ATV Winter Storage Preparations
Packing up your ATV for the winter may seem as simple as just rolling it into the garage — but winterizing your ATV is a process. By following a few simple steps, you can help ensure that it’s going to sleep safely.
Readying your ATV for Long-Term Storage
Getting the most use out of your ATV requires some TLC as the seasons change. Take a look at these important tips to make sure that your ATV is ready this spring by preparing it for winter storage.
Manage the fuel. Right before you retire your ATV for the season, pick up a bottle of fuel stabilizer/conditioner and add it to an empty gas tank. Afterwards, carefully fill the gas tank to the brim, secure the gas cap and drive it for two minutes to be sure the conditioner is mixed well. Filling the tank up all the way helps prevent moisture from rusting out the inside walls of the tank, and the fuel conditioner will help to keep your carburetor and/or fuel injectors coated with anti-corrosive materials for the winter. It’ll help to keep the fuel from jelling up over the winter. Also, remember turn off the fuel valve.
Change the oil and the filter. Unless you just changed your oil within the last 50 miles, swap out the oil and filter, and briefly start the engine up afterwards. This’ll help to coat the pistons and surrounding areas to keep corrosion down.
Clear the air. Swap out the old air filter for a new one. Inspect the air intake and clear away any debris, and be sure to wipe down the interior of the filter housing.
Check the brake and transmission fluid. Top off your fluid levels and check them again before you start the ATV in the spring.
Trickle charge the battery. Disconnect and pull the battery. Use a slow trickle charger for the battery that you can connect in a safe area that can be observed across the course of the winter. Check in on it for signs of leaking or corrosion, replacing if necessary.
Clean and flush the radiator. Rinse away the mud and dirt from the fins of the radiator using a hose or a pressure washer. Spray down the fins from bot the front and back of the radiator if possible. Then, safely flush the coolant out of your ATV using the instructions either on the manufacturer’s website or in the user’s guide that accompanied the ATV when you bought it. Once you do this, refill with an antifreeze-based coolant. This’ll help ensure that any water added into the coolant is removed, and will help to prevent your engine block from cracking due to ice expanding inside it. Be sure that the plug is secured and installed tightly afterwards.
Mind the mice. Furry critters love to nest in tight spots, like in your ATV’s tailpipe and along the timing belt in the engine. Do your best to make this an inhospitable place for them by packing the tailpipe with a few inches of stainless steel wool, and put brightly colored tape over the exhaust pipe to draw attention to it in the spring, so you remember to remove it. Block access to the timing belt with several layers of tin foil, or use rodent-deterring peppermint packets to keep mice from nesting in your belt. Write a little note and tie it to the throttle, reminding yourself to pull these materials from the exhaust line and the timing belt areas before restarting the vehicle next spring.
ATV Offseason Storage and Maintenance
With the steps above you're off to a good start, but if you’re in for the long haul, consider these ideas below to fully winterize your ATV:
Take a load off. If possible, safely rest the ATV up onto blocks and off its wheels where you plan on storing it. Doing so will take the weight of the ATV off of the tires and keep them from flattening out while in storage. Check the pressure and fill up to the recommended PSI. Also, now’s a good time to inspect each tire for irregular wear or signs of trouble, like sidewall bubbles and cracks. If so, they might need replacing.
Pull the plugs. End of year maintenance is a perfect time to swap out your spark plugs. Gap them according to the specs in the owner’s manual, and don’t forget to use dielectric grease where the cable seats into the plug to ensure good electrical flow.
Visit the drivetrain. Take a close look at the chain if your ATV has one. Adjust the tension according to your owner’s manual and lubricate it to prevent rust buildup. You owner’s manual will also tell you how to properly maintain your driveshaft (if your ATV has one).
Wrap it up. Wash the ATV and let it fully dry. Covering your ATV is a great way to help keep it looking its best. Not only does a cover help preserve it, but it also helps increase its life span since it reduces dew and dust from accumulating, which can lead to increased mold and corrosion.
Revisit your insurance. After a full season of riding the trails, you’re better aware of the conditions you’ll encounter next year. Take a moment and contact your American Family Insurance agent to make sure you have the right ATV insurance in place for the coming season. You’ll feel great knowing that you’re better protected wherever the trail takes you.
And, once the winter’s over, take a look at this ATV pre-ride checklist before you hit the trails to be sure you’re prepared for the roads ahead.