ATV Maintenance Is The Key To Keeping Your ATV On The Trail
How long will your ATV last?
Most riders should be able to get 6 – 10 years of riding out of a brand new ATV – 6 – 8 years if you’re hard core, 10 years if you’re a casual rider. It’s even totally possible to get 10+ years with excellent ATV maintenance.
A car or truck is considered “high mileage” at 100,000 miles while10,000 miles is considered “high mileage” for an ATV. When an ATV reaches 10,000 miles, you can expect more and more mechanical problems with increased maintenance costs.
But, you can easily find stories of ATV owners who get a lot more than 10 years out of their ATVs, while, on the other end of the spectrum, there are also no shortage of stories of owners burning out their rides out in a few short years.
So, what separates the longer lasting ATVs from the short lived? 9 times out of 10 it’s maintenance.
The key to maximizing your ATV investment and keeping it on the trails is maintenance.
Follow ATV Break In Recommendations
An essential part of ATV maintenance is following your ATV manufacturer’s guidelines on how you should break in the new ATV engine.
If you don’t follow these recommendations, you risk damaging your ATV engine and shortening the overall life of your ride.
A typical break in period is for the first 10 hours or 200 miles of riding.
General Break In Recommendations:
- After starting, allow the engine to heat up for a few minutes
- Don’t idle for a long period of time
- Don’t pull a trailer or a heavy load
- Operate at less than 1/2 throttle
- Occasionally use brief full-throttle accelerations and variations in driving speeds (while still operating primarily at 1/2 throttle)
- Burnish hydraulic break pads (this helps with full braking effectiveness and extends the life of the break pads)
To Burnish The Break Pads:
- Choose a long open area where no fast stopping will be needed
- Accelerate ATV to 30mph and break to a stop
- Repeat 5 times
- Expect the breaks to get hot during this process
*Clean and inspect every month/100 miles.
Make sure the battery fluid level is maintained in the “safe zone”. If it drops below the lowest level recommended, top it off with DISTILLED WATER. (USE ONLY DISTILLED WATER)
If the battery loses it’s charge, remove the battery from the ATV and trickle charge it over night.
Check The Oil
*Change the oil and oil filter after the initial break in period and then every 100 miles.
Follow your ATV manufacturers recommendation on oil viscosity – a 10W-40 is fairly standard.
Also, check oil levels before each ride just to be on the safe side.
Clean The Air Filter/Drains
*Check and clean the air filter every month/100 miles whichever happens first. Check and clean more often if riding if muddy or dusty conditions.
A clean air filter keeps the engine running strong and helps maximize gas mileage.
Under the main housing for the air filter are the one-way drains. When you’re checking and cleaning the air filter give the drains a quick once over. Keep an eye out for damage or deterioration. A damaged one-way drain can allow dirt into the engine resulting in severe engine damage.
*Check gap and inspect spark plugs every 3 months/300 miles. Replace every 12 – 18 months/4,000 miles.
Before removing the spark plugs, clean around the housing so that dirt doesn’t get into the engine.
Spark plugs are both cheap and necessary, so it’s generally a good rule of thumb to just pull and replace them once a year. They’re probably good for a year and a half, but why tempt fate.
If it looks bad change it! A good plug will have a little bit of light brown color. A dark brown/burnt look or white insulator indicates potential engine problems.
A dark brown insulator is a potential indicator of too much gas, not enough air. Potential causes are a clogged air filter or a carburetor needing an adjustment.
A white insulator is too much air, not enough gas. This is a more serious problem which can cause your engine to run hot and can end up causing a lot more other damage. Potential causes are a clogged carburetor or fuel line problems.
*Every 3 months/300 miles give them a more through inspection looking for cracks, rot and sidewall damage.
It’s always a good idea to give your tires a quick once over before heading out on any ride, plus always carry a tire repair kit on all rides.
A light lubrication of essential moving parts keeps everything running smoothly and helps prevent corrosion.
*Regularly Inspect and Lubricate As Needed:
- Throttle Lever Pivot/Cable Ends
- Brake Lever Pivot
- Auxiliary Brake Pedal Pivot
- Choke Cable Upper End
- Differential Lock Cable Ends
- Idle RPM Screw (Carburetors)
Keep It Clean
*It’s a good habit to rinse off your ATV after every ride, but especially muddy rides.
Mud has a lot of moisture that can damage your machine over time. The mud can trap this moisture on metal and rubber parts causing them to rust, corrode and degrade more quickly.
Don’t use a high pressure washer – too much power! This can damage gaskets, boots, bearings, seals and ultimately do more harm than good.
*Inspect and tightened every 3 months/300 miles.
When rattling down the trail, nuts and bolts can get loosened over time, so inspect them regularly.
*Check the cooling system everyday for leaks and damage. Inspect thoroughly every month/100 miles and change out the coolant every two years.
You need to fill the cooling system twice. Fill once, then run the engine for 5 minutes to circulate the fluid. Turn the engine off and then top off the tank to the fill line. This helps gets rid of air pockets and ensures that the tank is 100% full.
*Inspect the brakes every time you hit the trail. Every 3 months/300 miles inspect and clean the entire break system.
- Replace the break pads as needed
- Break fluid every 2 years
- Break hoses every 4 years
*Inspect regularly and replace as needed:
- Handle bars/grips
- Steering post/bearing assembly
- Ball joints
- Tie rods
- Cotter pins
Check the Belt
*Inspect the belt every 100 hours/1100 miles or more frequently if you ride in harsh conditions.
Drive Chain/Drive Shaft
*Check and lubricate/grease as needed every month/100 miles. For racing, dust and mud riding you may want to lube/grease everyday.
Whether your ATV has a drive chain or a drive shaft, both need regular upkeep to run smoothly. A drive chain requires lubrication while a drive shaft requires grease.
*Check the rubber boots every 3 months/300 miles.
Be on the look out for dry rubber, rot and cracks and replace as needed.
To help keep an eye on your ATV maintenance, I’ve created an ATV maintenance checklist in an easy to use spreadsheet format. There is a download button so you can easily print it out for your records.