How Does an ATV/UTV Kill Switch Work? (for beginners)

A kill switch is definitely one of the most important safety precautions added to an off-road vehicle, whether that is a dirt bike, an ATV, or a UTV. Today I will give you a complete rundown on ATV kill switches, from how they work to the best options on the market.

An ATV kill switch is a simple mechanism that helps you quickly shut down your engine in case of an emergency. There are two main types of kill switches: normally open and normally closed. The ATV engine stop switch is an important safety measure that helps you avoid impact and minimize damage in potentially dangerous situations. Therefore, all ATV riders should make sure they have a fully functional kill switch on their quad.

Picking the right kill switch for your off-road vehicle starts with understanding how they function. Keep on reading to get my full rundown on engine stop switches, and stick around to learn how to test them.

How Does an ATV Kill Switch Work?

In a nutshell, an ATV kill switch is your safety device, ready to shut down your vehicle rapidly during emergencies. But how does it work? Well, the whole mechanism revolves around controlling the flow of electricity to your engine.

Think of it as a gatekeeper. The ATV kill switch controls an electrical circuit that’s directly connected to the engine. When you activate the switch, it effectively halts the flow of electricity. This, in turn, stops the engine immediately.

There are two main types of kill switches, each having a different way of controlling this electricity flow:

  • Normally Open (N/O): This type of switch keeps the circuit “open” or inactive under normal conditions. When you start your ATV, you activate the switch, closing the circuit and allowing electricity to flow to the engine. If you need to stop the ATV quickly, you deactivate the switch, which opens the circuit and cuts off the electricity, thereby stopping the engine.
  • Normally Closed (N/C): The mechanism of this switch is exactly the opposite. Under normal conditions, the circuit is “closed” or active, which means electricity is continually flowing to the engine. When the switch is activated in an emergency, the circuit opens up, cutting off the electricity and bringing the engine to a stop.

Regardless of the type, the main function of a kill switch is to ensure your safety by providing a quick way to turn off the engine when needed.

Is an ATV Kill Switch Different Than a UTV Kill Switch?

Both ATVs and UTVs have kill switches as integral parts of their design. The fundamental function of a kill switch in these vehicles remains identical: to rapidly deactivate the engine in an emergency situation, ensuring rider safety.

However, given the difference in design, size, and purpose of ATVs and UTVs, there might be subtle differences in the type, placement, or design of the kill switches used. For example, a UTV with power steering, being a larger and typically multi-seater vehicle, may have a differently located or designed kill switch compared to an ATV. Similarly, the kill switches for these vehicles could differ in their mechanisms or specific features based on the manufacturer’s design.

Ultimately, whether you’re riding an ATV or a UTV, the important thing is to ensure that the kill switch is easy to reach, responsive, and functioning properly to ensure safety at all times. Always refer to your vehicle’s user manual or consult a professional to select and install the appropriate kill switch for your specific vehicle.

Where is the Kill Switch Located On an ATV?

Button and pull kill switches are usually located on your handlebar for easy access. When you install it yourself you can add it wherever you want, but the most common placement is on the left side, next to the light switch. An ATV tether kill switch has a different mechanism, using a lanyard that connects to the rider, but the box is still usually located on the handlebar.

In case of remote ATV kill switches, the box is often bulky and can be tucked away under the chassis. Whether you are using a remote control engine stop switch for a kids UTV or for your own ATV, its stealth location can be an added measure of protection against theft. Even though experienced off-roaders will know how to follow a wire and eventually get to the brain box of your kill switch, time is essential for thieves. This means that it is very likely they will move on to an easier target, rather than try to locate and bypass your remote kill switch.

If ATV theft is a big concern for you, I recommend you take other preventive measures as well. I have an informative article on how to prevent a dirt bike from being stolen, with tips that can easily be applied to ATVs and UTVs too.

How Do You Test a Kill Switch On an ATV?

In order to test that a kill switch is fully functional, you will need to test the continuity of the current. You can do so by using a multimeter and setting it to measure ohm (electrical resistance). Here is a step-by-step guide that shows exactly how to test your ATV kill switch:

Sidenote: For this process, you’ll need a multimeter, which you can purchase from any hardware store or online.

  1. Disconnect the Kill Switch: Unplug the wires connected to your ATV’s kill switch.
  2. Set up the Multimeter: Power up your multimeter and set it to measure ohms (Ω), the unit for electrical resistance.
  3. Connect the Multimeter Leads: Attach the multimeter’s leads to the disconnected wires from the kill switch. It doesn’t matter which lead you connect to which wire.
  4. Check the Initial Reading: Before activating the kill switch, take note of the multimeter’s initial reading.
  5. Activate the Kill Switch: Press the kill switch as if you were trying to shut off the engine.
  6. Read the Multimeter: Look for changes on the multimeter. If the kill switch is working properly, the value should change (e.g., from “0” to “1”) or an alarm might be triggered, indicating that the electrical current has been interrupted.

If your kill switch doesn’t respond as described in the last step, it may be faulty and need replacement. Always ensure your kill switch is functional before riding your ATV, as it’s a crucial safety feature.

Video Guide: Here is a quick video from a fellow off-roader that shows exactly how to attach the leads and test the continuity on your engine stop switch:

Can You Bypass a Kill Switch On an ATV?

An ATV kill switch can be bypassed in case of need by unplugging or connecting certain wires. However, you should approach this task cautiously, as incorrectly bypassing a kill switch can potentially cause damage to your four-wheeler’s ignition system. With that said, here is a step-by-step guide:

Note: This general guide may not apply to all ATVs. Procedures can differ based on make, model, and year of the ATV. Always consult your ATV’s manual or a professional mechanic to avoid mishaps.

  1. Ensure Safety First: Before you start, make sure your ATV is turned off and safely parked. It’s also a good idea to disconnect the battery before you begin.
  2. Locate the Kill Switch Wires: The kill switch wires usually connect to the ignition system of the ATV. These are typically located near the handlebars.
  3. Identify the Correct Wires: The wire colors can differ greatly from one ATV model to another. Generally, the black wire is associated with the kill switch, but always refer to your ATV’s manual to confirm.
  4. Disconnect the Kill Switch Wires: You will need to disconnect the kill switch wires from the ignition system. Typically, disconnecting the black wire from the CDI (Capacitor Discharge Ignition) bypasses the kill switch.
  5. Connect or Tape Off the Wires: Depending on your ATV, you may need to either connect the loose wires together using a wire connector or insulate them individually with electrical tape to prevent accidental grounding.

Please keep in mind that, bypassing the kill switch should only be a temporary solution for troubleshooting or urgent riding needs. A functioning kill switch is an important safety feature, so be sure to replace a faulty one as soon as possible. Always consult a professional if you’re unsure about any step in the process.

Top 3 ATV Kill Switches

Now that you know more about how engine stop switches work, here are my top recommendations for switching out your OEM system. I will be sharing with you a classic push button switch, an ATV tether kill switch, and a remote kill switch. Let’s get right into it.

#1 JFG Racing CNC Universal Kill Switch

JFG Racing CNC Universal Kill Switch

I like this switch from JFG Racing because it is a straightforward and reliable alternative to the original kill switch on an ATV. The rubber seal helps to keep out dirt and moisture, while the aluminum finish gives it a sleek look.

This is a push button switch that operates with a normally open electrical contact. The installation process is easy, as long as you are careful to purchase the mounting backplate as well. Aside from being a quality product, I also enjoy the fact that you can purchase the switch in 6 different colors to match your quad (black, blue, yellow, green, orange, and red).

The JFG Racing CNC Universal Kill Switch can fit 22mm (7/8 inch) handlebars and is priced at $13.99, making it the cheapest option on today’s list.

Check the latest price

#2 Pro Armor A040021 Universal Kill Switch

Pro Armor A040021 Universal Kill Switch

The Pro Armor brand is among the most popular providers of ATV tether kill switches on the market. Their simple and effective design speaks of itself, especially in this universal model that can be used as an UTV kill switch as well. If you are a racer, this T-handle engine stop switch will definitely be the right fit.

Much like the previous kill switch on our list, the Pro Armor A040021 is durable and designed to keep dirt and water out with the help of an internal o-ring seal. This normally open system works with most ATV brands and you can check compatibility with the help of their Amazon product list.

This model is priced at $30.00, making it the most expensive kill switch on our list. However, the quick installation process, the ease of use, and the quality materials make up for this higher price tag.

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#3 FLYPIG Universal Remote Control Kill Switch

FLYPIG Universal Remote Control Kill Switch

Last but not least, I decided to include a remote control kill switch on the list too. This type of engine stop switch is usually used on youth ATVs for parental supervision. The FLYPIG Universal Kill Switch is compatible with quads from most Chinese brands, however, it may not work for other 4-wheelers.

According to the manufacturer, this system can be applied for quads with 50 to 125cc ATVs from TaoTao, Coolsport, Kazuma, Buyang, Sunl, and AIM-EX. Make sure to contact your mechanic or do some research on the make and model of your ATV before making this $17.38 purchase. If it turns out it is compatible, then you can rely on this universal remote control kill switch for your children’s ATV.

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A kill switch is a vital protection measure that all off-roaders should have on their adventure vehicle. On top of that, a well-hidden engine stop switch can deter thieves away, looking for an easier target. Whether you are a UTV or ATV rider, the kill switches I shared with you today will be a great addition to your list of safety precautions. Whenever you are shopping for a new kill switch, make sure to check the electrical contact type (Normally Open or Normally Closed) from your OEM system. Depending on your preference and off-roading goals, you can then choose between a pull/push button kill switch, a tether kill switch, or a remote control kill switch. Regardless of your choice, make sure to test out your new addition with a multimeter!

Bob Kelly

Hey there, my name is Bob and I've been riding ATVs, dirt bikes, and UTVs for most of my life. Going on outdoor adventures has always been my passion. I love sharing tips and tricks with beginners who are getting ready to join the world of outdoor enthusiasts. You can reach me at if you want to get in touch.

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