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 ATV’s and side by sides, losing a key is not a huge deal. For other ATVs, it sucks, and it’s not an easy fix.
Lost Key? – What ATV Do You Have?
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 or a new ignition switch.
Do you own a Can-Am? It’ll be more involved.
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 of ATV 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 ATVs 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 ATVs.
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 of ATVs and side by sides.
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 You “Hotwire” An ATV?
If you have an ATV that doesn’t use a digital key, then you most often can hotwire an ATV.
If you do have a digital key, it’s impossible to hotwire an ATV without breaking something or putting the ATV 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 hotwiring because of ATV 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.
Where Can You Get New Ignition Systems and New Keys?
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.
Where To Get An ATV Key Made?
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 instock.
Since many ATVs use a standard size key, you can often get keys like this here that need to be cut.
To get the keys cut, you’ll need to take them somewhere that have the old-school key cutters. Places like Ace Hardware or mom & pop hardware stores often have them. Going to your local Lowes or Home Depot and using that vending machine won’t work as it’s made 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.
Don’t Forget To Check Here
I need to mention this as I’ve run into people needing a new key when, in fact, it was not the issue they had.
There ATV was not starting, and they thought the key or ignition was bad. They later come to find out it was something else, often it’s was the battery.
I have a great article that goes over the reasons why your ATV won’t start here.