If You Lost Your ATV Key, This Is What You Do

We’re only human, so, naturally, we lose our keys.

What sucks is when you lose the keys to your ATV and don’t know what to do?

For some ATVs and side by sides, losing a key is not a huge deal. For others, it sucks, and it’s not an easy fix.

The first thing you need to do is figure out what brand and what model ATV or side by side you have.

Do you have a Yamaha, Kawasaki, Polaris, or Arctic Cat? If so, it won’t be so bad. All you need is a regular cut key blank or a new ignition switch.

Do you own a Can-Am? It’ll be more involved, and it needs to be programmed.

Regular Cut Key

Yamaha, Kawasaki, Polaris, and Arctic Cat use what is called a “cut key.” It’s very similar to your house key, where a machine cuts the grooves into a blank key.

Below is a picture of a blank key (right) and the key after it’s been cut (left).

If you lost all your keys for this type it will require you to buy a new ignition system that comes with a set of new keys.

You pop-out the old ignition, disconnect the wires, plug in a new ignition and lock it in. It’s as simple as that.

Here is a great video showing you how to do this. The advice shown will work on most that use a cut key.

If You Have A Can-Am

Can-Am likes to use a digital key, often called DESS. The keys are not cut but instead programmed to your ATV or side by side.

Can-Am does have some models that do use a regular cut key which is often found on their lower-end models. To get a new key for this model will require you to visit your local dealer and order a new ignition system, like you would for other models.

To get a new digital key will require you to take it to the dealership and have them program a new one. Sometimes there is a charge to program the key.

Don’t be surprised if the dealership runs the VIN against a list of stolen ATVs. This is why Can-Am does a digital key, it’s to cut down on theft.

Here are pictures of what a digital key will look like

The top picture is the old digital key and the bottom picture is the new digital key that Can-Am uses. Both keys can be programmed for different riding styles like performance, cruising, or work.

Can’t “Hot Wire” A Can-Am

If you have an ATV that doesn’t use a digital key, then you most often can hot wire.

If you do have a digital key, it’s impossible to hot wire without breaking something or putting the machine in a limp-home mode.

You do need to be careful of modern ATVs without a digital key, as they’re getting sneaky in stopping hot wiring because of theft. In other words, I would not guess what wires to cross as it could break something. It’s often easier to just buy a new ignition system than to hotwire.

Buying A Whole New Key System

One of the best places is eBay. You’ll need to search for your brand and model.

Another option is your local ATV dealership, as they’ll have exactly what you need.

Getting Key Cut / Programmed

If you still have one of the keys and want a spare key, it can be tricky.

If you have a Can-Am with a digital key, you can go to the dealership and have them program you a new one.

Those with a cut key, you’ll need to find blanks. Your local dealership will have them and often in stock.

Since many ATVs use a standard size key, you can often get keys like this here that need to be cut.

To have the keys cut, you need to take them to a place that has old-school key cutting machines. Establishments like Ace Hardware or local mom-and-pop hardware stores often possess these machines. Using the key cutting vending machines at larger stores like Lowe’s or Home Depot won’t work, as they are designed for house keys and some car keys.

Make sure to buy extra blanks. I’ve run into my fair share of people who can’t use the old-school key cutters and end up breaking the key.

A sure-fire bet will be your local locksmith. They have all the tools needed to cut the key and do it right. I doubt they’ll have the blanks, but I bet they can get them if you really needed them.