If you’re the owner of an ATV, you should know how crucial it is to keep your vehicle in tip top shape. It doesn’t matter if you’re riding a sports quad or utility, breaking down in the woods due to a maintenance related oversight is a situation best avoided. Creating a simple maintenance checklist should be one of your top priorities, and it's incredibly simple to do. Yes, some fixes are best left to trained mechanics, but you should be able to handle all of the minor repairs yourself. With that said, try running through this checklist before your next ride.
The first item on your checklist should be your handlebars. In most cases, your handlebars are going to see a lot of wear and tear due to constant use. It's important that you keep your handle bars in good condition because they're vital in keeping your ATV safely in control while you’re riding. During your inspection, if you notice that your handlebars are loose you should simply re-glue them so that you’ll always maintain a solid grip while you’re riding. Your clutch, throttle cables, levers, and brakes also require an inspection to ensure that they’re in good working order.
Consistently checking your tires will ensure that you won’t run into an issue as you’re out riding, such as an unexpected flat, amongst other things. Before riding, inspect your tires to ensure that they’re in good condition and tighten the lug nuts. While doing this there are a few danger signs you should be on the lookout for. Look out for bubbles or cracking in your tires (which might cause a catastrophic failure while you’re riding) and be mindful of dents on the rims which could lead to a leak. Last but not least, check your tire pressure. When it comes to riding an ATV, different people prefer a different type of feel when they’re out on the trail. In most cases, an ATV tire will hold about six to seven pounds of air, but of course, this might be different for individuals depending on their personal riding preference. If it’s below your preferred pressure, adjust as desired.
They might seem small and insignificant, but nuts and bolts literally keep your ATV from falling apart as you’re ripping it up on the trail. As time wears on, nuts and bolts can break, bend, loosen, or even fall out. Check out all of the components that hold your ATV together such as control arms, suspension, shocks, axles, etc. and verify that everything is working as they should.
Brakes are easily one of the most vital components on your ATV. Despite the fact that you wouldn’t be able to stop without them, your breaks can wear down after heavy use. Before going for your next ride, remove each wheel and check each brake pad for any debris that might have accumulated. While you’re at it, check your brake fluid to ensure that it’s at sufficient levels. Remember, if you take care of your brakes, they’ll take care of you. They may even save your life one day.
It’s easy to lock up your ATV for the entire winter and completely ignore the fact that there’s fuel in the tank. Coming back to your ATV the following summer might have adverse consequences. If your ATV has fuel in the tank that has been sitting for months and months, it’s a good idea to drain both the tank and the carburetor and fill it with fresh fuel. Fresh fuel will make your engine happy, and it’ll run the way it’s supposed to.
Oil is to your ATV what blood is to the human body. Without oil, your engine will burn up, and that’s never a good thing. Before every ride, you should check your oil levels. If you’re familiar with checking the oil of your car, then you’re already ahead of the game. Simply use the dipstick that should come with your ATV to measure the amount of oil that’s in the engine. If you have a water-cooled engine, there’s a possibility that the oil will take on a milky brown color (this indicates that water has mixed with the oil). If you encounter this issue, do not start your ATV again until you’ve fixed the problem. This type of contaminated oil will (that’s ‘will’, not ‘can’) eventually ruin your engine. If you’re unsure how to tackle this problem yourself seek the help of a mechanic.
Another item to mark off of your checklist is the steering connections to the wheels. It could be disastrous if your tie rod breaks loose at any point while you’re riding. You certainly can’t avoid a tree if you’re unable to steer. As you’re inspecting the steering connections, you might as well give the ball joints a once over. They can wear down without much warning.
Does your ATV have an electric start? Then you have a battery. It’s unlikely you’ll be able to find anyone who’ll be able to give you a jump if you break down in the woods, so it’s vital that your battery has enough juice before going for a ride. Feeding your battery a small trickle charge on a regular basis will ensure that your battery won’t up and die on you randomly, so it’s wise if you invested in a small charger.
How do you protect your ATV while you’re away or during the off-season? To protect your vehicle from the elements, you should store it in a place where it won’t suffer from the ravages of rain, snow, and the like. You should also invest in an ATV cover. It’s an extra layer of protection that will also shield your ATV from the elements. There’s the added benefit that you won’t come back after the off-season to find your ATV covered in cobwebs and dust.
Going over this simple checklist will ensure that you can enjoy yourself out on the trail in a safe manner. Otherwise, you might be in for a long walk wishing you had taken the time to inspect your ATV when you had the chance.