My Kawasaki Bayou Won't Start

by Troy Lambert
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quad rando image by Patricia Hardy from

The Kawasaki Bayou is a small but rugged ATV. Its light weight and maneuverable size make it a good choice for simple jobs around your property or a fun toy for playing off-road. Whether you have an older Bayou with the 220 motor, or the newer 250, or the elderly 300 four-wheel-drive model, the engine configurations are basically the same platform, and the diagnosis of a failure to start is very similar. Follow these steps to get your Bayou working for you again.

Step 1

Check the battery. If the quad has been siting for a long time, make sure the battery has a good charge. A weak battery, even if it cranks the engine on your Bayou, will not allow the quad to start. Voltage over 9 volts is necessary to energize the ignition module.

Step 2

Check for fuel. Ensure that there is fuel in the tank of your Bayou. Do not trust the fuel gauge as the gauges are notoriously faulty. Physically look in the tank. Ensure that the fuel petcock is on or in the reserve position. If you have an inline fuel filter installed, check it for excess debris.

Step 3

Check the air box. Often, ATVs are stored in barns or garages, and if they are stored for long periods, mice and other rodents make a home in the air box or use it as a storage place for food. This can rob the quad of air and not allow it to start. Ensure that the air box is clear of all debris, and that the filter is clean as well.

Step 4

Check for spark. Install an inline spark tester, and crank the motor. You should see hot white spark. If you do not, check the stator first. Remove the right side body panel, and you will see a connector with three yellow wires. Test each of the legs of the stator with a multimeter. Check the reading against specifications found in your Bayou repair manual. At the same time, check the other end of the connector that leads to the ignition module. Use the specifications in your manual to determine if the ignition module is good. Also, check the ignition coil. Replace any component that tests outside of its specifications.

Step 5

Test compression using a compression tester. Remove the spark plug and install the compression tester adapter. Crank the engine for a few seconds. Take the reading from the compression tester. It should fall within the 90-to-100-psi range for the Kawasaki Bayou. If it does not, check the valve adjustment first. Valves that are too tight can cause low compression and prevent the Bayou from starting. If the valve adjustment is good, major engine components have failed. Consult a professional for repair options and advice.

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