UTV and ATV Maintenance: Tips From the Experts
Regular UTV and ATV maintenance isn’t exactly the most fun part of owning an off-road vehicle, but it can help make sure yours stays running great.
The spring season can be rough on your four wheeler. First, it may have been sitting idle all winter and needs some TLC before it is ready for some off-road action. Second, all the rain and mud that typically come with spring bring their own problems.
To help make sure your machine continues to run strong for years to come, we talked with Yamaha ATV / SxS Testing Manager Pat Biolsi. He offered up some UTV and ATV maintenance tips designed to keep your machine performing its best.
Top of mind for Biolsi on UTV and ATV maintenance is the air filter. The air filter is easy to forget, but doing so can lead to some very expensive problems down the line.
“A dirty air filter reduces performance and fuel mileage, and could be disastrous from an engine-durability standpoint, so keep them clean,” says Biolsi. “On top of that, really learn the installation and removal procedure to prevent the dirt from falling into the engine during service.”
It seems simple, but regular oil changes are another key to proper ATV maintenance and there are a whole lot of owners who don’t do this enough.
“The engine and transmission oils are shared in most powersports vehicles, so it is key to use a motorcycle- or ATV-specific oil, such as our Yamalube, for there are specific additives in the oil to accommodate for the shared configuration,” says Biolsi. “For the average person, it is more important to have clean, fresh oil over something expensive.”
And just because your vehicle may have been sitting idle over the winter months doesn’t mean you should skip the oil change in the spring.
“Something else lesser known is the need to change your oil, even if your vehicle has been sitting a while, unused, and with low hours it, for condensation can build up in the engine when it sits and contaminates the oil,” explains Biolsi.
Biolsi also goes on to explain that keeping your UTV properly serviced is particularly crucial.
“Air filter and engine oil maintenance are just as important – if not more – on most Side-by-Sides, as they’re significantly heavier and more powerful than ATVs. With the simplified automotive controls and non-rider active connection to the vehicle, it can more difficult to feel or notice key maintenance items felt on an ATV. Plus, more people can drive a SxS closer to its limits compared to an ATV.”
Beyond clean air and oil, there are a couple of other things to keep an eye on if you own a Side-by-Side vehicle.
“Throttle pedal and cable free-play and lubrication are key, steering components may need to be checked more frequently, as the wheels and tires may come into contact with more rocks, stumps, and ruts than the typical ATV,” says Biolsi. “Even spindles, wheel hub bearings, driveline shafts / u-joints, and couplers are working harder on a SxS, as they often get buried in mud or sand. This leads to another inspection point being checking brake pads often for tightness, damage, and wear.”
Cleaning your rig after a fun day ripping up the trails is exactly nobody’s favorite thing to do, but it can make the difference between going out again next weekend for another off-road adventure or being stuck in your garage repairing problems that could have been avoided by giving your vehicle a good cleaning. Simple put, cleaning is a key component of both UTV and ATV maintenance.
While washing down an ATV is a pretty simple job, UTVs require a little more care.
“In our experience, cleaning a SxS is more difficult, as they are larger and more difficult to clean the undercarriage – especially if the skid plates aren’t fully removable,” says Biolsi. “If they are, like on a YXZ1000R / SS for instance, this is great way to get the bottom of the vehicle cleaner, in addition to it being easier to inspect key chassis and driveline components.”
If you’ve ever spent time splashing in the mud after a good rain, you probably know what kind of a mess that can leave behind. Letting all that mud sit and fester for days or weeks on end will end up costing you.
“SxS vehicles can build up hundreds of pounds of mud, noticeably impacting the suspension’s performance, ground clearance, acceleration, and braking capability – not to mention wreaking havoc on the items caked in mud,” says Biolsi. “It can even reduce the engine’s capability of transferring heat away through its aluminum cases or cylinder head if they are coated with a thick layer of dried mud.”
We’ve already discussed the importance of making sure your air filter is clean, but don’t forget about your radiator and oil coolers.
“Also when you’re cleaning, be sure to keep radiators and oil coolers clear of mud, as these are some of the most important items to keep clean,” explains Biolsi. “The Wolverine X2 and X4 Side-by-Sides have a unique feature to improve the effectiveness of this key maintenance item. The radiator fan shroud is slotted in the bottom so when the customer is washing the radiator out from the front, the mud has somewhere to go and can flow all the way through and avoids getting packed into the radiator fan shroud area. This can be difficult to detect and notice otherwise, as the radiator will look clean when viewed from the front, yet it’s packed with mud in the back and preventing crucial airflow. If the radiator does not have airflow through the fins, it cannot function as intended and the engine will overheat.”
We know that UTV and ATV maintenance and cleaning are the least enjoyable parts of owning an off-road vehicle, but keeping on top of those things will save you a lot of time, money and hassle later on.
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I have been working exclusively in digital media since 1997. I started out with TSN.ca, spending nearly nine years creating and editing content on Canada's leading sports website. I left to join VerticalScope, Inc., one of the world's largest online publishers, to start a number of powersports publications. While at VerticalScope, I've helped create and oversee content for a wide variety of different publications, including ATV.com, Off-Road.com, ArcheryTalk.com, Tractor.com, RVGuide.com, and many more.
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