metal part of the ATV, preferably somewhere away from the battery and carburetor. Good connection points are the frame or the engine block. Do NOT connect the clamp to the ATV negative battery terminal, as this could cause sparks that can ignite gases from the battery. 

The booster pack’s red and black cables are permanently attached to the tool, and the red and black clamps connect to the ATV similarly to the jumper cables.

4. Allow the ATV to Charge for 3 to 5 Minutes

There is a crucial difference between using another ATV and a larger vehicle as a donor vehicle.

  • When using an ATV or a UTV with a stator as a donor vehicle: Start the donor vehicle and let it idle for up to five minutes.
  • When using a larger vehicle like a car, tractor, or truck with an alternator as a donor vehicle: DO NOT start the vehicle. Leave the donor vehicle engine off whenever connected to the ATV. 

The high charge output from the larger vehicle charging system can cause permanent damage to your ATV. The larger donor battery holds plenty of power to start the ATV, even when the engine is off. 

  • When using a booster pack: Turn the unit on and charge for up to five minutes or as long as the booster pack instructions dictate. 

5. Try Starting the ATV

Attempt to start the ATV as usual. If it doesn’t start, wait five more minutes and try starting it again. 

6. Disconnect the Jumper Cables

Disconnect and remove the cables in reverse order of how they were connected. Remember to be careful not to cause a short circuit.

  1. Disconnect the negative (black) cable from the metal part of the jump-started ATV.
  2. Disconnect the negative (black) cable from the good battery on the donor vehicle. 
  3. Disconnect the positive (red) cable from the good battery on the donor vehicle.
  4. Disconnect the positive (red) cable from the jump-started ATV’s battery.

7. Allow the Battery to Recharge

Congratulations, you have now successfully jump-started your ATV.

Leave the ATV running for the rest of the ride or at least 30 minutes. When you return home, connect the battery to an external charger for a full charge.

Related: How to Charge Any ATV or UTV Battery – All You Must Know

If your battery keeps draining regularly, you must identify what is causing the drain.

ATV batteries can go bad from sitting at a low charge for extended periods or due to old age. Here is how to know if your ATV battery has gone bad.

What if You Cannot Jump-Start the ATV?

If the jump start procedure didn’t get your ATV going, there might be a more serious issue than a dead battery. 

Here is our complete guide on troubleshooting the most common causes when your ATV won’t start.

Related Questions

How to Jump-Start an ATV With a Car

When jump-starting an ATV with a car, you connect the cables the same way as with another ATV, but you mustn’t start the car at any time. The car’s high-capacity charging system can damage the ATV’s smaller-capacity system. 

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.

Welcome to Boost ATV

Hi, I’m Haavard, the guy behind Boost ATV.  I made this site to share what I have learned as an avid ATV owner and enthusiast. I hope it can help boost your ATV experience! About Me