Open Ignition: Newer style ignition including the 1998 and newer ZR’s and ZL’s 1998-2002 ZRT 600,800 and 1000
A "normally open" ignition system. With this system a live wire goes from the ignition system to all of the switches. The switches are normally open, or not making connection, until in the "OFF" position. When in the "OFF" position the switch will ground the ignition wire to the chassis effectively "grounding out" the ignition system killing the spark. If a connecter becomes disconnected or if a wire gets cut then the switch will no longer turn off the engine. With the "normally closed" system if a connector comes loose or a wire gets cut the spark will stop until the wiring is repaired completing the circuit again.
Diagnosing no spark, weak spark or intermitten spark issues
The first thing you want to do is separate if it an issue in the switches/handlebars or lights or if the issue is in the primary ignition components like the stator, cdi, coils, trigger coil or possibly plugs or plug wires or plug caps.
1. The first thing you want to do is to take the spark plugs out of the cylinder heads, put the spark plugs in the spark plug boots and lay them on the cylinder head so they are grounded. A good place is on a cylinder head bolt away from the cylinder spark plug hole. If you pull the sled over and the spark plug is over the spark plug hole and it sparks it will ignite so make sure the plugs are not near the spark plug holes.
2. Pull the recoil rope and check the spark at the plug. Is there Spark? Is there spark at each spark plug? IS the spark blue (indicating a strong spark) or is it yellow (indicating a “weak” spark).
3. The next step is pretty much the same if you had no spark or a weak spark. On the “open” ignition you can simply unplug the 4-prong connector containing the 2 yellow wires. This 4-prong connector sends the power to the lights, hand warmers and tachometer. When you unplug this 4-prong connector you are bypassing all of your switches (Throttle Safety Switch, Kill tether ect..) and all of your lights, hand warmers ect..in your handlebars. Pull the recoil over and see if you have spark or if the spark is now blue. Carburated models can be started and run with this 4-prong connector unplugged but you won’t have lights ect..as mentioned before. If you have an EFI, you can only check for spark and it will not start or run with it unplugged. You need it plugged in to power your fuel pump.
4. If you had no spark and by unplugging the 4-prong connector you now have spark, that tells you that you have something shorted out in your hand controls, switches like the tether, throttle safety switch or kill switch. If you had weak spark and now have blue spark it also tells you that you have a short or a problem with one of your switches. The most likely culprit is the TSS or kill switch, There is a 3 prong connector in your handlebars that if you unplug it will bypass your kill and TSS switch and you will only be bale to start and turn off your sled with the key. The 3 prong connector is usually not by the handlebars next to where you put your hands but rather just a little bit down the steering shaft about at the point where the console containing the key switch is located. If you’re not sure which connector it is, just follow the one group of wires out of the right handlebar area where the TSS and Kill switch are located down to where the plug is located. There are 3 other plugs by the handlebar on the right side by the thumb throttle, but they contain yellow wires and are for your hand warmers and thumb warmer and do not have anything to do with the TSS or the Kill switch.
5. If after unplugging the 4-plug switch you still do not have spark or the spark is weak looking this tells you that the problem is in the major ignition components like the stator, coils, cdi spark plugs, spark plug wires or trigger coil.
6. The first thing to check are the connections from the stator to the cdi. Make sure all connections are free of moisture, are tight and use dielectric grease on it. Check the ground. You should have a ground wire coming from your stator and your CDI/ECU box. Make sure the ground is clean, tight and that the ground wires are not broken. Sometimes the ground wire is pinched and broken inside the eyelet connection and is making only intermitten if any connection. Some older model Arctic Cats have the ground up closer to the handle bars on what some would consider the “firewall: of the sled and they are notorious for rusting/corroding out badly.
7. If all of the connections are solid and the ground looks good then you have to start electrically checking components. Most of the twin trigger coils are supposed to ohm out at 90 or so ohms. Triples are usually 175 ohms. View my “testing a pulser/trigger coil” video to see how to test it. It is very easy and quick to test. The frustating part abou the trigger coil is that it can test good, but still be bad.
8. Next you want to test the stator itself. View my “How to test a stator” video to see how to do it. Here is a list of Arctic Cat specs. I am continually adding to it so the list will grow over time so keep checking back:
ZR/ZL 500 & ZR/ZL 600 Carb Specs 1998-1999:
Charge coil #1 (blk/red - grn/red) 46 ohms
Charge coil #2 (grn/red - brn/wht) 450 ohms
Trigger coil 90 ohms
ZR/ZL500EFI & ZR/ZL600EFI Specs 1998-1999
Primary coil(brown+green of 3 pin connector) 360-540 (450 nominal)
Secondary (High Speed) coil(black + green of 3 pin) 36.8-55.2 (46 nominal)
Trigger coil 90 ohms
2000-2002 ZRT800 & THundercat
Black/Red to White/Brown (30ohms)
Black/Red to Green/red (13-18ohms)
Green/Red to White/Brown(13-18ohms)
9. If you have no spark and your trigger tests ok and your stator tests ok then we’re looking at a possible bad CDI box There is no real good way to test the CDI other than swapping the box out with a known good CDI box.
10. If you have no spark and your trigger tests ok and your stator tests ok then we may be looking at a secondary coil issue. There is no real good way to test the CDI other than swapping the box out with a known good CDI box. The coils can have a couple of issues with them. The first thing you want to do is make sure the spark plug caps are on tight. They just screw on and off the spark plug wire. Many times the best thing to do as long as your wires are long enough is to unscrew the spark plug caps, trim a ½ inch off the end of the wire and then screw the spark plug cap back on. Also, you can unscrew the wire from the coil itself and do the same thing. Trim off about a ½ inch and screw it back on the coil. I had 2 sets of coils go “bad” on my sled and come to find out it was just the spark plug wires were a bit warn at their ends and after I trimmed them and screwed them back together they ran perfect. This condition usually causes a miss or it sputters at higher roms. Be warned though that I did have one wire that would not unscrew from a coil no matter how hard I tried to turn it and I ended up just tearing the spark plug wire.
11. Also, bad reeds on a sled will cause it to back fire and run poorly acting like it is an electrical issue.
You can click on the links in my signature to see how to check some of this stuff.