Winterize your ATV in 10 steps
By Michel Roy
Before bedding down your ATV for the winter, make sure cold, condensation, chemical breakdown, and critters don’t turn your spring start-up into a letdown.
1. Clean and lubricate: Wash, rinse, and dry your ATV. Bugs and brake dust will only increase the chances of winter corrosion. Wax painted and chromed parts. Lubricate every item that could corrode during a long period of storage: chains, sprockets, cables, and lug nuts, to name a few. Some pros give exhaust pipes a spray of light oil.
2. Coolant: For liquid-cooled machines, top up the coolant, or change it altogether if it’s more than two years old. Use the manufacturer’s recommended coolant, and make sure the new mix has adequate anti-freeze protection. Freshen up your brake fluid too, or change it if it’s due.
3. Fuel system: Fill the tank with fresh fuel, and add fuel stabilizer (alcohol-free stabilizer is best, though it can be hard to find). Run the engine for 10 minutes or so to get it up to operating temperature and to distribute stabilizer through the lines. Top up the fuel to 7/8 full, about the bottom of the filler neck, to prevent condensation inside the tank.
4 . Cylinders: Manufacturer recommendations vary, so check your manual. Some mechanics fog the engine to prevent corrosion: Remove the air filter and spray fogging oil directly into the intake while the engine is running, until the exhaust gets smoky. Replace the filter. (Don’t fog if your ATV has a catalytic converter.) Other mechanics drain the carburetor (see Step 5), then remove the spark plugs and pour about a tablespoon of clean motor oil into each cylinder. With the plugs out, cover the holes with a clean rag and turn the engine over a few turns to distribute oil in the cylinders. Replace the plugs. And some mechanics skip this step entirely.
5 . Carburetor: On carbureted engines, it’s important to drain the carburetor, especially if your fuel stabilizer isn’t alcohol-free. With the machine running, close the fuel petcock valve and let the engine run out of fuel. Let the engine cool, then locate the drain screw for the float bowl and release the remaining fuel from the carburetor.
6. Oil: While the engine is still warm, change the oil and oil filter. Used oil contains acids and combustion by-products that will eat away at the internals over the winter.
7. Battery: Remove the battery and charge it. Store it where it won’t freeze and hook it up to a trickle charger.
8 . Tires: To prep radial tires for winter, some manufacturers suggest doing no more than inflating to slightly above riding pressure. With bias-ply tires, deflate to expel any moisture. Re-inflate to the recommended pressure to avoid flat-spotting—damage caused by sitting in one spot. Even more effective: Set your ATV on a jack stand or blocks.
9 . Critter control: Block animals from nesting: Tape over any potential entry points, such as exhaust pipes and intakes.
10. Protection: Use a waterproof tarp to protect an ATV stored outside; a breathable cover is better for indoors.