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How To Start An ATV Or UTV Without The Key, Quad Hotwire

How To Start An ATV Or UTV Without The Key, Quad Hotwire

Don’t let losing or forgetting your ATV key stop you from enjoying your quad. In this article, I’ll show you a few ways to start your ATV or UTV without the key. You can do any of these methods with basic hand tools found in most garages.

Your ignition switch is simply a break in a circuit telling your electrical box when it’s ok to start or not. When there’s no key in the ignition, no power can be sent to the rest of the needed components to start the engine. There are some pretty simple ways to get around this though.

Of course the easiest way is if your machine has a pull start or kick starter on it. A lot of the newer quads being made don’t have this functionality anymore unfortunately. If you do have this option, simply unhook the ignition switch from the cdi or electrical box. That way the engine will start without needing a key inserted, then start the engine.

This method may work without a pull start or kick start if you can push your machine to a good pace and pop it into gear. Your other options are:

  • Bypass The Ignition
  • Jump The Solenoid
  • Use A Screwdriver
  • Replace Ignition Switch

Bypass The Ignition

This is my preferred method to starting an ATV without the key. Most ignition switches will only have two wires going into it. On wire is sending power in, and the other wire sends power to the electrical box if the key is inserted. Telling the machine that it’s ok to start.

Simply remove the ignition switch from the equation. You can disassemble the switch or just cut the two wires leading to it. Be sure to leave enough slack in the wire just in case you want replace the ignition switch later on.

Now connect the two wires and your electric start should work like always. Remember to connect the wires on the side leading to the engine not the side leading to the ignition.

You have to remember to disconnect the two wires when you’re done riding or you’ll drain the battery dead. I would recommend you put a simple switch here in place of the ignition, a simple on/off switch will work perfect.

Some of the newer quads have more than two wires coming out of the ignition switch, not to worry. A lot of times there will also be a ground wire or something like that. The two wires you should focus on are red and black. Cut those two wires and tape them together. Make sure you tape together the ends of the wire leading to the engine not to the ignition.

You may also see a black with white stripe and green wire. These two wires are shorted together when the key is in the off position. You will need to open that short by cutting the black with white stripe wire and tapping off the end.

Once the black with white stripe is cut and taped, and the red and black wires and spliced together and taped. You should have power to your quad as if the key was turned on. You can use your normal electric start and everything the way it is.

Remember to disconnect the black and red wires when you’re done to avoid killing the battery. You could also tape the black with white stripe wire back together to prevent anyone from easily starting the quad.

Jump The Selonoid

Common ATV Solenoid

This doesn’t work on all ATVs, only machines with an electric start option only. Your solenoid should be near your battery and wiring harness. On some quads you have to remove a side panel to access it.

Your solenoid will have two main wires coming out of it and possibly some other smaller ones, we only care about the two big wires. You need to lay a wrench or something metal across the two connectors of the main wires. Then, you should be able to start the quad.

I don’t use this method myself because you have to be real careful the wrench or piece of metal is not touching anything else that could short it out. If you accidentally touch the frame or something when doing this, you could cause damage to your electrical parts of the engine.

Use A Screwdriver

Desperate times call for desperate measures, and that’s what this method is. This trick is mostly used by thieves, so if you’re driving around the trails with a screw driver sticking out of the ignition and get stopped by trail enforcement, be ready to get asked some questions.

Basically you just hammer a screwdriver into the ignition and turn it on as if it were the key. The screwdriver will brake the pins in the lock allowing you to turn the ignition on.

I don’t recommend this method because you could damage the ignition and not get the quad to start anyway. And even if you are successful, you’re now riding around with a screwdriver sticking out.

Replace The Ignition Switch

This is obviously the best method in the list. Of course if you forgot your key and you’re already way out on the trail, then there’s no way you can order a part and do the replacement. This is more for someone who lost their key, or broke their ignition trying the screwdriver method.

Here’s a decent Replacement Ignition Switch found on Amazon to help get your search started. If you can find a replacement from the manufacturer for your specific machine, that would be the best route, but probably a lot more expensive.


One thing I want to mention is that it’s always best practice to tape up any wires you cut and exposed. You may have gotten the hotwire job done correctly, but if any of those wires hit the frame and short out you could have bigger problems.

Leave enough slack in the wires to work on them again later on. Try to avoid cutting the wires to the ignition real close to the ignition itself, or somewhere that makes it hard to get to the wires. You may want to work on it later on, like putting in a new ignition switch or on/off switch.

Don’t tell everyone how easy you hot wired your quad and how you did it. Maybe you’ll be safe to do this, but I lean a little more to the cautious side when it comes to my machines.

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