Keep Your ATV Running with a Bit of TLC
No one who rides an ATV puts his or her machine in storage. There is nothing as fun as riding through the snow and exploring a winter wonderland, especially after a good snowfall. Sliding across a frozen pond is even more fun. Yet sometimes even Mother Nature makes it a bit hard to ride and that is the perfect time to give your ATV a little TLC and prepare it for the spring and a full riding season.
While we know our ATVs are very reliable and require very little care – amazing considering the daily pounding they take when we ride – some preventative maintenance will help ensure that your ATV never leaves you stranded out in the middle of nowhere. After all, it’s easier to work on it in a warm, dry garage than in the middle of a muddy field. The best part? Caring for your ATV is pretty easy.
Make sure it can breathe clean air and has fresh oil inside.
Checking the oil and air filter on a regular basis is a great habit to get into. You may not need to change them more than a few times a season, however, checking often will let you know if it is necessary. Also, if you use your ATV as a workhorse, you may need to do an extra change of filters outside of your normal maintenance. If you are in a pinch, you can clean the current air filter, but make sure you treat the filter before you put it back in, if required. Dual-density foam filters will need to be treated.
When changing the oil in your ATV, invest in a good quality oil and filter that is designed for your machine. ATV engines are different than the engines in your car or truck, so standard motor oil is not going to cut it. The oil for your ATV has special additives in it, so it’s a good idea to keep a bottle around. If you are far away from the local dealership, you can use a high-quality automotive motor oil in a pinch. Just remember to change it as soon as you can. You want to keep your ATV engine running for a long time.
Clean your float bowl.
If you are riding an ATV that has an old-fashioned carburetor, then you should give the float bowl a good cleaning a couple times a year. The float bowl traps fuel contaminants and water whenever you ride, and this gunk can build up. To clean it, turn off the fuel valve, unscrew the drain from the bottom of your carburetor and empty out all of the stuff in the float bowl. Wipe it down and put it back on, turning the fuel valve back on before you start the engine.
How about those brakes, cables and controls?
You need to be able to stop or slow your descent down an incline, which means your brakes and rotors need to be in tip-top shape. Look at your brake pads and rotors for wear and change them, if necessary. While you’re at it, check the master cylinder reservoir to make sure the oil level is correct. Then, check all of your cables and give them some lubrication if they are not working as smoothly as they should be. You can disconnect the high end of the cable and work some WD-40 or light-duty oil into it until the cable is good and lubed. Reattach the cables and check your levers to make sure they have the correct free play.
Check the chassis.
If your ATV has grease fittings on the front and rear suspension, give them a shot of fresh grease in the spring before you take off on your first ride. It’s a good idea to grease them after a good wash with a high-pressure washer. If you don’t have grease fittings, then take your ATV apart and manually add the grease. This will also allow you to look for any worn bushings.
Got a chain and sprocket? Then give it a good go over. Look for sprocket teeth that are sharp, hooked or pointed. If you find them, replace your sprockets. The same goes for the chain. If the chain seems to have thin or worn side plates, or it can flex from side-to-side, it’s time for a new one. It’s a good idea to replace the chain and sprocket at the same time so that they will wear together.
Shake it up!
What is the quickest way to find anything that might be loose? Give your ATV a good shake. Grab the front bumper and shake your entire ride back and forth to see if anything appears to be loose. Repeat this process at the rear and then compress the suspension on both ends to make sure it’s working right. Give all of your nuts and bolts a look over and tighten them up. Don’t forget to make sure that your tie rods haven’t come loose and that everything rolls properly without dragging.
And your wheels?
Check the pressure in your tires before each ride and make sure the tires are all at the same pressure. If you are constantly adding air to your tires, it might be time for a new set.
Make it shine!
Finally, give your ATV a good bath before you start working on it and after every ride. This will help you identify any potential problems before they can cost you a great deal of money.
Giving your ATV a little TLC on a regular basis will help make it last for a long time and keep you outside enjoying the ride instead of inside making repairs.