Don’t skip this essential job…your ATV’s life depends on it
Keeping routine maintenance up on your ATV or SXS is crucial. It is not only important for the health of the rig, but it also keeps your investment running at its best. One thing that does seem to get set aside from time to time is the oil change. Sadly, this is dangerous and somewhat careless if you want an honest opinion. Completing an ATV oil change regularly is important and should not be ignored. There is a little bit of a debate as to the time line for changing engine oil in an off-road vehicle and maybe some of that is carried on the shoulders of how you drive the machine or what type of oil you might use. It has always been our stance that if you are going to be cheap, this is NOT the place to do it.
Oil and its lubricity in the engine ensures the life of the gears and bearings as well as the cooling of internal engine parts. Of course, consumers think they know best for the most part and will ignore specific details or recommendations from the manufacturer because, well, they think manufacturers are like the old parent that is too smart to be right. Right? Wrong! Companies that build these machines have invested millions of dollars in getting the specific weights and types of oil correct for their machine to last forever. Heed their advice and follow their instructions carefully. Some will advise you to use a higher weight oil for a little better viscosity during the heat of the summer or if you are the type of owner that beats on their ride like an unruly junkyard dog. An OEM service manual is best for keeping a good handle on the specific items you need for an ATV oil change and your machine’s overall health. Now we know you might have a specific brand of oil you love to use, but be sure it meets the same standards set by the maker of your rig.
So, you have your oil picked out and the filter is the next on the list for purchase. We know you are now thinking about just how much money you spent on that good oil and you are probably saying to yourself “I’ll get that bargain brand oil filter and save money there”, and that my friend, will be an even worse mistake. There are companies that make great filters and we cannot deny that, but if you have an OEM filter mounted you will be able to have high confidence in the one item that gets the trash out of your engine. It’s just a thought. Choose wisely and you will not regret it. Some manufacturers even offer full kits with everything you need for an an ATV oil change included.
Here we are at the actual ATV oil change. As we mentioned before, look for the proper amount of oil for your machine in the service manual and most owner’s manuals actually have that basic information available. Most will be around 1.5qts – 2.5qts at most. This is dependent on the oil filter’s capacity and if it is changed at the same time, which is also recommended. Here are a few tips and special tools that may just help you get this one most important task done correctly.
Change your oil on a level surface. This ensures that most all of the old oil will be removed through the drain hole on the bottom of the engine. If you jack the machine up just be sure its level and secured with a jack stand or two so you do not have to bench press the rig off of you to get out from under it should the jack fail. Consider good jack stands vital equipment for your personal safety.
A tub with a center drain works well for catching the old engine oil and storing it for disposal. These are very inexpensive and help keep the mess off of your shop floor or driveway. We personally keep an old card board box that’s broken down to place under the machine for extra protection during an ATV oil change, because burnt engine oil leaves a nasty scar on concrete.
When you remove the drain plug, which is typically located on the bottom of the engine and underneath the ride, you may find a copper or aluminum washer on that drain plug. These are reusable at least once, but most manufacturers suggest you replace them each time. The easiest way to keep something like this on hand is to get a kit of these off of the internet. You can buy several from the dealer and that’s most likely the best way to do it, but small assortments are readily available if you look around.
Remember, the oil plug requires very little torque to tighten. Refer to the service manual for this torque rating. The LAST thing you want to do is over tighten the plug and strip out the aluminum threads out of the block! Most are less than 18 lb-ft of torque.
The oil filter will be your next project in your ATV oil change. These can be cartridge filters or screw on filters on the outside of the engine. You might need a special oil filter removal tool if you cannot get your hands on the screw on type of filter. These typically have a 3/8ths ratchet receiver in one end and others are simply straps on a socket.
For most cartridge filters you will take off an engine cover. Be cautious when removing the cover as oil will still be in and on the old filter. We typically place shop towels or rags on and around the opening before removing the filter cover just to keep the mess to a minimum. Pay close attention as to how the old filter comes out so that the new filter goes in correctly or you may permanently damage the engine if the oil cannot flow properly. Most of these types of covers are sealed by an O-ring and do not require an NFL linebacker to tighten. Again, refer to the shop manual for correct torque ratings for the cover bolts!
Additional tips that some may like to know, for those garage sessions where you want to impress your friend’s wife, include an oil or fluid removal canister. This is pump or compressed air line operated and it sucks the oil out without removing the drain plug. These are pricey, but they do offer the ability to leave the machine on the floor and simply vacuum the oil out of the engines fill tube by using small plastic tubes stuffed down into the bowels of the beast. It makes the ATV oil change process a fairly simple one.
The last part of your ATV oil change is refilling carefully while checking on occasion so you do not overfill. Remember to double check the drain plug if you removed it and clean all of the spilt oil, new or old, so there isn’t any panic moments while on the trail. This way if there is a leak there is no second guessing if it was there before you left the trailer or if it happened on the trail. This is made easy with brake parts cleaner that will dissolve the oil and dry leaving no residue.
We are committed to finding, researching, and recommending the best products. We earn commissions from purchases you make using the retail links in our product reviews. Learn more about how this works.