Can You Ride an ATV Without the Voltage Regulator?

Riding  an ATV can be exhilarating, but not so much when your voltage regulator has left the ATV with little power. This can be extremely frustrating when you are ready to be out on the open road.

Can you ride an ATV without the voltage regulator? While you may be able to temporarily operate an ATV without a voltage regulator, you should not do so. The voltage regulator turns the raw energy of the ATV’s stator to the right amount of energy  the battery can use. If you continue to ride your ATV without a voltage regulator, you will damage other parts.

If you are having issues with your voltage regulator, you need to quick riding and get it check out by someone who knows what they are looking at. Without proper energy from the battery, your ATV will no longer be operable. Your voltage regulator does a lot for your ATV that you should read on about.

What Does the Voltage Regulator Do for an ATV?

Your voltage regulator turns the alternative current (AC) into a direct current (DC). This ensures that your battery gets just the right amount of power at any time. The majority of this power makes your ATV run properly and without any sputtering. 

Should you ride your ATV without a voltage regulator, your battery will become overcharged. This would mean that all of the AC energy is being concentrated on the battery and does not flow to the other components of your ATV that need power.

As your battery continues to handle this much power, it will start to weaken and and eventually die completely. When your voltage regulator starts to have issues, your ATV will not seem as powerful as it should.

However, we all know there are many reasons your ATV can lose power.  Because of that, there are other problems that you should look out for on your ATV that will suggest that your voltage regulator is starting to fail.

How to Know if your ATV has a Bad Voltage Regulator?

Spotting the signs of a failing voltage regulator will help you to fix the problem sooner. Because the voltage regulator helps bring a steady flow of power to each part of the ATV, there are different clues to spot when the voltage regulator begins failings.

The signs of a failing ATV voltage regulator include the following:

  • Your ATV is overloaded with power: The AC energy that starts when you turn your ATV on goes straight through the voltage regulator. The voltage then exceeds the limit for the ATV, causing problems with other electrical parts.
  • Your ATV doesn’t run as strongly: The ATV will become slower as you try to push it harder. You may think there is a problem with the engine, but more than likely it is the regulator.
  • Your ATV lights start to dim: Your lights may flicker, or they just dim so they are not as bright as usual. Again, you will be tempted to change the bulbs, but it is best to look at the regulator to make sure it is not a bigger issue.
  • Your ATV’s battery stops working: The end result of a bad voltage regulator is a dead battery.  There could be other reasons as to why your battery is dead, but a dead batter is the main sign of your regulator not functioning properly.  One sign that often means you have a voltage regulator issue is that you find your battery to be swollen.

If you see any of these signs showing up, you should take immediate action. Early detection can help prevent the burnout of other electrical parts that will cost more to replace. So, how do you test your ATV voltage regulator to make sure that it is working properly before you buy a replacement?

How Do You Test a Voltage Regulator On an ATV?

Testing your voltage regulator is a simple task, but you can also hire a professional if you are not comfortable with it.

Going along with the regulator, you will hear the word, “rectifier.” A rectifier moves hand-in-hand with the regulator, as it is responsible for changing the three-phase AC energy into DC. The regulator then takes that DC energy and keeps it where it needs to be to not overcharge the ATV and the battery.

To test your regulator you will need:

Here are the following steps to take to test your  voltage regulator:

  • Take your digital multimeter and change the setting to do a diode check.
  • Next, determine if your ATV uses a single or three-phase regulator. If it is a single-phase regulator, there will be one wire. If your ATV has a three-phase regulator, there will be three different colored wires.
  • This part is important as you do not want to electrocute yourself. Make sure that your ATV is completely turned off and once you have done this, you are now able to remove the regulator from your ATV.
  • You need to perform a forward bias test on your regulator. Take the leads from your digital multimeter and check once more to determine that it is on the diode check.
  • Attach your leads to your regulator. The negative lead will be attached to the positive line on the regulator, which is usually the color red.
  • Attach your positive lead to the regulator’s biggest line. This line will have multiple connections for you to test. This will show you where your regulator is faulty.
  • When you apply the positive lead to one of the connectors, your multimeter should read between, .300 to .500 volts DC.
  • If you have received an OL on your digital multimeter, this stands for “Open Line.” The connector that gives this reading is unable to receive any power. AC energy is running right past it, unfiltered. This means it is time to replace your regulator.

The Cost of a Voltage Regulator Replacement

The cost of the voltage regulator part itself can range from $15 to $250 on Amazon. The price you pay will depend on what model of ATV you have and the manufacturer of the part you choose.

If you are not comfortable replacing the voltage regulator, any ATV repair shop should be able to handle it.  On top of the part, you should count on paying at least $100 to $300 for the labor. 

Should the regulator be located on the inside of the alternator, you should expect to pay on the higher end of the labor cost range. If it is located on the outside of the alternator, you will not have to pay so much.

Overall, your total cost to replace this piece should be no more than $500. Even though dealerships often charge more, you should explore other options if they want much more than that.

Some notes on ATV batteries relative to voltage regulators 

If the voltage regulator is causing your battery to go bad, you can often see swelling in the battery. Because the regulator is not steadying the flow of energy, the battery is taking more power in than it is designed for. Make sure to be careful when removing the swollen battery from your ATV.

Once your voltage regulator has fried your ATV battery, you will have to pick a new one. An ATV uses a flooded acid-battery or an Absorbed Glass Mat batteries. The Absorbed Glass Mat batteries are stronger than the flooded acid-lead batteries. 

If you are just simply riding around in your ATV and not having to do any heavy handling, then the flooded battery would be your best option. It is low-cost, but they can begin to become messy if you start to ride a bit rougher.

The Absorbed Glass Mat battery is made for rougher riding. As you would expect, it will cost slightly more than a flooded battery. However, they do not spill and can be charged faster than the flooded batteries. 

If you have questions about buying a new battery for your ATV, you will want to check out our much more comprehensive battery guide.

Brent Huntley

Brent Huntley is the owner of ATV Man and is responsible for almost all the material on the website. He also runs and loves to travel and ride ATVs with his family. When he isn't playing, his day job consists of owning Huntley Law.

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