Off-roading is fun and having the finances to afford a great ride is the icing on the cake, but if you do not take care of that ride it will become even more expensive to fix right before your dreams of riding are deflated by catastrophe. I have assembled a few tips to keep the ride you love in great shape. If you just make a list of these items to check and follow it like your alarm clock you will be riding more and spending less in the long run.
1. Check Your Oil
This seems to be a very simple thing to do but for most in the heat of the moment and the thrill of getting the machine loaded or just out of the garage to ride can be overlooked. Oil breaks down and keeping the right amount of lubricant in your engine is sometimes NOT as easy as keeping the holes plugged. Oil can be burnt off through weak piston rings and seep out of unsuspected compromised gaskets. Make checking your oil every ride, or at least every few rides, part of your regular routine.
2. Change the Oil
Believe it or not you still have to change the oil in your ATV from time to time. I know most say it does not matter, but oil is the life-blood of the motor so keep it fresh and you will be riding a healthy machine. Just like your car, regular oil changes will keep your engine running strong.
3.Check the Coolant
Coolant in most engines performs several different functions. Most think it simply transfers heat to a radiator for cooling. This is only part of the equation though, as it also lubricates seals and prevents rusting inside the engine. Most coolant can be ran for years unless the system becomes compromised with debris from within, or in some cases when the head gasket begins to leak and allows engine oil in.
4. Check Your Radiator Cap
So you think it just plugs the hole in the top of the radiator? Not so fast, my friend. This little device also controls the coolant within. Controlling the coolant as it reaches its high pressure, the cap also allows negative pressure to pull coolant into the radiator should it need more fluid. Make sure it still keeps a proper seal and replace it if there are signs of wear or cracking.
5. Replace Your Spark Plug
Changing the spark plug in your ATV will bring back fresh power that can be lost as the plug begins to wear over time. Spark plugs are subject to many things including bad gas (as if we get that from refineries, right?) or an improperly jetted machine. At only about $10, swap out this part twice a year to ensure the machine is functioning correctly, and it will keep the machine you love running at top performance.
6. Electrical Wiring
If you are a home mechanic and love to tinker, take time to look over the wiring of your ATV as often as the opportunity arrives. Catching scraped or chafing wires before they have a chance to ground out precious and expensive components will save you heartache down the road.
7. Monitor Your Fuel
Purchasing gas these days is a crapshoot at best, but do not be fooled into thinking that the supplier is looking out for you on this one. I suggest only high-octane fuel for your riding, as it is usually the better of the evils. Ethanol may have extended the fuel supply for the country, but I will be the first to say it is also making aftermarket parts suppliers rich by destroying internal carburetor components. Regularly draining the carb after each ride and adding a fuel stabilizer such as Liquid Performance’s “Ethanol Equalizer” before storage will prevent the fuel from gelling and varnish from slowing or stopping your next adventure. This product also cleans internal carb components.
8. Check Tire Air Pressure
Your tires are the connection between you and the ground on which you ride. We all know that if the machine cannot grip the trail or becomes unstable at lower pressure that it can end badly. Be sure to properly inflate your tires, as this will also help them last longer.
9. Driveline Service
Whether you ride a chain-driven sport machine or a belt-driven one you still need to check this connection often. I would say it is good to check the chain tension every ride and on the belt or CVT transmission maybe every third oil change, provided there are not obvious signs of problems inside the cover. That may sound excessive until you find yourself pushing a 500-plus-pound beast out of the woods.
10. Battery Maintenance
If your ATV is equipped with a battery, as most are these days, be sure to keep a close watch on it as well. Putting the battery on a trickle charger during the off-season will save you $100 or more depending on the battery model should it need to be replaced.
Take these tips and write them down for reference, or at least as a way to make yourself feel like you have a planned attack. Although there are several other items I could pile on this page like brakes and air filter to name a few, I’ll just hope you have them on your list as well. Feel free to include any other maintenance tips you feel should be added to the list in the comment section below. Regular maintenance may seem like a headache, but it doesn’t take as much time as you think and it will help maintain your machine and save money down the line!