Maintenance is an important part of owning any 4x4 utility ATV. No matter how much you dislike the expense and the time it takes for maintaining your ATV, it must be done. Now you could take your ATV to the shop to keep up with the service schedule, but there are basic maintenance checks and services you can do in your own garage to save you money and educate you on the operational and mechanical aspects of your ATV.
Lets face it; this is a rough sport, and if you are like me, riding hard and riding fast is par for the course. To continue to ride like this, ATV maintenance is a must and when ATV camping in the back country there is no shop in the event of a break down. So the more you can learn about your ATV, the more prepared you are when having to do a trail-side repair. Now we are not talking about learning how to rebuild an engine, we talking about learning the basic routine maintenance required to keep your ATV running to factory specifications and beyond.
The two most important ATV maintenance tasks to learn about and perform are:
• How to clean and/or change the air filter.
• How to check and/or change the oil.
If these two tasks are all you ever learn how to do, and do them when necessary, your ATV engine will run practically forever. There are other maintenance tasks that should be regularly performed, but having clean air entering your engine and clean oil in your engine is critically important to the life of your engine.
Let’s start with the air filter. Most ATVs come from the factory with a pleated paper air filter that performs a good job at filtering the air before it enters your engine. Typically after a good day of riding these paper filters trap a lot of dust, dirt and debris. The more dust, dirt and debris the filter traps the less air the filter is allowed to pass. Your ATV engine is basically a glorified air pump; it sucks air in the intake and pumps it out the exhaust. Our goal is to give it as much CLEAN air as possible to keep the engine running efficiently. The more power the engine has to use to suck CLEAN air in the less power the engine can produce at the tires, the less efficient the engine is. Dirty air will produce excessive wear on the internal components (head and valves) of the engine, initially resulting in engine failure.
Therefore, it is recommended that pleated paper filters be changed after a good day's ride on dusty trails. It is not recommended to clean a pleated paper filter. These pleated paper air filters can range in cost anywhere from $15 - $25. Now there are several aftermarket air filters available that can be cleaned and re-used over and over. For dusty conditions it is recommended to use the dual density foam filters as they are very effective at stopping contaminants. After cleaning these foam filters, it is required that the filter elements be re-coated with foam filter oil, which is sticky, and actually helps catch the minute particles that can add up to huge engine problems. Follow manufacturer’s procedures for cleaning and re-coating with oil, use caution not to over oil a filter. Excessive oil on a filter can cause issues with the MAS (Mass Airflow Sensor) sensor on fuel injected engines.
Next is checking and changing the engine oil. ATV engines are small displacement, high RPM motors requiring special oil (mostly synthetic) to effectively lubricate the engine to reduce friction (heat) and keep components moving freely. Always use the factory recommended type of oil in your ATV. Check the oil level regularly, especially before each ride. For most riders, changing the oil once a season is sufficient but if you ride a lot and ride hard, you probably need to change it more frequently. Always change the oil filter whenever changing the oil.
Before draining the oil, start the engine and let it warm up. Shut off the engine and remove the drain plug (wear gloves when removing drain plug as the oil can be very hot), drain the oil into a pan. After oil has drained, remove the old oil filter. Apply some fresh new oil to the seal of the new oil filter and install the new filter and drain plug (torque the drain plug per manufacturer's specifications). Add the correct amount of fresh new oil and verify the correct level. After changing the oil, start the engine and let it warm up and check for oil leaks around the oil filter and drain plug. Check the level again, add extra oil if needed. Remember to dispose of the used oil properly.
Other Routine ATV Maintenance Tasks:
• Front & rear differential fluid levels
• Radiator coolant level
• Check cables and lubricate
• Check brake pads and brake fluid levels
• Grease suspension (if grease zerks are available)
• Check and maintain proper tire air pressure
• Check for loose bolts and hardware
• Check headlights, taillights and brake lights
• Wash ATV after each ride