Understanding the Kill Switch on Your ATV or UTV

The kill switch is the red switch located on the left-side of the handle bars, as shown in the image below.

This switch is not to be confused with a safety lanyard switch that is installed on racing ATVs, remote switch for kids models, or some random switch added by the owner to also work as a “hidden” kill switch. This switch is from the factory and is required to be on the unit.

The purpose of it is to shut the engine off when flipped. When it is flipped to off, the engine cuts power to the spark plugs and the fuel pump. Cutting power to the spark plugs is not enough, as a hot engine can still ignite the cylinder and keep the engine running, so the fuel pump is turned off.

The green button above the kill-switch is the start engine button, and the yellow switch below is the reverse override, it allows you to go faster in reverse. And people please, stop telling others that the kill switch stops theft, it does not. I don’t know where this came from, but there are websites saying this, and it makes you look dumb.

The Point Of The Kill Switch

As many have noticed, 4-wheelers have both a key switch and a kill switch, and both shut the engine off.

So, why even have it if the key switch does the same thing?

The main reason for a kill-switch is to stop the engine in emergencies. The switch is located on the handlebars and is within easy reach, unlike the key switch. Reaching for the key switch would require riders to remove one or both hands from the handlebars, which is dangerous to do in emergency situations.

It also gives you redundancy, as it’s another way to shut the engine off if the key switch is broken and vice versa.

All vehicles with handlebars will have a kill switch, even motorcycles have them.

How To Use The Kill Switch

When starting your ATV, it doesn’t matter whether you flip the kill switch or key switch first, but the fuel pump won’t start running until the kill switch is turned on.

To turn your engine off, it’s best you put the machine in park, turn the kill-switch off first, then the key switch off.

I know it can be hotly debated about using the it at all, but it’s a good habit to turn the kill switch off first, then the key switch. It’s not the end of the world if you use the key switch and never touch the kill switch under normal shut-off, but it’s better practice to use the kill switch.

If anything, it builds muscle memory of where the switch is located, so in a real emergency you’re better prepared.

It Can Keep ATVs From Starting

The engine will not turn over and start unless the kill-switch is set to the “RUN” position.

The display will turn on and so will lights and other accessories when the key switch is set to on, but until the kill-switch is set to “RUN” the fuel pump won’t turn on and the engine start button won’t work.

You will be amazed by how many people complain to me about their ATV not starting, and the only problem is that the kill-switch is set to “OFF”. Even guys who have been riding for years make this simple mistake. So, always check your kill-switch before you start trying to figure out why your ATV won’t start.

Kill-Switch Vs. Lanyard Kill-Switch

Sometimes people confuse the kill switch with a lanyard kill switch, as both do the same thing.

The kill switch comes on all ATVs from the factory, but not every one will come with a lanyard kill switch.

Both the kill switch and lanyard kill switch will shut the engine off, but the lanyard kill switch is tethered to the driver, so if they fall off the engine is stopped. You mostly see lanyard kill switches used in racing and kids ATVs.

Remote Options

Another kill switch confusion is the remote-kill-switch.

The remote-kill-switch works by using a key fob to send a wireless signal out to the quad to shut the engine off.

A remote-kill-switch is mostly used for kid models when the parent wants the child to stop.

The remote kill switch works very well for stopping a child’s ATV for safety and getting them to listen, but it’s not made for security and won’t help with theft.

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Kill Switches Don’t Affect Batteries

A common misconception I see is that some ATV owner’s think they drain batteries.

These switches do not drain your battery and are no worse than the key switch ATV.

Most often the problem is simply the battery itself, as they go flat when left to sit for months. You need to keep a smart battery charger on it, or do what I do, and get a solar battery charger and stop worrying about it.

Kill Switches Don’t Stop Theft, The Thief Would Be Stupid If It Does

I’m seeing guys on the internet say kill switches are used to stop theft, and it’s just silly to me that such a thing is suggested.

The switch comes from the factory and is required by law, it’s also in the same place for all ATVs, so I don’t see how it’s going to stop someone from taking your bike?

Maybe if you installed another switch inline and hid it, but that still doesn’t stop them from carrying it away or throwing it in the back of their truck. What works better than a hidden kill switch is simply not leaving the key in the bike.

A lock and chain would work even better, or getting a model with a digital key would be more useful.

Also, having a kill switch won’t help lower your insurance because all ATVs come with them from the factory and have been this way for quite some time.