Do I Need to Winterize My ATV?

If you own a boat or an RV, you always winterize them, but you’re not so sure what to do about your ATV. This is your first year with an all-terrain vehicle. Leaving it exposed all winter long doesn’t seem right, but what would winterization entail? Is it really necessary?

It’s best to winterize your ATV to preserve components such as the battery, engine, and tires. By not winterizing, you could have to spend hundreds to thousands of dollars each year to get your ATV in ridable condition.

Since this will be your first time winterizing an ATV, we’ll tell you everything you need to do. We’ll also delve more into why winterizing your ATV each year is so important, so make sure you don’t miss it! 

The Importance of Winterizing Your ATV

Your ATV has snow tires, and maybe you rode it a few cold days this year before the temps dropped to near-freezing. 

Although your ATV would probably survive the cold season without winterization, that’s nothing you want to make a habit of, especially if you want to ride your ATV for years to come.

Here are the benefits of winterizing your RV.

Preserves the Battery

Some ATVs can run without a battery, but those are usually older models. If yours is an ATV produced within the last 10 years or so, then without a working battery, your ATV isn’t moving a single inch. 

You’ll be stranded wherever you stand!

Part of winterizing an ATV entails battery removal, storage, and charging. 

All batteries discharge over time, which means the battery naturally depletes even if you’re not actively using it. Your smartphone battery does this, and you’ve probably noticed it.

If you leave your ATV battery in the cold all winter long, when you come back to it in the spring, the battery will be dead. 

More so than that, a battery that froze and thawed all winter long might never take a charge again, or perhaps it won’t hold a charge. 

Either way, that battery has gone bust, and now you’ll have no choice but to shell out money for a new one.

Prevents Moisture Accumulation

Moisture is the worst enemy of a vehicle. 

Although the summertime is a lot balmier and thus wetter than the winter, the air is not devoid of moisture during the cold season. 

Moisture can still accumulate, and when it does, bad things happen. Any metallic components–of which there are many in your ATV–can rust and/or corrode. 

Just as bad if not even worse is that mildew, mold, and other fungi can develop across the surfaces of your vehicle. 

A covered, stored ATV will not get all moldy during the winter.

Keeps Your Tires in Running Condition

A single ATV tire could cost over $100 depending on the type. At that price, you don’t want to have to replace your ATV tires any sooner than absolutely necessary. 

If you leave your tires out on the cold ground for months on end with no protection, the tires can deflate. 

Should the temperatures drop below freezing at any point during the winter, the rubber of the tires can stiffen. 

Enough instances of this can make the tires brittle so that when you go to use them in the spring, they could crack.

Very cold temperatures can also cause tire traction to lessen, which makes your tires more dangerous to use.

Keeps Critters Out

Although an ATV is not as cozy of a place to nest all winter compared to an RV or camper, a cold rodent or critter is not going to be too picky. 

When your ATV sits out in the open during the winter, it’s fair game to any creature that wants to use it to stay warm from the bitter chill. 

Depending on the size of the critter in question, the animal could slither its way inside the ATV and damage components, especially if they chew through parts such as wires and plastic. 

How to Winterize an ATV

You’re convinced that winterizing your ATV is best from here on out. Without further ado then, here are the winterization steps to follow every year before the cold season arrives.

Elevate the Tires

When your ATV sits idly for months, the weight of the vehicle can put pressure on the tires. This can cause the tires to deflate and weaken over time. 

Flat spots can develop that never quite drive the same way again.

Before you know it, you have no choice but to replace your ATV tire, maybe even several tires. We already discussed what a costly venture this can be.

By parking your ATV on a raised area, the tires won’t be squashed for months on end. This will go a long way towards keeping them operational into the spring.

Insert an ATV jack stand or a couple of blocks under each tire too just to keep them still. 

Check Tire Inflation Levels

While you’re winterizing your ATV tires, you might as well confirm that all four of them are inflated.

The usual riding pressure will suffice for inflation, so between 5 and 6 pounds per square inch of pressure or PSI is good. 

Replace the Air Filter

You don’t want to leave a dirty air filter in your ATV for too long even when you’re using it, and especially when the vehicle will be idle. 

During the off-season, the grime on the filter could contribute to corrosion and otherwise wear down the filter.

It will be unusable in that state. The next time you power on your ATV after a long absence, it will work very poorly because of the damaged filter. 

You only need a few minutes of time to check and replace the filter, so make sure you do it. You’ll save yourself a lot of stress and headaches later. 

Remove and Bring Home the Batteries

As we talked about earlier, you don’t want to leave your battery in your ATV all winter long. The battery will be dead and may never take a full charge again. 

Bring your battery home with you. You can store it in the house if you want. At the very least, if you’re going to keep it in a room like a garage or a basement, it should be off the floor. 

The floor in these uninsulated rooms can be just as cold as the ground outside or very close. Your battery could still incur the same damage we discussed earlier. 

Putting the battery on the floor with a layer or two of cardboard underneath should suffice, but the battery is better off left on a shelf or somewhere similar. 

Make sure the battery doesn’t receive too much sunlight. The heat from all the light can cause the battery to overheat and possibly incur damage. Yes, even in the wintertime, this can happen. 

You can’t just leave your ATV battery over the winter without charging it. Remember, battery discharging will drain the battery even as it sits in your garage. 

About once a week, check the battery levels. When they begin to deplete, trickle-charge the battery.

We’d recommend a smart charger to ensure the ATV battery is charged to only the level it needs. 

Drain the Carburetor

Nowadays, you’re likelier to see ATVs on the market that are fuel-injected. This is a lot better for our planet than an ATV with a carburetor.

That said, older ATVs could still have carbs. If yours does, then that adds on an extra winterization step, as you’ll have to drain the carb ahead of the inactive season.

Power on your ATV and leave it idling. Find the fuel petcock valve and close it. Then let the engine go until it has no more fuel left. Be patient with this part. Rushing the process will lead to a big mess. 

Once the engine is empty, allow it to come to room temperature. Then find the float bowl’s drain screw and unscrew it. 

Any fuel in the carburetor should easily drain right out. You will need a container or a shallow basin to catch the fuel. 

Close everything up and turn your ATV off. You’re done with the carb for the season.

Treat the Fuel System

You cannot leave the fuel system as is over the winter. 

Ethanol gas, which is a common fuel source for ATVs, usually attracts water. If that water enters your ATV’s fuel system, you can be in for some big and expensive surprises come the spring.

We recommend using a fuel stabilizer on the gas in the tank. The stabilizer can prevent the gas from separating, which happens over time. 

Then the ethanol would drip down nearer the bottom of the fuel tank, where water would gradually accumulate as well. 

If you’d rather drain the fuel, that’s fine, but you can keep it and it will be in usable condition come the spring if you apply a fuel stabilizer. 

When you come back to your ATV in a few months, you’ll have to ride it for a few minutes to get the fuel moving, but then you’ll be good to go.

Fog or Lubricate the Engine Cylinders

Fogging the engine refers to using fogging oil to protect the engine’s internal surfaces. 

This is an optional step, but considering how important the engine of your ATV is, it’s a good idea to do it if you can.

You’d have to first take out the air filter. Then you could apply a fogging oil of your choice straight into the ATV’s air intake valves. 

Make sure your ATV is on and your engine is warmed up, as this will help the fog oil reach the cylinders. 

You should not fog your engine if you drained your carbs. 

Instead, detach the spark plug using a ratchet. Add some oil, about a teaspoon, into the spark plug housing. Put your spark plug back and adjust the torque. 

Then, crank your engine but don’t turn it over. Repeat this to spread the oil across the cylinders. 

Clean Your ATV

Before it gets really cold, take about an hour to wash your ATV inside and out as part of winterization. 

A thorough cleaning will rid the vehicle of brake dust, insects, dirt, and other debris. Your ATV will look shiny and new as well, and who doesn’t love that?

You can even feel free to wax your ATV, but keep in mind it won’t be in pristine condition after a few months of storage even if you do wax it. 

Refill Fluids

Check your coolant and brake fluid levels. More than likely, both could use some topping off, and since you’re taking care of your vehicle, you might as well, right? 

Don’t necessarily use the same coolant you do the rest of the active season. You want an antifreeze-protectant coolant that can withstand the rigors of winter without freezing. 

Replace the Oil 

Even if your ATV got an oil change a couple of months ago, you still want to do another one before you park it for the rest of the year. 

You’ll need a funnel, plenty of rags, a torque wrench, a ratchet with sockets, an Allen wrench, and an oil filter. It also doesn’t hurt to have a pair of rubber gloves.

To begin, power on your ATV and let the engine idle. You’re trying to get the oil in the vehicle nice and warm. 

Next, find the drain plugs. Put an oil pan under the plugs. With your ratchet and socket, open the plugs and let them empty. 

When the drain plugs are dry, remove the oil cover filter with your Allen wrench. You’ll probably have to detach at least three screws. 

Clean the oil filter if it’s reusable. We recommend using mineral spirits for the job. If your filter isn’t reusable, then replace it. 

Wipe down all the drain plugs and put them back where they were. Then, using your funnel, pour in the oil.

Your owner’s manual will tell you exactly how much oil your ATV needs. Overfilling can cause oil leaks and a gunky mess, so only use as much as is recommended. 

Plug Openings and Gaps

You don’t want an animal having babies in your ATV, right? You could end up killing the animals the next time you start up your ATV, having not known they were even there in the first place. 

When you’re done with all the other winterization steps we’ve discussed, you want to go through your entire vehicle and look for any gaps and openings. Plug them or cover them using duct tape, an old rag, whatever you’ve got. 

Animals won’t be able to get into your vehicle, which will make nesting around your ATV a less attractive prospect. 

Store Your ATV

Finally, you need to find a spot to keep your ATV until warmer days are ahead. You could pay to put your ATV in a storage facility or even keep the vehicle in your garage or parked on the curb.

If your ATV will be primarily outdoors for the winter, you should invest in a cover.

The cover should be both waterproof and UV-resistant so your vehicle stays damage-free over the winter months. 

Final Thoughts

Winterizing your ATV will prolong its lifespan and keep its multitude of parts well-functioning for a long time to come. You’ll also save so much money since you won’t have to pay for repairs left and right.

Now that you know how to winterize your ATV, you can make it a regular habit every year! 

Geoff Southworth

I am a California native and I enjoy all the outdoors has to offer. My latest adventures have been taking the family camping, hiking and surfing.

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