How To Winterize Your ATV or UTV

Rick Sosebee
by Rick Sosebee
Get your machine ready for a long winter's nap

The best time of year to ride is a debatable subject in the U.S., but for the southern states it seems to be spring through early fall. This is mainly because of the temperatures that are associated with winter (things we are not used to here), as well as most of our OHV riding areas close for a few months to help control erosion.

It is at this time that we take our ATVs and Side-by-Sides to the storage shed and pack them away until Mother Nature decides to cooperate again or until we get that unexpected light snow. This is when we really have to plan for the preservation of the machine as we wait for spring. We have come up with a few items we recommend you service or protect during your machine’s winter slumber.

Fuel Tank/Carb
ATV Carb - Before and After

A little carb maintenance goes a long way. On the left is a dirty carb and on the right is the same part after some TLC.

The most important thing to address when you winterize your ATV or Side-by-Side is the fuel in the tank and carb – that is if you still have a carbureted off-road vehicle. Fuel these days is a really tricky chemical that has so many fillers in it to fatten it up and those seemingly harmless by products will wreak havoc on the inside of your Carb. The varnish that forms in as little as two or three weeks can make your ride difficult to start or even run for that matter. So how do we fix this?

  1. Turn off the fuel
  2. Allow the engine to run until it literally runs out of gas
  3. Siphon the remaining fuel into an approved container.
Ethanol Equalizer

Any time you leave your gas sitting, adding a good fuel stabilizer is a wise decision.

This will not only keep the fuel in the tank from being stale and non-usable when you come back to the machine, but it prevents the majority of the varnish issues that could force you to head to the dealer before the next ride. There are a multitude of fuel stabilizing products on the market but one that I have found to not only stabilize but clean the carburetor and fuel is Ethanol Equalizer, which is produced by Liquid Performance.

Trickle Charger

Keep your battery fully charged and performing well by using a trickle charger when it sits for long periods of time.

Batteries are like relationships – they need constant attention. Buying a very inexpensive trickle charger and putting it to use can not only keep your machine at the ready for that “fun run” in the snow, but it also prolongs the life of the battery. Battery Tender makes a kit to add a charging plug to the battery so that it can be charged while still in the vehicle. I personally like to remove the battery and place it in a safe area in case it decides to go rogue during the prolonged charging sessions. This little tip will most likely keep you from buying a battery every spring.

Belt Drive
CVT Belt

Try to keep rodents away from your drive belt.

Most Utility-type ATVs and Side-by-Sides these days have a belt drive style transmission. Small rodents love tight and concealed areas. The air intake and exhaust outlet on your CVT box is a great place for mice and even large rats to hide their young during the winter. Because this can be a really tough issue to control it is a good idea to find a way to block these passages. Your service manual can lead you to them and think like a mouse when closing them off.

If the mouse is determined you will not stop him, but make an effort anyways because the smell of the small rodents cooking on a now slipping CVT belt drive isn’t pleasant. If you cannot get to the passages or choose to test your luck, the animal and its house packing can and will most likely ruin your drive belt after just a few minutes of riding.

Air Filter
Dirty Air Filter

If your ATV or UTV has been working hard this year, give the air filter a good cleaning before putting it away for the winter.

A very important item I would suggest to service before storage is the air filter on your machine. The air intake for the engine is extremely important and leaving it dirty and oily from the last riding season can not only cause it to breath heavy the next time you try to start the engine, but the oils and chemicals in the filter treatment can cause the element to deteriorate. It is also a great practice because the machine will be even more ready to go the next time you decide to ride.

Keeping a machine prepped seems like something we all avoid until it is absolutely needed. That is unnecessarily hard on our rides. If we take just a few hours before leaving our trusted steeds for the winter and get them the proper care, it will make us much happier when we come back to go out again. We promise.

Of course, if you’re not afraid of a little cold weather, who says you have to put your ATV away at all?

Rick Sosebee
Rick Sosebee

Whether he is in Mexico covering the Baja 1000, building ATVs for local racers, or out enjoying the trails, Rick’s passion shows in his stories. Learning to wrench his own machines from his grandfather, Rick also has an undying appreciation for the mechanics of off-road vehicles. Do not let the dirt and mud fool you, though, as Rick also has a deep love for street cars.

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