It’s about that time a year again when the flowers are blossoming, the trees are in full bloom, the birds are chirping and the trails are in their prime. It has been since fall, and before the harsh winter season, that your ATV was gone through and maintained using these 15 maintenance tips. Don’t worry; even the editors at Dirt Wheels have committed their share of minor neglect during the winter months. Of course in California the lows range somewhere in the mid 60s with nearly no chance of rain or snow.
Whether it was neglect or just purely lack of time, this is your chance to make up for it. We put together our list of the most important spring maintenance tips for your ATV, a To Do list that should be completed before you begin your next long session of riding. Plus, we show you the RIGHT way to clean your air filter! Make your trusty ATV run better than ever with a little help from your good friends at DW.
CLEAN AIR FILTER
STEP 1: Get to the air filter by removing the air box lid. Then carefully remove the air filter.
STEP 2: Clean the air box thoroughly. Make sure there is no loose dirt or debris on or around the intake part of the air box. Removing the box to wash is always a good idea, but by using a little brake cleaner you can get a lot accomplished.
STEP 3: Remove the inner cone on the air filter and set it aside. Rinse your air filter in solvent to loosen and remove grease, dirt and debris. If you do not have solvent, any aftermarket air filter cleaner will do just fine.
STEP 4: Cover your filter with any type of dish soap; we use Dawn. Rub the soap into the air filter, and then run it through water. Re-do this as many times as needed, to make sure there is no excess soap, dirt or solvent left on the filter.
STEP 5: Ring out the filter and set aside until it is completely dry. If you want to speed up the process, blow the filter dry with a hair dryer. Once dry, cover the entire filter with filter oil, and then thoroughly rub in the oil. Make sure that every spot on the filter is covered, without using too much oil. There should only be a slight stick when you touch the filter.
STEP 6: Clean the inner cone and replace it in the filter. Before reinstalling the filter, put a decent amount of waterproof grease on the cone side of the filter to create a better seal on the air box. Then reinstall the filter. Make sure the filter is completely sealed to the air box by running your hand around the cone side of the filter checking for gaps.
Changing your oil is a must-do! Drain the oil completely, check or replace the oil filter, and add fresh oil by following your ATV’s Service Manual for the appropriate measurements. We would suggest changing the oil in a sport ATV every five to ten hours of ride time depending on how hard the quad was ridden. For a 4×4 or utility ATV, changing the oil every couple months is adequate, but we suggest an oil change after every long weekend of trail riding. After all, it is much cheaper to buy oil than it is to replace a motor.
Remove your carburetor and clean it thoroughly. Go through and blow out all vent hoses and jets. When your machine sits for a while it might cause buildup in the float bowl, so remove the float bowl and spray it out with carburetor cleaner. Before reinstalling the carburetor make sure there is no dirt or debris in the exhaust intake of the air box boot.
INSPECT YOUR BRAKES
Take a good hard look at your brakes. Check and fill the brake fluid. If you have disk brakes you will want to take a look at your pads. There are tell lines on most pads, so if you do not see them it is time to replace the pads. The same goes with brake shoes. While you have the calipers off to check the brake pads, take a Brillo pad and scrub the rotors. Remove all excess dirt or debris. Also, our May 2006 issue has a complete How To on brake pads and shoes, so check it out. Get it done or miss your exit!
GREASE ZERK FITTINGS
Most ATV’s have zerk fittings on the pivot points, such as on the rear shock linkage, and on front A-arms. It is necessary to add grease to these parts of your machine. This is a much easier alternative to removing your A-arm bolts and manually greasing them. However, if you do not have zerk fittings, then your only alternative is to manually grease..
FLUSH COOLING SYSTEM
After a hard year of riding we suggest that you drain your old radiator fluid, flush the system, and add a new half and half mixture of radiator fluid and water. This is an easy process. Just remove the drain bolt on the water cooler cover and drain the old fluid into a bucket. After the fluid is done draining, flush the radiator by either using a hose or a jug of water. Once there is only CLEAR water coming from the drain plug, return the plug and pour in your half and half mixture. Check your Service Manual for exact measurements.
As your four-stroke ATV motor runs, the valves wear and need to be adjusted. You will want to adjust the valves to the guidelines of the ATV’s Service Manual. If the valves are adjusted too tight and there is no play, the valves could hit the piston. If the valves have too much play it can cause bending. If you do not feel comfortable doing this on your own, contact your local repair shop.
REPLACE SPARK PLUG
Nowadays changing a spark plug is not necessarily on the top of everyone’s mind, but for only a couple bucks it is the cheapest thing you will have to buy this year. Do not throw you old spark plug away. Take it out, wrap it, and keep in your toolbox or attach it to your quad in case you foul a plug.
REPLACE WHEEL BEARINGS
Take off your wheel hubs and repack the bearings using waterproof grease. You will want to make sure that the bearings are functioning correctly beforehand. A simple way to do this is to place the bearing on one of your fingers and spin it. If it does not spin smoothly try spraying the bearing out with WD-40 and try it again. Nowadays aftermarket companies such as Boss Bearings (888) 400-2677, or Pivot Works (515) 402-8000) make wheel bearings sets for ATVs. For a little over 20 bucks you can have a fresh set of bearings, without the hassles of packing your old ones.
Disconnect your battery and clean all of the acid buildup off the connections. After the battery is clean, connect your battery to an appropriate charger and allow enough time for a complete charge. Then return the battery to your ATV. If the battery does not take a charge it is time to replace it. You can pick up a YUASA or OEM battery at most local dealers.
Every once in a while mud or water can get in your electrical connections and cause shorting problems. These connections can even just come loose, so go through and check your ATV’s electrical system. Make sure no wiring is touching metal. Clean out all of the dirt from the connectors, and double check that everything is connected. Use your ATV’s Service Manual as a guide.
Take a wire brush and scrub your chain and sprockets. While you are scrubbing, take a look at the teeth of your sprockets, making sure all of them are intact. Aftermarket companies such as Sidewinder, (630) 513-1000) or Sunstar, (800) 241-2222 will supply you with a new chain and sprockets if necessary. Once the chain is clean, or the new chain and sprockets are installed, pull out that dusty can of chain lube and give it a couple of coats. We would suggest lubing your chain before every ride, and after every time you wash your ATV.
While we suggest tearing your ATV down to the frame and giving it a fresh coat of paint, not everyone has the time or patience to do this. A simple fix is to get a roll of masking tape, and a few paper towels. Thoroughly clean the “to be prepped” area. Use a Brillo pad to scrub off any rust or scraped paint. Then tape pieces of paper towel on the backside of the frame where your ATV needs a little touch-up. Wah lah! An instant ATV facelift via a little elbow grease, tape and paint. Companies such as PJ1 (contact your local dealer) make an aftermarket line of OEM style paints.
BRRRAAAAAPP! Fact: Every ATV enthusiast loves the smooth sound of his or her machine taking to the track or trail. On the other hand, no ATV enthusiast likes the sound of a blown-out exhaust pipe. After a year-long epic battle with track and trail your valuable steed will get louder and louder, and this means it is time to repack your muffler. Simply remove your muffler’s canister and replace the stock packing. With today’s sound laws this might save you a little hassle from the man.
Every once in a while, just like on your pickup truck, you need to check the alignment on your machine. After every jump you case, or tree stump you hit, the alignment could shift. So while you are going through your entire machine, take this opportunity to check and adjust your alignment. The appropriate way to do this is to have your ATV on a level surface. Measure the distance from the center of the right front tire to the center of the left front tire, then compare with the back. Check with your ATV’s Shop Manual for the correct measurements. If you have an aftermarket front end, check with that company’s manual for correct measurements.
CHECK AND TIGHTEN ALL NUTS AND BOLTS
Start from one side of your ATV and work your way to the other. There could be loose bolts all over your machine and you might not find out until it is too late! While you are checking and tightening every nut and bolt on your entire ATV, go ahead and replace any that are missing threads, or just plain don’t look good. There are many aftermarket companies such as Cycra, (740) 929-0188, that sell complete nut and bolt kits, so you don’t have to keep going back to your local hardware store every time one needs replacing.