In the last issue of Dirt Wheels we outlined the emergency tools and supplies that you should always have in a UTV. Since then we have attended the Rally on the Rocks in Moab Utah, and there we saw drivers with spare axles mounted to the roll cage. While a giant bag of tools and spares makes sense for a UTV, it makes far less sense on a sport ATV. Storage is meager and, in all likelihood, most of what you can carry in the way of spares and tools will be hanging from your body in a fanny pack or a backpack. It is possible to carry a compact bag and still choose effective tools to ensure the tools carried handle the vast majority of mechanical issues you may encounter on the trail. The idea is to inspect your machine and think about the things that could easily fail and what it would take to repair the problem. You aren’t going to be carrying axles and a spare wheel, so you need simpler ways to get your machine back on the trail and heading home.
1. TIRE STUFF
Tire problems will most likely be the most common malady that can cripple your quad. Fortunately, there are good ways to handle these issues. Tire plug kits are easy to carry. As long as you stop to repair the puncture before the bead breaks loose, you should be able to plug most punctures. We have seen cuts in the tire, plugged with seven plugs! Even if you add air along the trail, you should be able to get home. If your machine has electric start, you should be able to carry one of the small mini compressors so you have air any time. Otherwise, you will need CO2 cartridges and a way to attach them to the stem. You could even carry one of the excellent mountain bike mini pumps, though the large volume will take work to fill. Look for one with a large diameter body, not a skinny, high-pressure pump intended for road bikes. Spare valve cores and a core tool are easy to carry. You could even carry a valve stem.
2. CHAIN GANG
Chain failures are also a real possibility. The majority of chain-drive ATVs, which is the majority of sport quads, come stock with tough, low-maintenance O-ring chains. On the plus side, O-ring chains hold up well. On the negative side, O-ring chains virtually require a chain tool to install a new master link if you have a problem on the trail. You will probably need a chain breaker to remove at least part of the broken link. After the chain is ready, you will need a chain press to install the master link plate. Some chain tools also act as the chain press.
3. CONTROL ISSUES
Control failures are also somewhat common and can sometimes be fixed on the trail. Obviously, if you have some sort of hydraulic leak and lose brake fluid, that will be tough to fix on the trail. Brake fluid is not oil-based, so you cannot use oil as a temporary fix. If you truly can’t get back with one brake compromised, and you are able to fix the leak, you can use water as a temporary fluid. The entire system must be flushed as soon as possible, but water won’t adversely affect the seals in the system like a petroleum-based lubricant would. You may have some other control issue that can be resolved on the trail if you have tools. For long or difficult rides and races, some riders run new clutch and throttle cables alongside the existing ones. They seal the ends with tape. If they break a cable, the new one just has to be hooked up and adjusted. If the terrain is not too extreme, sometimes you can turn the idle up enough so that the machine will move along slowly to get you back.
It is certainly possible to damage the steering or suspension somehow. Having the tools to remove and straighten a tie-rod, or at least adjust it, can make getting back to your truck or home base easier. Tools to tighten suspension parts that came loose can save serious problems as well.
5. SOFT TOOLS
Soft tools is a name for supplies you might carry with you. A good example would be plastic wire ties. Sometimes they are called zip-ties, cable ties or, for you criminal types, flex cuffs. Zip-ties come in all different sizes. Large heavy-duty ones can fasten a branch to a suspension part to strengthen it. Smaller ones can wrangle loose wires and drooping hoses. Safety wire, baling wire and tape are also examples of soft tools. We also like to carry single-use tubes of super glue and five-minute epoxy. Some of the two-tube epoxy brands like JB Weld or JB Kwik Weld stay fresh very well. Our favorite is Moose Racing QuikSteel. This is a putty where the stick holds both parts in one bar. It requires tearing off a piece and kneading it together to start the curing process. You can use this stuff to repair engine cases, frame brackets and stop radiator leaks. It literally hardens like metal in a few minutes. The problem is, it needs to be fresh. In our experience, once you open it, throw away the remainder and get a fresh, unopened tube. A small selection of nuts and bolts can be a lifesaver.
6. SAY UNCLE
If you have an issue that cannot be resolved, you will need help. You should have a cell phone and a tow strap as a bare minimum. (You don’t ride alone, right?) There is a degree of ignominy in arriving back at camp on the end of a tow strap, but it beats walking.
7. KNOW YOUR LIMITS
On a sport quad you aren’t going to be carrying a spare wheel, and it isn’t likely that you will be able to re-seat a tire that breaks loose from the bead. So, you won’t need tools to remove the wheels. Why carry the extra weight? If you don’t have the expertise to make engine or carb repairs, then don’t bother with those tools. Carry tools that you know, and concentrate on repairs that you are ready and qualified for.
8. GET READY
Once you have established tools and have an idea what repairs you can handle, have a trial run. Use the tools in your pack to prep your quad for the next ride—that way you know you have what you need in your tool pack. Decide how you will carry the tools. Ideally, you have them attached to the machine in some fashion. In other cases, a backpack or a fanny pack may be the only options. If you are evaluating the options, you may choose to make machine mods. For example, if flats are common in your area, consider running sealant, Tire Blocks or beadlock rims to minimize the chances of having tire problems. If you encounter a lot of rocks in your riding, install skid plates to protect the bottom and suspension on your machine. Spend the time to prepare for the conditions and you will have better and less stressful rides most of the time.