What is an ATV or UTV Kill Switch, and How Do You Use It?


A kill switch, although small in size, can make the difference in saving your ATV or UTV, and potentially some lives. Kill Switches are especially useful when you have children riding, but it can be a useful tool for anyone with an ATV or UTV.

An ATV kill switch causes the engine to shut off whenever it is triggered.  It usually attaches to the rider and can be pulled in an emergency or triggers automatically if the rider falls.

In this article, we will look at the kill switch, its importance, and, more importantly, how to use it. 

Why use a Kill Switch on an ATV/UTV?

Generally, the kill switch is used to kill the engine of a vehicle. The Kill Switch can have many uses.  One is to reduce your risk of vehicle theft. In fact, one of its most crucial and important components is that you, as the owner of the ATV, UTV, or car, will be the only person who knows where the switch is and how to operate it.   It won’t stop someone from hauling your ATV away on a trailer, but it will stop them from riding it out.

The kill switch deters crime since without finding it, a thief cannot start the vehicle. Many thieves will leave a vehicle alone and move on when there is a kill switch. With an ATV, this is very important. Although you may not have a lot of belongings within the vehicle itself, its open model is very enticing. Without a kill switch, someone can easily hijack the vehicle and take it for themselves. Although it sounds a bit far-fetched, a lot of ATVs are stolen; in fact, there has been a huge rise in stolen ATVs over the past few years. 

The more common purpose of a kill switch on an ATV or UTV  is to shut off the vehicle in an emergency situation. It is extremely beneficial for you when you want to shut it off immediately.  Depending on the kill switch, you can arrange for it it shut the engine off immediately if you fall from the ATV or UTV.

Another perk is that some insurance companies offer a discount for those owners whose vehicle does have a kill switch. This is often an overlooked aspect of having one. Insurance companies are well aware that these features prevent theft and also provide a safety measure that protects the driver and vehicle. 

How does A Kill Switch Work in an ATV or UTV 

Other than understanding its benefits, you must learn how a kill switch works on an ATV or UTV. It is in the vehicle for a reason and understanding that can help you a lot as an owner.

The kill switch is usually wired to the ignition coil. The ignition coil is part of the ATV or UTV that sends a spark that ignites the engine.

The kill switch breaks the ground circuit so that the coil no longer has a positive and ground. Because of that, the ignition coil is no longer firing. Without that, the ATV or UTV cannot run. 

A kill switch can come in different forms, such as the push or pull style, which have different ways of functioning, but their key differences are essential.

How the Different Kill Switches work in an ATV and UTV

In an ATV/UTV, there are two ways or systems that a kill switch is used, either an NC or NO, or “Normally Closed” or “Normally Open.” An NO switch is the open type, hence the name Normally Open, and functions by grounding the primary ignition lead when the tether is pulled away from the bars. 

When the tether is removed from the NO, it will end up closing itself. This, in turn, creates a short to the circuit to which it is wired. It is important to note that this function should not be used to ground the high voltage. An NO system is not used as often as the NC system, but you still see them frequently enough.

An NC switch, on the other hand, works in the opposite way. It is Normally closed and is connected to the 12V input to the ignition. When the tether is removed, it will disconnect or open the circuit from the negative to a positive voltage, turning on the ignition.

Usually, NC kill switches are used in battery type ignition systems that have a clear Run/Stop switch with a key identifier. While it is typically known that newer models are NC, but you will want to double-check the manual at all times to confirm.  

In general, the ATV kill switch is usually easy to install and uses wire plugins that ease into the OEM stock designs. Most of the kill switches for ATVs are designed to mount on the handlebars, but there are other option. 

How to Use an ATV Kill Switch

Most of the time, the kill switch will activate the same as a kill switch in any other vehicle.  Essentially, you either push or pull the switch and the engine should shut off. You will want to remember to shut the ignition off if you are not going to start the ATV back up.

Typically, you only want to use the kill switch when needed, but some riders like to use the kill switch whenever they shut down their ATV. 

This isn’t the end of the world, but it isn’t a best practice.  You can cause serious damage to your alternator if you regularly try to start your ATV without reengaging the kill switch. Your manual should have clear instruction about whether you can use the kill switch routinely, but most recommend only in emergency situations.

Kill Switch ATV/UTV Installation

Most of the time, an ATV kill switch is mounted to your handlebars, or to a handlebar clamp designed for the switch. You also want to install the kill switch where it can be easily reached, but won’t get in the way during normal operation.

Once you have determined where to mount the kill switch, simply tighten the screws using a 3mm Allen wrench in most cases. You will want to be careful not to overtighten the screws, while still ensuring the switch is mounted securely and wont slide or come loose during aggressive riding.

In terms of wiring, most kill switches are universal and will work with almost any ATV. However, the wiring inside ATVs is not universal.

Regardless of the type of ATV you have, the kill switch can never be directly on the on/off panel if the ATV already has one. In most ATVs, one lead from the switch will be wired to the ground, and the second wire will splice between the stator and ignition coil. 

When the stator wire is grounded, it will cause the engine to shut off.  Make sure to consult the instructions of your particular model to ensure you wire it correctly.

Once you have installed the kill switch on your ATV, test the switch by pulling the clip while the ATV is running. 


The kill switch, regardless of where or which vehicle it is used in, is one of the most imperative and essential assets you can have for safety purposes. From its anti-theft design to its last-second emergency usefulness, a kill switch can do you wonders. 

Regardless if you have an ATV or UTV, this kill switch can save your life. Whether that be on the off-road when you are going too fast or when the engine seems to malfunction, the kill switch is known to be the last resort and for good reason. It is both efficient and easy to use, either through a push or pull motion, and can be easily found by the owner of the vehicle. 

Furthermore, it can protect your vehicle from being stolen. A ton of ATVs and UTVS have been stolen through the years and having a kill switch has been one of the most effective protection against thieves. This is important in cars, but even more so in an open-model vehicle like an ATV.  With a kill switch, you can turn off the engine from being used unless you yourself are utilizing the vehicle. 

In terms of its installation, know where and how to activate the kill switch. It will be useless unless you know exactly where it is at all times and how to use it. Usually, this place would be accessible and easy to activate. In an emergency situation, you do not want to be looking for a kill switch. Instead, you want it to be an instant instinct that comes from experience. So, when installing, try to even practice or simulate what it would be like to use the switch. Furthermore, when attaching to the handlebar, make sure that the lead from the switch will be wired to the ground, and the second wire will splice between the stator and ignition coil. If not, you can cause serious damage to yourself and the ATV or UTV that you are operating on.   

Finally, there are a lot of automotive insurance policy benefits for having a kill switch. Make sure you check to see if you insurance carrier offers a discount when you are considering whether to install a kill switch.

Brent Huntley

Brent Huntley is the owner of ATV Man and is responsible for almost all the material on the website. He also runs photographyandtravel.com 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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