If you bought an ATV, chances are you’re loving it. But for whatever reason, many people tend to overlook routine maintenance on their new toys, despite them being a sizable investment. Make no mistake: These machines are vehicles that need as much care as your regular car — perhaps more. Imagining all the hostile environments and rough rides they are subjected to, it isn’t hard to see why.
The biggest mistake made in ATV maintenance is simply not doing it. So grab your tools, an ATV lift, and avoid the fallout from these five ATV maintenance mistakes.
1. Unchanged Fluids and Filters
Maintaining ATVs always feels like a big job, but really you’re mostly looking at a bunch of little things, none of which take too long, and all of them are worth it. Check fluid levels before each ride, and change fluids out as needed. Over time, oil gets a nasty build up of small particles of metal and dirt. Your oil filter is meant to tackle that, but without regular oil changes, the filter will quickly be overcome and particles will start slipping through. This wreaks havoc on internal engine components. So change both oil and filter regularly and make sure to clean the area around the neck and dipstick first, otherwise you risk contaminating it yourself.
Likewise, clean your air filter often. Driving through fields and mud will clog it up quickly. It’s not a bad idea to check on it after every ride to make sure you’re not starving your engine or sucking in contaminates.
2. Loose Bolts and Low Tires
ATVs can take quite a beating, and all that vibration can loosen bolts. Check all components — especially steering and suspension — after every ride and tighten to spec. Also make sure to check tire pressure to ward off flats and give yourself optimal tread grip.
3. Radiator Neglect
Don’t forget the radiator plays a crucial role in keeping your engine from exploding. Many folks neglect radiator care. Make sure to keep it clean and free of debris and mud, check for leaks caused by errant stones and give it a good flush here and there.
4. Dried Mud
A huge mistake made with ATVs is failing to clean them after a day of adventure. Rolling around with dried mud baked into every crevice isn’t a badge of honor, and you’re not doing yourself or your machine any favors.
First off, the more dirt that’s around, the more likely it is that that dirt will contaminate your fluids or get sucked into your air intake. Second, it prevents you from noticing other problems, such as loose bolts. Third, it will slowly but surely degrade suspension components and contribute to rusting. All of these things will significantly decrease the lifespan of your ATV.
5. Forgotten Fuel
Gasoline degrades over time. If left in your lines for long periods, it’ll eat them from the inside out. When storing your ATV for more than two weeks, either drain the tank or add fuel stabilizer to keep it from breaking down. If you choose the latter, make sure to still get the fuel out of the lines and completely back into the tank.
Really, the biggest mistake is to neglect or defer ATV maintenance. The bottom line is, if you want to see the most return on your investment, take good care of it.
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Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Blair Lampe is a New York-based professional mechanic, blogger, theater technician, and speechwriter. In her downtime she enjoys backpacking wherever her boots will carry her, rock climbing, experimental theatre, a crisp rosé , and showering love on her 2001 Sierra truck.