Make sure your four-wheeler is ready for the cold season.
By Trent Jonas
All riders have a decision to make as cold weather approaches: Will you store your ATV or ride it this winter? Whichever you choose, there are several things you need to do to prepare your vehicle for the coming months of cold. Here’s how to get your ATV ready for winter.
If you do not plan to ride or otherwise use your ATV during the winter, you want to make sure to store it properly. The first thing you’ll want to do is figure out where you are going to store the vehicle. Is there room in your garage or an outbuilding for it? Do you have a separate storage unit? If not, and you plan to store your ATV outside, choose a spot that’s protected from both sun and snow, as much out of the elements as possible, like under the eaves of a building or against the side of a garage. A cover for your ATV, like those sold by Cabela’s, will go a long way toward keeping it protected.
You should also change your oil, oil filter, and air filter before hard winter sets in. Chances are, after a season of riding, your ATV will need the maintenance. Clean oil and filters will keep your engine in shape over the winter months, and your ATV will be ready to go come spring.
If your ATV has a metal fuel tank, you’ll want to fill it up and add a fuel stabilizer like Sta-Bil. This prevents condensation from forming and rusting your fuel tank as well as decreasing the chances of water in gas and fuel lines. On the other hand, if your ATV’s fuel tank is plastic, you’ll want to drain the tank, all the fuel lines, and if you have one, the carburetor.
Fill your tires to their maximum inflation and put your ATV up on blocks. This will prevent your tires from fulling deflating over the winter and potentially damaging both your tires and your wheels.
Finally, you may want to attach a trickle charger, like Mroinge’s Smart Battery Maintainer to your battery, especially if you live in a climate where it gets really cold for long periods of time. Doing so will prevent your battery from going completely dead due to cold weather and help to prolong the battery’s overall life.
If you plan to ride your ATV during the colder winter months, whether on the trails or to plow your driveway, you’re going to want to prep your machine for cold weather and snowy conditions. As above, the first thing you’ll want to do is find a place to park your ATV out of the elements and consider a cover if you must keep it outside.
As with storage, before winter sets in, change your oil, oil filter, and air filter, so that your engine is in good shape and ready to run in cold weather. Add a fuel stabilizer, like Sta-Bil’s 360 Protection, to keep your fuel system clean and condensation-free. You may also want to consider changing out and checking the gaps on your spark plugs if you haven’t done so recently—every other year, is a good schedule for spark plug maintenance.
If you live in an area that gets ice or snow in the winter, you may want to consider adding boosting your ATV’s capabilities with some traction aids. Studded tires are one way to go. The downside, of course, is that you then have to buy a full set of extra tires and change them out twice a year. Another option for adding some traction is tire chains, like Kimpex’s Diamond-V-Bar chains. If you want to fully adapt your ATV to the conditions, you could consider switching out the wheels for a set of full tracks, which Kimpex also makes, but doing so would amount to considerably more expense and effort than either studded tires or chains. Depending on where you live and how much snow you receive, however, it may be worth it—especially if it would save you the expense of buying a snowmobile.
One last thing you could do to prepare your ATV for winter riding is to add protective mitts, like Kolpin’s Geartectors, to your handlebars. Doing so will add an extra layer of protection from the wind and cold to your hand, preventing your fingers from stiffening up and suffering in the elements. Heated grips, like those made by MotoSport will also keep your hands toasty, but they don’t offer the same wind protection that mitts do.
Finally, you’ll want to leave your ATV on a trickle charger between rides. This will prevent your battery from discharging and help to ensure that your ATV starts up when you’re ready to head out.