41 EXPERT TECH TIPS you need to know!
— Secrets that will make your life easier —
Everyone here at Dirt Wheels has a secret collection. We’re not talking about comic books, Pokemon cards or Barbie dolls—at least not here. We’re talking knowledge. When we work on quads or get ready to ride, each of us uses his private collection of secret techniques, tips and shortcuts. We’ve been doing it so long that we automatically revert to the easiest way of doing almost everything. We decided to gather up some of those tips and share them with you. We selected 41 topics purely at random. We could have presented more, but some of our secrets will have to remain secrets—at least for a few more months.
1. What used oil can tell you: After an oil change, check out the smell and thickness of the waste oil. If it’s like stinky water from a Gulf state after the BP spill, then you’ve gone too far between changes. An overtaxed clutch will give the oil a burnt smell. Also, metal shavings can tell you something. Aluminum shavings aren’t so bad. Steel shavings are. You can tell the difference with a magnetic drain plug.
2. Heat helps with new graphics: When you install new vinyl graphics, try not to do it in cold conditions. A heat gun can help, but you can easily damage the vinyl if you linger for more than a couple of seconds. And if you remember that vinyl stretches easily, but doesn’t compress well at all, you’ll have a better final result.
3. A snatch block doubles your winch power: Carry a snatch block and use it every time you use your winch, if the length of the line permits. Not only does it double your power, but it also makes attaching the winch to your anchor point easier. Never use a live tree as an anchor point.
4. Where to find cheap parts: Rocky Mountain ATV has the best prices we have found on replacement parts like bars, axles and levers, as well as some used parts. Chaparral has great deals on riding gear. Service Honda has the best prices on O.E. parts. All can be found online.
5. Zip-ties to the rescue: Aside from all the normal uses of zip-ties, Brad noticed that they are the perfect thickness to lift those thin battery terminal nuts up to where they can be reached by those short battery terminal bolts.
6. Make sure your CVT case drains: The normal drain clogs easily, and water in the case will stop you in your tracks. The right tools for draining the case should be on your quad. A quarter is the right tool for a Polaris.
7. Seat a tire: Having a hard time getting a new tire to seat on the rim? We feel your pain. We have sometimes had luck wrapping a ratchet-style tie-down strap around the perimeter of the tire and squeezing.
8. What uneven braking can tell you: When your quad darts to one side or the other under braking, it can be the fault of tires or brakes. Check for tire pressure, worn brake pads, a bent disc and brake contamination. After that, you can look to bearings and tie-rods.
9. What vibration can tell you: Loose motor mounts are the most common reason for vibration. Other causes are worn bearings, out-of-balance wheels and a motor that’s about to go boom.
10. Make your grips stick: It can mess up your whole day as well as your dental work if a grip slides off. ODI and A’ME make bolt-on grips. You can fasten conventional grips with safety wire, PVC glue or even spray paint.
11. Mineral spirits clean filters: It can be purchased at any hardware store, it’s inexpensive, it doesn’t stink and it’s not explosive. Keep it in a re-sealable container and reuse it again and again.
12. WD-40 disperses water: Water is evil and wants to damage your ATV. WD-40 was originally designed as a water dispersant (thus, “WD”). But most light oil and even kerosene can make water run out of chain rollers and tight spots after a wash job.
13. Air pressure changes with altitude: Just because you have 10 pounds of pressure in your tires in your garage doesn’t mean you have 10 pounds when you arrive in your riding area. Check it before you ride.
14. QuikSteel works in minutes: We have performed many on-trail repairs using QuikSteel. It’s like a Tootsie Roll that starts to harden as soon as it’s mashed. You can fix broken cases, broken plastic and, occasionally, broken dreams.
15. Grease your filter seal: This is a habit that has fallen out of vogue as the design of airboxes has improved. It can still save a motor in the case of an improperly installed filter, and is just a good habit.
16. Paint the underside of your visor black: When you ride at night, a white visor can cause glare. Many modern helmets come with visors that already are dark in color on the bottom.
17. What not to wash: Your seat foam can be broken down by repeated washing. Don’t get it any wetter than necessary. The same goes for your chain, muffler packing, seals and bearings.
18. Slime yourself: Putting Green Slime in your tires will prevent half of your flats. For the other half, carry plugs and CO2, and hope that the puncture isn’t in a sidewall. Unthreaded CO2 containers that are designed for pellet guns are less expensive than the threaded variety. When you buy them in packages of 20 at Walmart, they can be had for about 50 cents apiece, but they require a capsule-style adaptor.
19. Extend tire life with a tire-cutting tool: Motion Pro sells a heated tire cutter that can put a fresh edge on old rubber. Doing the same thing with a regular razor can take hours.
20. Drain gasoline before storage: The jets in your carb are tiny, and gasoline quality varies greatly. A quad that’s unused for a month can have clogged jets. We’ve noticed that two-strokes have less of a problem in this department, probably because of the oil in the fuel.
21. Install a master link clip the right way: The rounded side faces forward, and you should never lift one arm of the keeper over the pin. Instead, push the keeper on straight.
22. A padlock can be carried with you: No quad is safe when it’s out of your sight. A simple padlock is portable and can be used on your sprocket or disc. It isn’t theft-proof, but it’s better than nothing.
23. Have jumper cables: This isn’t 1985 any more. You probably don’t even have a kickstarter. Not only do you need jumper cables in your truck, but you should carry a set when you go on long rides. Yuasa makes a compact set.
24. Prep your goggles for dust: When you ride in dust, you can use Moose Dust’r or even Armor All to keep dust from sticking to the outside of your goggle lens. A light coating of baby oil or Vaseline can keep dust from passing through the vent foam.
25. Make your own anti-fog: A lens with an inside anti-fog coating is the best setup, but if you don’t have one, you can improvise. Put a coating of hand soap on the lens, let it dry to a fog and wipe it off. This makes the lens resist fogging.
26. A leak-down test tells you more than a compression test: Many modern 450s have automatic decompressors, which open one valve at very low rpm (starting speed). This confuses an old-fashion automotive compression gauge. A leak-down test is more accurate. This measures static air-pressure retention.
27. What overheating means: Is your quad boiling under normal use? Contributing factors can be low coolant in the first place, a worn-out radiator cap, a worn-out clutch or an obstruction in the exhaust.
28. Always carry three things on a trail ride: Money, I.D. and a health insurance card. An expired driver’s license is as good as a valid one for this, and you should have a contact phone number written on it.
29. What backfiring means: What people refer to as “backfiring” is usually unburned fuel in the exhaust. This can be caused by a lean mixture or an air leak in the exhaust. Or it could mean you’re about to run out of gas.
30. A charged battery lasts longer than a flat one in storage: If you run your battery dry then put your quad away for a few weeks, you’re giving your battery a death sentence. Always charge your battery as soon as possible if it goes flat.
31. What a worn chain can tell you: Masterlinks wear out faster than the rest of your chain and are a common cause of failure. A misaligned chainguide is another source of grief. And a worn sprocket will cause a new chain to wear prematurely (and vice versa).
32. Clutch-driven plates almost never wear out: Save yourself money the next time you change your clutch. The metal plates probably aren’t worn. In fact, used driven plates often work better than new ones. But check to see if any are warped by stacking them up.
33. What hard starting means: There’s a big difference between “hard to start” and “won’t start.” If your quad takes quite a few revolutions before it springs to life, hot or cold, it’s generally a sign of tight valves or low compression. In either case, it’s asking for attention.
34. Cross-tie your bars with tie-downs: When you adjust toe-in or toe-out, it’s essential that you have the handlebar fixed in position. No matter how you do it, it’s still a matter of trial and error.
35. Sunlight degrades gasoline: Don’t keep fuel where light can strike it, especially if it’s in a translucent container.
36. Use a prefilter: Virtually all of the pros use some sort of filter skin or prefilter. It will keep your filter cleaner longer and make maintenance easier.
37. Check the right nuts and bolts: Swingarm nuts like to come loose often. Check them. A-arm bolts don’t come loose as often, but can cause ugliness if they do. Check them.
38. Keep heat where it belongs: If you look at Harold Goodman’s Honda or Dustin Wimmer’s Suzuki, you see how important insulation is. You can insulate the pipe, the airbox and sometimes even the fuel line. In some cases it’s to keep the incoming fuel charge cool; in others it’s to keep from getting burned.
39. What stalling means: Most often, stalling is the result of rider error. But not always. A sport quad often flames out when the fuel mixture isn’t right. In the case of EFI quads, this can happen when you’ve made intake or exhaust modifications without altering the fuel mapping. Aftermarket exhaust companies usually sell some sort of mod box to correct the situation.
40. Wheels change gearing: Whenever you put big wheels and tires on your ATV, remember that you’re changing the final drive ratio as well. It’s just like installing a smaller rear sprocket. In the case of CVT quads, you’re putting a much bigger load on the transmission, and it might require an upgrade.
41. Bleed the brake farthest from the lever first: Bleeding brakes on a quad is usually a two-man job. You should bleed the caliper farthest from the brake master cylinder first to keep from pushing air back into it when you bleed the other brakes.