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ATV solenoid troubleshooting

troubleshooting a starting issue on the ATV

A new battery did not fix our ATV starting problem.

We cleaned the solenoid and tried starting it bypassed with a jumper cable.

The starter turned at that point, but just barely...and the jumper got very hot after just a few seconds. We think this indicates that the solenoid is bad and needs to be replaced. Any gear head comments would be greatly appreciated if you've got any experience with this troubleshooting procedure.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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We used the multimeter to test the solenoid as well, putting the black prong on the negative terminal of the battery and the red prong on (in succession) each of the three solenoid posts. We got a 12 V reading from the post that attaches to the positive side of the battery, a 9 V reading from the smallest post, and nothing from the big post at the bottom (that I think goes to the starter?). Assuming I did it right (a big assumption), the internet seems to suggest this means the solenoid is bad?

(And the photo is when we were troubleshooting the breakers.)

Comment by anna Wed Oct 23 16:25:43 2013

A starter motor usually has the stator and the rotor wired in series. If the motor isn't turning, there is no back-EMF and the motor will draw a huge current resulting in lots of torque. Once the motor starts spinning, back-EMF slows the current and the torque drops off.

If the jumper cable gets hot, it means that a lot of current is going through. But if the starter hardly turns, my guess would be that the cross-section of jumper cable is way too small, giving too much resistance. Proper starter cables shouldn't get hot. Starter cables for a car should be rated for say 200 amps.

You can test the solenoid by setting your multimeter to resistance mode, touch it to the terminals of the power cables on the solenoid and operating the starter. If the solenoid works, the resistance should drop from infinite to almost zero when you hit the starter button.

Comment by Roland_Smith Wed Oct 23 16:50:36 2013
Is it possible it's the starter that is bad and that's what's creating the heat? It sounds at least somewhat like the symptoms I had when I burned up a starter on a lawn tractor by overcranking it. Not an expert by any means here .... could sending the current through a non-working starter be converting that energy to heat instead of motion?
Comment by John Amrhein Wed Oct 23 21:51:39 2013
Check your ground (black) circuit. don't get too intellectual here. Many and most problems can be traced to a faulty ground. Throw that multimeter in the ruts in your driveway, that's where it's most useful, and don't go all intellectual and technical. Try testing your starter by jumper cables to BOTH pos and neg terminals on starter to pos and neg to battery. If it doesn't spin right up = bad starter. If the starter spins like a banshee, back up to the solenoid and run jumper cables from battery straight to the solenoid, use a screwdriver to jump across the red terminal from the battery positive side to the small wire terminal from the ignition key circuit. Don't worry that low voltage, high amperage won't shock you. If that works, your solenoid is good. By this procedure you have verified that both starter and solenoid are good. So then you need to look for faulty ground or rarely positive side connections. Clean and verify all connections. check your ignition switch is functioning properly, OK you can use your multi meter there. My bet is you got a loose ground either at the battery or at the frame. Billy
Comment by Anonymous Wed Oct 23 22:00:54 2013
I don’t know what model Polaris you have but they have had a problem with the ECU (I think) going bad and frying the wire harness. No start, no power to the displays, nothing. This happened to me and it wasn’t cheap to get fixed I was sure glad to have my work horse up and running again. I think they may have had a recall on this part since I had my problem. Might be something to talk to your repair shop about. You may be able to get the parts and replace them yourself. I didn’t have the free time so I had to pay the labor costs.
Comment by Ned Thu Oct 24 09:57:36 2013

DO not throw the meter in the ruts as was suggested- instead, get a good service manual and learn how to read a schematic and how a component works, then buy a quality meter (not a harbor freight POS) and learn how to use it.

Stabbing at things with jumper cables is a good way to fry some other, expensive component.

Comment by Eric Rylander Sun Oct 27 10:33:49 2013
I dont think the jumper getting hot means the solenoid is bad, your jumper wire just probably isn't the right gauge wire to handle the amps passing through it.. That is kinda the purpose of a solenoid, it bridges the connection inside the solenoid using less current (from the Push button/electric start button).
Comment by Matt Casdorph Tue May 27 13:30:59 2014
I just read a post that indicates the person commenting thinks the wire used to jump across the starter solenoid with a push button starter switch was too light a gauge if the wire was heating up. I am having this exact problem. I installed a push button starter switch in my dash and ran 16 gauge wire to jump across the starter solenoid. Not withstanding that my battery was almost dead, the wires were heating up. Not enough juice in the battery so I am charging it up. What gauge of wire should I be using? I have no idea what amperage is involved from a 12 volt battery going to the starter solenoid and I have not installed any kind of relay or inline fuse. I just want to jump the solenoid with a push button start because my key switch does not function. Everything else powers up okay, just won't turn over off the key.
Comment by Jerry Freiman Fri Sep 25 13:38:10 2015

Jerry Freiman, Just for safety, its always better to have an inline fuse the same amperage rating as the wire, that way it blows the fuse before the wires get hot enough to melt or catch fire. What I would do if I were you (if money is know object) is buy a new aftermarket key switch, usually you can find them relatively cheap on ebay or amazon, that's assuming that the solenoid itself is fine then the new key switch should send current to the starter solenoid and bridge it completing the circuit like its supposed to.

I can tell you that the setup with 16 gauge wire with the push button will not work, that wire is too small, You could however use smaller wire and run a hot from the battery to a push button and then to the hot on the solenoid (not the posts with the heavy gauge cables, but where the harness connector connects to the solenoid) basically using the push button to engage the solenoid.

But replacing the Key Switch sounds the simplest and safest way.

Comment by Matt Casdorph Fri Sep 25 20:00:11 2015
I will look into an aftermarket key switch ignition before I go any further rigging a push button start or rigging up a jumper. The one I did from a push button starter using 16 gauge wire going to the heavy (pos) and (neg) terminals on the starter solenoid definitely did not work. In fact, the wires got so hot they started to melt and actually caught fire for a second or two. Quickly disconnected and no other damage. Must be too much current draw from the battery to the starter for that gauge of wire. Thanks, Jerry Freiman.
Comment by Jerry Freiman Sat Sep 26 09:24:27 2015
at present I have to use a screwdriver to short the solenoid to start. once I start it's good to go all day. new solenoid,replaced the end of the cable new battery.What gives?
Comment by Walter Wallace Tue Nov 13 13:37:56 2018

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