Why Your ATV Is Clicking – It’s Usually Simple

You get on your ATV, ready the key, press the start button… and all you get is clicking, that is a problem. And it seems to only happen at the start of the riding season or when you really need to get going for a ride.

The good news is that when your ATV clicks when trying to start is a sign of a bad battery or bad starter relay, and it’s easy to fix. A lot of power is needed to start your engine, and the starter relay handles that, but it needs a good battery. If the battery is weak, the starter relay will give multiple clicks when pressing the start button. But if the starter relay is bad, you will hear one single click.

Either way, the clicks determine the solution to the problem. Below, I go over what each click means in more detail and how to fix it. To be honest, most of the time, you just need to charge your battery overnight. If you think it’s more than that, please read on and see the solutions below.

Multiple Clicking

If you hear multiple clicking coming from your ATV, it’s usually two things.

  1. The battery is weak.
  2. Or the battery is dead.

The first thing you should do is try to charge the battery with a 2 amp 12-volt smart battery charger (ad). Avoid charging over 2 amps as this could damage this size battery.

Tip: If you’re storing your ATV for months, it’s best to disconnect the battery cables and keep the smart battery charger on it. A smart battery charger will charge the battery as it’s needed and keep it from dying early.

If charging the battery doesn’t work, you should then take it out and load test it. You can get a battery load tester here (ad) or you can take the battery to any auto parts store and have them test it for you. Avoid the fancy digital battery testers as they’re made for cars, you need the old school ones with a needle and one button like the picture below.

Battery Load Tester

If the battery doesn’t charge and fails the load test you’ll need to get a new battery. If the battery is 3 to 5 years old you should replace it anyway as that is about how long you get of these batteries.

Note: Make sure the connections to the battery are clean too. Dirty contacts can make it seem like the battery is weak or dying but it’s the cables not allowing enough power through.

Why Does The Battery Die?

The battery dies because you’re not riding your ATV enough or you used a cheap “Walmart” battery. Don’t go cheap on your batteries unless you got a pull-start backup on your ATV.

I’ve been known to carry a jump pack for this reason when going on rides with others, just in case someone’s battery goes flat.

You can learn more about why your ATV battery dies and how to keep it from happening.

One Click

If you’re getting one click, it is usually a solid thump; then it’s a bad starter relay (also called a starter solenoid).

starter relay up close
Starter Relay

The starter relay going bad is not as common as the battery going bad but does happen. The starter relay takes a lot of abuse because of the amount of electric current that goes through it. The starter relay is what connects the battery to the starter motor to turn the engine over and get it running.

Before messing with the starter relay, you want to disconnect the battery from the ATV.

The starter relay is often not too far from the battery or near the fuse box. It will have 2 big wires going to it, one from the battery itself and 2 little cables going to the electrical/fuse area.

It’s not hard to replace one if you have basic tools, but make sure the battery is disconnected before you do so. I say this because I’ve welded my finger to a battery post and a wrench before and have the scars to prove it, so when doing anything electrical, disconnect the battery!

While you’re there replacing the relay, make sure the connections are nice and clean. Sometimes mud and dirt can get on the connectors, and that can cause your ATV to click or not start.

Something else

If you replaced the battery or even the starter relay and it still clicks then recheck the battery.

Yes, recheck the battery.

I’m telling you, the battery is 90% of the starting issues that most people see. Even if the battery is new, get it checked with a load tester at the auto parts store. I’ve seen many new batteries that are “charged” but, in fact, are actually dead.

If you rechecked the battery, then it’s something else.

The next thing I would check is all the fuses to make sure none of them are blown. Make sure all the connections to the fuses are clean and don’t have dirt on them.

Bad Starter Motor or Hydro-Locked

If nothing else worked, then it could be a bad starter motor not fully engaging that is making the clicking sounds.

If you have taken the ATV out in the mud, you could also hydro-locked it. Water got in the engine and the click could be the engine ceased up. If that is the case, you need to stop pressing the start button as you could be bending a rod.

If you have gotten to this point, you need to get it to a shop to get worked on. There could be many things to look for, and there is only so much I can say here.

For most of you, it’s either going to be…

  • Bad or Weak Battery
  • Bad Starter Relay
  • Bad Starter Motor

Anything beyond the first two requires a mechanic to look at.