Run Like a Rabbit

Keep your ATV running smoothly with this simple checklist.

Outdoor Life Online Editor

An ATV is such a rugged machine that it's easy to forget it needs to be maintained on occasion. Follow this simple checklist to keep your ATV out of the shop (and yourself on the trail) this season.

Pump Up: Tires naturally lose pressure over time, and a big change in temperature or elevation can significantly affect the pressure in ATV tires, which take just three to five pounds of air. Uneven pressure in the front tires can cause an ATV to "pull" to one side and put stress on tie rods. A low tire can easily bottom out and bend a rim.

  • Check the tire pressure before each ride with an accurate dial-type gauge with a range of zero to 15 pounds.

Deal With Dust: A half-day ride in very dusty conditions can clog an air filter enough to reduce engine power, which can lead to premature piston wear on two-stroke engines. Most filters are easy to reach. Get in the habit of pulling the filter and tapping it against a tire to knock off accumulated dirt at the end of each ride. Foam filters and sock-type pre-filters can usually be cleaned and reoiled.

  • A paper air filter should be replaced at least once a season, more often in dusty conditions.

Get Hot: The worst duty cycle for an ATV is one that never lets the engine warm up to operating temperature. The classic example is the farmer who rides 300 yards to the barn each morning, shuts the machine off and then rides back to the house for lunch. Because the engine never gets hot, condensation collects in the oil, which can lead to ruined camshaft bearings and lobes. Models with a dry-sump oil tank are especially prone to condensation damage because moisture collects in the bottom of the tank and is pumped through the engine on start-up.

  • If you make frequent short trips, try to take a longer ride on occasion, or ride in low range to help the engine warm up faster.

Bathe Regularly: An engine or radiator that's caked with mud will run hot. Dirt packed around disc brakes can lead to premature pad or rotor wear.

  • Hose the mud off your ATV to avoid these problems. It's also the best way to spot minor damage, like a torn CV joint boot or a damaged ball-joint cover, which can turn into an expensive repair if neglected.