How to Bypass Ignition switch on ATV: 6 Tried-and-true Methods

Off-roading and camping out in the wilderness can be lots of fun. However, you need to always keep your eyes open for any emergency situations. Now, this might come as a surprise, but the biggest headache for four-wheeler owners isn’t the mud or the expensive fuel. Most drivers complain about losing their keys. And, since they rarely (if ever) carry any spares, all that’s left to do is call for transportation.

But that usually costs a lot. The good news is – there’s more than one way to get around this. Normally, the ignition switch doesn’t send the engine a signal to run without a key. But, as you’ll learn today, it is very well possible to “trick” the system and start the vehicle with no keys. So, join me, and let’s talk about this in more detail!

#1: Using the Old Bypass Technique

Alright, we begin our “How to start an ATV without a key” guide with the old but reliable technique of bypassing the ignition switch. Most ATV ignition switches are pretty easy to make sense of. They are usually connected to the engine with two wires. One of the wires is responsible for the ignition. But, that only happens when there’s a key inserted. Now, what you should do is outmaneuver the vehicle by cutting the wires.

Some experts recommend physically removing the ignition switch, but it’s not actually necessary. What’s more important, when cutting each wire, you need to be very careful not to overdo this and leave enough of it to bring the switch back to life and reconnect it. With the wires cut, connect them to each other. And please remember to disconnect them once you’ve arrived at your destination. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a drained and (potentially) dead battery.

A quick note: if you own a brand-new four-wheeler, it probably has more than a pair of wires. In that case, remember to only cut the red and the black wires and leave the rest be – that’s pretty much it. So, if you were wondering how to bypass ignition switch on Honda ATV (the latest editions), this is how you do it.

#2: Getting Things Done with a Screwdriver

How to Bypass Ignition switch on ATV: 6 Tried-and-true MethodsThe next method may seem a bit violent, but it’s pretty effective. As you’ve probably already guessed, the screwdriver needs to go directly into the ignition switch. Yes, it will serve as a key – don’t forget to turn it! This technique is largely used by thieves and teenagers that try to take their dads’ cars for a spin. There’s a catch, though: unless you’re super careful, chances are, the screwdriver will damage the ignition switch.

A new one doesn’t cost much, but still – this can cause some inconvenience. If there isn’t a screwdriver lying around, scissors can do the trick. Use one of its blades, insert it, turn it, and the ATV will start. The best thing about this approach is functionality. What I mean by that is you’ll probably have something to stick into the ignition in your backpack when stuck with no keys.

#3: Jumping the Solenoid

How to Bypass Ignition switch on ATV: 6 Tried-and-true MethodsDisclaimer: this only works on all-terrain vehicles with an electric start. If your ATV doesn’t have that, just skip to the next part. And if it does, find the solenoid. It should be hidden somewhere between the wiring harness and the battery unit. Can’t seem to locate it? I bet there’s a panel in your way – remove it gently. There should be a bunch of wires staring at you now. Don’t mind the tiny ones, only focus on the big wires.

The main wires come in a pair, and the idea here is to connect them using something metallic. A wrench or a screwdriver will do. As you know, metal is a very good conductor, and, once the two wires are connected, it shouldn’t be hard to start the four-wheeler. Remember: the wrench should ONLY be touching the wires, nothing else. If it gets in contact with the frame or some other metallic tools, the ATV’s engine will get damaged.

Only the electric parts will be affected, but that can be enough to ruin the motor.

#4: The Pull/Kick Start Technique

Does your vehicle have a built-in alternative start method? If the answer is yes, you’re in luck, because this is one of the easiest and most effective ways to get the ATV going. I would strongly recommend using a dedicated user manual as your guide for this because different quad vehicles follow a slightly different routine. The basics are the same, though, and won’t take long to complete.

First of all, pop the hood that’s protecting all the electrical components of the ATV. Can you see the wire that’s running from the engine to the ignition switch? Take out the plug that’s leading the wire into the ignition switch. Put the hood back on and engage the pull or kick start, depending on your quad’s model.

#5: Making a Replacement Key

Last, but not least, consider making a spare key. Obviously, if you need a right here and right now decision, this one won’t help. Therefore, remember to make a replacement key before your next trip into the wilderness. To answer a potential question, no, these keys can’t just be bought from a local store. You’ll have to go to the nearest ATV dealer and ask them for a spare key.

They’ll require a unique code (usually stamped on the master key). In some cases, the staff will also request a VIN (vehicle identification number) to make sure they get all the tiny details right. And if for some reason, the code isn’t anywhere to be found, a locksmith might be able to help with this.

#6: Buying a Brand-New Switch

If all your attempts at making a new key fail, it might be a good idea to buy a new ignition switch. As I already mentioned, these are available at a very reasonable price. The installation process is pretty straightforward as well and shouldn’t cause you any inconveniences. Or, just ask the dealer to handle the installation. Again, they won’t charge a lot for this.


Bypassing the ignition switch to start your ATV without a key is a pretty cool trick. If there are no fellow riders nearby, and you’ve lost your one and only key, a fun trip can quickly turn into a nightmare. I’m confident that my guide will be of great help and allow you to start the engine swiftly on your own. Thanks to the universal design of all-terrain vehicles, most of these techniques can be used on any ATV.

The make, model, and year don’t matter that much. So, if you were looking for instructions on how to bypass ignition switch on Chinese ATV or European ATV, use everything that we learned today to get yourself out of a dire situation. There aren’t any significant differences between quads developed in different countries.

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