Many new ATV owners, and even seasoned riders, get confused by the kill switch on ATVs. The kill switch goes by many names like, engine shut-off switch, safety switch, cut-off switch and more.
To add to the confusion, many are not aware of its purpose and the proper way to shut off their ATV. You even have some misinformation about kill switches being anti-theft devices.
In this post, I want to cover the purpose of a kill switch on an ATV, what it’s made for, and how to use it, especially when turning your ATV on and off.
What Is A Kill Switch On An ATV?
The kill switch on an ATV 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 kill switch that is installed on racing ATVs, remote kill switch for kids ATVs, or some random switch added by the owner to also work as a “hidden” kill switch. This kill switch is from the factory and is required to be on the ATV.
The purpose of the kill switch on an ATV is to shut the engine off when flipped. When the kill switch is flipped to off, the engine cuts power to the spark plugs and the fuel pump’s power is shut off, too. 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.
What’s The Point Of A Kill Switch?
As many have noticed, ATVs have both a key switch and a kill switch, and both shut the engine off.
So, why even have a kill switch if the key switch does the same thing?
The main reason for a kill switch on an ATV is to stop the engine in emergencies. The kill 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.
The kill switch 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 ATV off, it’s best you put the ATV in park, turn the kill switch off first, then the key switch off.
I know it can be hotly debated about using the kill switch 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.
Will An ATV Start With The Kill Switch Off?
The engine on your ATV will not turn over and start unless the kill switch is set to the “RUN” position.
An ATV will turn on the display, 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 ATV 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.
Kill Switch Vs. Remote Kill Switch
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 ATV to shut the engine off.
A remote kill switch is mostly used for kid’s ATVs 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.
Will The Kill Switch Drain Your Battery?
A common misconception I see is that some ATV owner’s think the kill switch drains their batteries.
The kill switch does not drain your battery and is no worse than the key switch on your 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.
Do Kill Switches Stop Theft?
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 kill 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 ATV?
Maybe if you installed another switch inline and hid it, but that still doesn’t stop them from carrying the ATV 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 ATV.
Also, having a kill switch on your ATV won’t help lower your insurance because all ATVs come with them from the factory and have been this way for quite some time.
Do UTVs & Side By Sides Have Kill Switches?
UTVs and side by sides don’t have a kill switch and use an on/off key switch similar to your car or truck.
A UTV or side by side may get a safety lanyard installed for racing and aggressive riding, but most don’t come with a dedicated kill switch from the factory. You may even find some aftermarket installs to have a dedicated kill switch button and a fuel shut off knob installed in racing and aggressive riding events.
Some ATV and side by side guys will install a battery kill switch to keep the battery from draining through the off-season. This is not a traditional kill switch, more of a battery switch, but I don’t suggest it. Adding a battery switch is not worth it, and keeping your battery on a smart charger or solar battery charger is easier and more effective. Lead-acid batteries that ATVs use, die because they’re not being used, not because of a parasite draw.