Whether your ATV battery is physically damaged and needs to be removed from the ATV or you don’t have a battery at hand, you might find yourself in a challenging situation where you need to start the ATV without a battery.
This post covers what you should know about starting an ATV that does not have a battery. If you have a drained battery that is otherwise undamaged, please head to this post on how to start a dead ATV.
Can You Start an ATV Without a Battery?
Some ATVs can be started and will run without a battery, but it is typically not recommended due to the risks involved. If performed incorrectly, starting an ATV with the battery disconnected or physically removed can be dangerous and may damage the vehicle’s electronics.
Unfortunately, there is no hard and fast rule to which ATVs can be started and run safely without a battery. It all depends on how your specific ATV was designed.
A modern ATV relies on electric power to run essential components like:
- The electric fuel pump will not pump and build pressure in the fuel injection system without electric power.
- Computerized vehicle management components like the electric control module (ECU) need a constant, stable electric current. The ECU is the brains of the vehicle that controls the fuel/air mixture and ignition timing, among other things,
ATVs get their power from a magneto placed inside the engine. Theoretically, the magneto should provide enough electricity to power the components required to keep the engine running without a battery as long as you get the engine to start.
However, some ATVs are wired so that the essential components no longer receive power when you remove the battery from the electrical circuit. Or the power becomes unstable and may damage the vehicle electronics.
Some say carburated ATVs will run without a battery, but fuel-injected ATVs will not.
While it is true that a carburated ATV is more likely to run without a battery due to having a mechanical fuel pump and no computer controlling the fuel supply, there are exceptions to this rule.
Similarly, some fuel-injected ATVs will run just fine without a battery. For example, many snowmobiles are fuel-injected with engines similar to ATVs but only come with a pull start and no battery to save weight.
Dangers of Starting an ATV Without a Battery
The power coming from the magneto is pure, unfiltered AC power running at a much higher voltage than 12V components are designed to run on.
The unfiltered power goes through a voltage regulator and rectifier to turn it into 12 DC, which can be used to keep the battery charged and the ATV running.
Nonetheless, the battery plays a crucial role in voltage regulation and filtering. Think of it as functioning similarly to a capacitor, helping maintain a stable system voltage.
When you remove the battery, the voltage entering the system may spike or drop outside the tolerance levels of sensitive electric components like the ECU. In the best case, the ECU shuts down; in the worst case, it gets fried and needs replacing.
The stator itself and the voltage regulator are also in danger of getting overloaded when running the ATV without a battery.
Another danger of starting and running the ATV without a battery is accidentally shorting the disconnected positive battery cables to ground or shorting the negative battery cables to the positive cables.
How to Know if Your ATV Is Carburated or Fuel Injected
If your ATV is carburated, it has a higher chance of running without a battery. I’m not saying I recommend it, but fewer things could go wrong.
First, identify whether your ATV is carburated or has electric fuel injection. Some sure ways to identify a carburated ATV include:
When the ATV has a manual Choke: Carburated ATVs have a lever that needs to be turned on manually to start the ATV when cold. Look for a handlebar pull lever or a lever near or on the carburetor.
Visually look for the carburetor: On most carburated ATVs, the carb is accessible without removing any plastic cover or components. Look for an unpainted metal unit connected to the engine, no larger than a fist with wires and fuel lines attached.
Different Ways to Start an ATV Without a Battery
If you understand and accept the risk and potential dangers of starting an ATV without a battery installed, here are four ways to try (entirely at your own risk).
CAUTION: If you decide you want to attempt to start the ATV with the battery physically removed or disconnected from the vehicle, it is essential for your safety that you secure the cables with zip ties and electrical tape so that it is physically impossible for them to accidentally short to ground or each other. It is recommended to leave the dead battery in place rather than remove it.
Jump-Starting an ATV Without a Battery
Jump starting is a technique where you use power from an external source, typically the battery in another vehicle or a portable battery booster, to start your ATV.
The basic procedure of performing a jump start is relatively straightforward. All you need is a set of jumper cables, preferably ones with built-in high/low voltage protection.
- Ensure the ATV ignition switch is OFF and the gear shifter is in park “P”.
- Ensure the disconnected battery wires are secured and physically cannot short to ground.
- Place the donor vehicle close but not so that it touches the ATV. Leave it with the engine OFF.
- Attach one end of the red cable to the healthy battery’s positive (+) terminal.
- Attach the other end of the red cable to the positive battery terminal cable connector. IMPORTANT: Ensure the positive cable and terminal never touch any bare metal, which will cause a direct short to ground.
- Attach one end of the black cable to the good battery’s negative (-) battery terminal.
- Carefully attach the other end of the black cable to the negative battery terminal cable connector.
- If you’re using another ATV as your power source, you can start it, but if you’re using a car, leave it OFF throughout the entire jump start process.
- Start your ATV.
- Disconnect the cables in the reverse order and be careful not to cause a short.
Here is a detailed guide on jump-starting an ATV with different power sources.
Pull Starting an ATV Without a Battery
Some ATVs have an optional pull start feature intended for use when the battery has completely drained and lacks sufficient power to start the engine.
If your ATV is equipped with a pull start, it should enable you to start the ATV even when the battery is missing or disconnected.
The pull start feature is typically only found on older ATVs with smaller engine sizes up to 400cc. Larger engines are so hard to turn over, and most people wouldn’t have the strength to use a pull starter if they had one.
The procedure to pull start an ATV is similar to normal starting by operating the starter push-button. The only difference is that you don’t push the button but pull firmly on the pull starter handle, typically located on either side of the ATV (if available).
Bump Starting an ATV Without a Battery
Bump starting is a technique that only works with vehicles with a manual clutch and gearbox.
- Ensure the disconnected battery cable connectors are secured.
- Sit on the ATV in a normal riding position.
- Set the ignition to “ON”.
- Put the ATV in second or third gear and press the clutch.
- Bring the ATV up to about running speed with the clutch disengaged either by rolling down a hill or towing.
- Release the clutch at speed. This will turn and hopefully start the engine.
- Press the clutch as soon as the ATV starts and bring it to a stop by braking.
This technique does require some practice and experience both by the ATV operator and the driver of the towing vehicle.
CAUTION: Do not use this technique on an automatic or semi-automatic ATV, which may damage the transmission and clutches. Please refer to the owner’s manual to learn whether your specific ATV can be safely bump-started.
Kick Starting an ATV Without a Battery
Some youth ATVs come with a backup kick starter if the battery dies. Similarly to the other techniques, a kick starter should be able to start the ATV eleven without a battery.
Ensure the disconnected battery cable connectors are secured to prevent them from shorting out.