How to Wire an ATV for Brake Lights

by Chris Gilliland

Although all-terrain vehicles are intended to be operated off-road, certain states and counties allow properly equipped ATVs to be operated on public roads. Brake lights, an essential component in converting an ATV for street use, are used to warn other motorists of your intent to decelerate or stop. However, few manufacturers equip their ATVs with three-wire taillights that can function as a running light and brake light. Fortunately, wiring in a new light setup can be relatively simple with proper preparation.


Take a look at your ATV's taillight wiring. The taillight will need to have three wires for it to function as a brake light. Each wire will control a separate facet of the brake/taillight combination; one wire will operate the "dim" tail light, the second wire will power the "bright" brake light, and the third will act as a ground wire for the light. If your ATV only has two wires, or does not have a taillight at all, you will need to purchase a three-wire taillight.


Purchase and install an inline pressure-operated brake switch onto your ATV's brake system. These switches replace the "banjo" bolts that connect your brake lines to the master cylinders and turn the brake light on when the brake lever or pedal is pulled in.


Measure the amount of wire you will need by using string. Run the string from the front brake switch's first lead to the taillight's "dim" wire (wire A). Next, measure the distance from the front brake switch's second lead to the rear brake switch's first lead (wire B). Finally, measure the distance from the rear brake switch's second lead to the tail light's "bright" wire (wire C). Cut your wire to the lengths needed using a wire cutter.


Solder the front brake switch's leads to wires A and B. Run the wiring through the handlebars and frame, routing wire A to the taillight and wire B to the rear brake switch.


Solder the rear brake switch's first lead to wire B. Solder wire C to the second lead on the rear brake switch and route the wire through the frame to the taillight. At this point, wires A and C will meet at the taillight.


Locate the ATV's factory-supplied taillight wiring harness and cut the connector off using wire cutters. Solder the taillight's "dim" wire and ground wire to the corresponding wires on the harness. Solder wire C to the taillight's "bright" wire.


Splice wire A into the taillight's "dim" wire using a T-tap connector. This will ensure that the brake light only works when the ignition is on.


Turn the ATV's ignition switch to the "ON" position and check that the taillight is on. Pull in the front brake lever and check the taillight. The brighter brake light should illuminate immediately. Release the lever and press the rear brake pedal. The brake light should illuminate again.


Turn off the ignition and secure any loose wiring to the ATV's frame using zip ties.


  • check For added security, seal the soldered wire joints with electrical tape or heat shrink tubing.
  • check If you do not feel comfortable performing this task, consult a qualified technician.

Items you will need


About the Author

An avid motorcyclist, Chris Gilliland has immersed himself into the two-wheeled world while balancing work life and raising three daughters. When he is not managing the parts department of a local, multi-line motorcycle dealership, Gilliland can often be found riding, writing or working on his motorcycle blog, Wingman's Garage.

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