If you read the owners manual that came with your ATV from cover to cover (like you do with Dirt Wheels every month) you will find some helpful maintenance tips. However, the manufactures are addressing maintenance issues for an average non-abusive trail rider. We wanted to let you in on some secrets for saving your machine from demanding environments like mud riding, racing and flat out thrashing. To do this we talked to several folks who know the dangers that can destroy an average quad and leave its rider stranded.
First, we asked the boys down at High Lifter about the most common problems associated with mud riding and for some tips to make your ATV experience the best it can be. They told us; “during the time we’ve been in the ATV business, we have listened to hundreds of owner’s complaints about overheating problems, especially with the Grizzly.”
THE HEAT IS ON
The cause proved to be collectively that the cooling systems on new style Grizzlys and some other ATVs are not up to the extreme demands of operations in dirty water and deep mud. Further, the front and rear of some radiators cannot be accessed without significant disassembly. This discourages thorough cleaning. Without cleaning, the performance of the radiator rapidly deteriorates. Well, now we had the cause. Next, let’s tell you about our solution.
On the Grizzly, the radiator is a conventional design. It has 18 louvered fins per inch. These fins take the heat from the tubes that carry the hot engine coolant solution through the system. The air then passes through the fins and dissipates the heat. The louvered fin allows additional air passage and more efficient cooling under normal conditions. As the fin count goes down, e.g. 14 fins per inch/12 fins per inch, the efficiency of the radiator usually goes down.
In the case of the Grizzly, the tightly spaced fins with louvers begin to act as a screen or a sieve, collecting the fine particles, mud, dirt, leaves and dust associated with extreme riding. It is not difficult to imagine the fine particles of debris that would be collected by the radiator with passages the size of those in a pair of nylon hose as compared to that which would be trapped by a screen door. High Lifter found that the fins in the 18 fin per inch stock radiator severely impacted its ability to cool.
They designed a radiator with 14 louvered fins per inch for the Grizzly and are currently looking into other models. This enables the muddy water and the fine mud particles to pass more easily through the radiator’s core. To compensate for less fin count, they also made the fins taller and the radiator as thick as space would allow.
More significantly, they designed the radiator to circulate the coolant three times before it leaves the core and returns to the engine. The stock systems have a single flow rather than this triple flow.
They have also designed a fan that is almost three times more powerful than most stock fans. It draws 6.1 amps and pulls air so strongly through the radiator that it expels debris that would otherwise remain in the fins. It is the most powerful fan they could use with existing components. The circuit breaker insures that the fan sensor will function well. This combination creates superior air-flow and greater cooling power.
Another issue when mud riding is water getting into non-sealed bearings, especially those found on most Hondas.
For those not familiar with wheel bearings, there are two basic types: standard wheel bearings with exposed ball bearings, and sealed wheel bearings which are pre-greased and come with an integral built-in seal so that the ball bearings are not exposed.
Both styles of bearings are installed with an external seal to help prevent entry of mud, water and sand. With unsealed bearings, the external seal also keeps the grease in the bearings.
The original equipment bearings installed by Honda at the factory are unsealed. This product works fine as long as they are continuously maintained and packed with grease and are not continually subjected to a bath of sandy, muddy water.
However, in harsh conditions, the mud and water causes deterioration of the external rubber seal. Because of the lack of an integral seal, the mud and water easily enter through the hub and wash away the grease. With the grease gone, the mud and water are left to eat up the bearings and cause accelerated wear.
Intended for use in extreme conditions, double sealed bearings are best. They last many times longer than stock OEM and other replacement bearings.
The High Lifter Sealed Bearings have an integral rubber seal to protect them from contaminants and require no maintenance. They are further protected by the same external seal as the OEM bearing. This double seal will lengthen the service life dramatically at a cost equal to or less than the standard OEM wheel bearings.
FROM TRACK TO TRAIL
Next, we talked to ten-time cross country utility champion Mike Penland to see what tips he was willing to pass along. This is what he had to say.
“The single most important thing I watch for is belt wear. If properly adjusted, a belt can give the same performance new or old. Your dealer can help you change the shims in your driven clutch to keep it riding tight.
“Keep your radiator clean. Be careful if you pressure wash your machine. The high pressure can bend the radiator’s louvers and hurt its performance. Shine a flashlight through the louvers and make sure they are clear.
“If you ride in wet conditions, take the time and coat all of the electrical connections with a dab of dielectric grease (found at any auto parts store). This will keep the connections free of corrosion and it will repel water.
“Obviously, keep your air filter clean and remember to grease the base of the filter where it meets the air box. Check over the quad after each ride. This may save some aggravation the next time you want to ride and just then realize a problem.
“Quad setup is as important for trail riders as it is for a race. Make sure your bars and levers are set in a comfortable position. For long rides you want to be as comfortable as possible. I always recommend hand guards. In cold weather, they really block the wind.”
INVEST IN BLACK GOLD
“Oil changes are important and make sure to always change the oil filter as well. Don’t take any shortcuts here. If your filter gets clogged up, the oil will bypass the filter completely and break down faster.
“I use Klotz MX4 synthetic because if I’m racing and I lose oil pressure or a rock takes out my engine case, I have the confidence I can make it to the finish line with no oil. It’s just as important to have that same feeling if you’re 60 miles from civilization on a trail ride.”
On that note, we talked to Mike’s oil supplier Klotz to find out the differences between synthetic racing oil and a standard automobile motor oil. This is what they had to say.
“Changing the oil is one of the basic maintenance items that many ATV owners feel up to doing. However, there could be some benefits in looking into the quality of oil rather than changing it more often. In the automotive industry, many experts are now seeing the benefits of going with true synthetic oils that give 5-7K miles between oil changes.
“Klotz Synthetics are a Group 5 ester based lubricant, the very best. Petroleum automobile oils are a Group 3 and oils like Mobil 1 and Amsoil are a PAO (polyalphaolefins, which is a petroleum product) are a Group 4. A group 5 synthetic like Klotz is a man-made hydrocarbon tailored to meet to specific applications. Thus it meets and far exceeds the conventional $1.00 a quart oils that don’t take well to periods of long use and abuse.
“A synthetic like Klotz is naturally viscous, meaning that it does not need a lot of additives to make it behave like a 10W/40 (multi-grade) for easier starts and more protection in high-heat/rpm situations.
“Plus a synthetic is also naturally detergent, so it does not need additives to prevent sludge and varnish.
“Our oil is more resistant to thermal breakdown, especially important in an off-road engine that may become caked in mud. With 4x4 units this is very common that the engines are packed with layers and layers of mud that has dried on and you need a real quality oil protecting the inside of the engine regardless of what the outside of the engine looks like.
“True synthetics resist shearing that will reduce the lubricity of petroleum oils. As petroleum oils are squeezed between bearings and gears, the molecules will actually shear and break down. This reduces the effectiveness of the oil. For just a few dollars more you can have the added performance and durability of a true synthetic oil to protect your machine that cost thousands of dollars and you won’t be left stranded because of motor failure.
“For differentials Klotz offers FLEX DRIVE 90, and can go a year or more between changes.”
Now, get back out there and ride.
High Lifter (318) 524-9941