Text: Étienne Jeanson
ATVs and UTVs are pretty expensive. Maintaining your vehicle is very important if you want it to perform well and last for years. Fortunately, ATV and UTV maintenance comes down to a few simple steps that any DIY enthusiast with basic tools can accomplish.
Here are our top seven ATV / UTV maintenance tips:
Check / change the engine oil
Let’s start with the obvious: it is necessary to change the engine oil regularly and change it according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Changing the oil and filter more frequently is essential in ATVs and UTVs used for heavy work or aggressive riding.
These tasks exert additional stress on the vehicles, increasing the heat generated by the engine. And the heat causes oils formulated for everyday use to lose their viscosity (become more liquid). The more liquid oil loses its wear protection properties. The intense heat also causes sludge and deposits to build up, which reduces performance. Sludge can obstruct oil passage and deprive the engine of lubrication, and deposits can cause loss of power due to gummed piston rings.
Changing the oil is the best defense against engine wear and loss of power. Also, we recommend the use of first quality synthetic oil. Synthetic oils do not contain the impurities found in conventional lubricants, so they perform better and last longer. Synthetic base oils resist intense heat much better and maintain better protection than traditional products.
Don’t be fooled by the price: synthetic oil should be viewed as an investment to increase your vehicle’s performance. You don’t hesitate for a second to spend a few hundred dollars on mag wheels or a more powerful winch. The extra few dollars spent on better oil are well worth it and will improve the performance and life of your vehicle.
Change the differential fluid
The same goes for the front and rear differentials. The added weight and stress of hard work and performance driving strain the gears significantly. The lubricant covers the gear teeth while the vehicle is in motion, protecting against metal-to-metal contact and wear. Combined with intense heat, the added stress can break down the fluid barrier and push lubricant out of the gears, causing wear.
Change the differential fluid according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. And, like motor oil, go for a first quality synthetic oil. It provides better protective film under intense pressure to protect gears and bearings under the most demanding conditions and thus increases the life of your vehicle.
Anyone who’s ever changed the differential fluid on their vehicle knows that it can be a real headache: hard-to-reach filler holes, gear lube spilled all over the place, etc. Amsoil’s Easy-Pack pouches reduce the mess, inconvenience, and frustration when changing gear lubricant, making ATV / UTV maintenance much easier.
Amsoil’s Synthetic Transmission and Differential Fluid for ATV / UTV
Traditionally, do-it-yourselfers used a gear pump to perform this task, which meant buying one more tool. Besides, much of the gear lubricant was wasted inside the pump and caused a mess during storage.
Amsoil’s Easy-Pack is a flexible pouch designed to allow access to fill holes in tight spaces and around obstacles, where tapered rigid bottles often seen in the gear lubricant market cannot go.
Check / change the air filter
A combustion engine needs three things to run well: gasoline, ignition, and air. Most of us forget about the air just because we don’t have to pay for it (yet !)
A dirty or clogged air filter will reduce airflow, decrease performance, and even cause the engine to suffocate literally. Here’s an example to illustrate: get outside and run around your house. If you are in good shape, it shouldn’t be too difficult. Now run around your home while breathing through a straw. Reducing the airflow in your lungs makes it much harder, right?
The same principle applies to your engine. A dirty air filter reduces air circulation and decreases engine performance. It also allows dust and sand to be sucked into the motor, which will cause premature wear.
Check the manufacturer’s recommendations on how often to change the air filter. Check regularly and replace it if it is really dirty.
Pro Tip: Ensure the air filter is well in place and properly installed. Otherwise, the engine will absorb dirt, which acts like sandpaper against the cylinders, rings, bearings, and other critical parts.
Finally, consider using a pre-filter to extend the life of your air filter. A pre-filter is basically a mesh bag that attaches over the air filter. It catches large contaminants and prevents them from getting lodged in the air filter, thus extending its life.
Stabilize the gasoline
Gasoline can decompose within 30 days. When this happens, varnish forms inside the carburetor, obstructing the small gas passages. Eventually, the varnish will prevent the proper circulation of gasoline, and starting your vehicle will be difficult.
For best performance, add a gasoline stabilizer at each fill. If you know you will empty your tank quickly, such as during a full-day ride, you may omit this step. But many off-road enthusiasts ride a full tank for months.
I use my ATV primarily to haul firewood around my property, which means it works intermittently. It’s not uncommon to ride with a gasoline fill for months. The stabilizer prevents oxidation that occurs when gasoline is left standing for long periods. It prevents varnish build-up, keeps the carburetor clean, and allows gasoline to flow freely.
Pro Tip: Most types of gasoline contain ethanol, which can corrode carburetor components and damage rubber seals and fuel hoses. For best performance, use ethanol-free fuel with a 91 octane rating. If you are using 87-octane gasoline that contains ethanol, add a specific treatment to prevent ethanol-related problems, such as Amsoil Quickshot.
Wash your machine regularly
That’s true; it is normal for your ATV / UTV to get dirty. But it shouldn’t stay dirty. Wash it regularly to remove mud and grime, especially after a messy (and fun) ride.
Dried mud and dirt will trap moisture, which can accelerate rust formation on metal components. Mud, leaves, and other debris packed against the radiator can reduce its efficiency, causing the engine to overheat. Dirt can also build up around the engine and differentials, reducing heat transfer, raising the temperature, and accelerating lubricant oxidation and breakdown.
With care, use a pressure washer on your vehicle if possible. Also, use a product as a base coat to make cleaning easier. It provides a layer of protection against mud, dirt, and snow, making cleaning with a garden hose easier.
Pro Tip: After cleaning, run your vehicle so that the heat from the engine will dry out any water that may enter the exhaust or areas around the spark plug and ignition coil caps.
Check the level and condition of the engine coolant
Here’s another overlooked ATV / UTV maintenance practice. What complicates the situation is that the coolant reservoir is often hidden in a hard-to-reach place.
Check the coolant level in the radiator. Inspect the condition of the fluid. If it contains sludge or mud, it’s time to change it. Delaying its replacement can cause the sludge to clog the narrow passages of the coolant in the engine and prevent optimal cooling. It can cause the engine to overheat. Engine parts expand when overheated, which can lead to more friction and premature wear.
While you change the coolant, check the cooling hoses for abrasions, cracks, or wear. Replace them as needed before they break.
Inspect tires, CV joint boots, etc.
Finally, walk around your vehicle once a month and check the following points:
• Tire pressure and condition
• CV axle boots for cracks and leaks
• Brakes condition
• Vehicle’s lighting system
• The brake fluid level
This inspection can prevent major and costly problems. It is also good to lubricate the pivot and connection points with a good spray lubricant, such as Amsoil MP. It is a simple way to keep your vehicle running smoothly over the long haul journeys and long term.