Ask the Expert

It is important to Winterize All-terrain (ATV) and Utility (UTV) Vehicles to make sure  the weather, moisture, chemical breakdown, and critters don’t turn your spring start-up into an expensive overhaul.

Clean and lubricate: Wash, rinse, and dry the vehicle. Dirt, chemical and brake dust will only increase the chances of winter corrosion. Wax painted and chromed parts. Lubricate every item that could corrode during a long period of storage: chains, sprockets and cables. Clean all grease fittings using a clean shop rag, then apply fresh grease to those points and wipe any excess grease off. Give exhaust pipes a light spray of 
oil.

Coolant and Fluids: For liquid-cooled machines, top off the coolant, or change it altogether if it’s more than two years old. Use coolant recommended by the manufacturer ensuring the new mix has adequate anti-freeze protection. Fill the brake fluid and any other fluids.

Fuel system:  Fill the tank with fresh fuel mixed with fuel stabilizer (STA-BIL® is a good product). Run the engine for 10 minutes to get it up to operating temperature and to distribute stabilizer through the lines. Fill up the fuel tank to 7/8 full to prevent condensation inside the tank.

Cylinders:Check your manual as manufacturers may suggest different methods to prepare the cylinders for storage.

  • One method is to fog the engine to prevent corrosion by removing the air filter and spray fogging oil directly into the intake while the engine is running, until the exhaust gets smoky. Replace the filter. Important: Don’t fog if vehicle has a catalytic converter.
  • An alternative method is to drain the carburetor, remove the spark plugs and pour about a tablespoon of clean motor oil into each cylinder. With the plugs out, cover the holes with a clean rag and turn the engine over a few turns to distribute oil in the cylinders. Replace the plugs.

Oil:Run the engine until warm before changing the oil and oil filter. Used oil contains acids and combustion by-products that may corrode the engine internal parts while in storage.

Carburetor: On engines with a carburetor, drain the carburetor, especially if your fuel stabilizer is not alcohol-free. With the machine running, close the fuel petcock valve and let the engine run out of fuel. After the engine cools, locate the drain screw for the float bowl and release the remaining fuel from the carburetor.

Battery: Remove the battery and charge it. Store it where it won’t freeze and hook it up to a trickle charger.

Tires: For best results, set the vehicle on jack stands or blocks to avoid damage caused by sitting in one spot.  If the vehicle cannot be supported off the ground, then leave it on the ground and periodically roll during storage to prevent flat spots in the tires.

Critter control: Block animals from nesting by taping over any potential entry points, such as exhaust pipes and intakes.

Storage: Use a waterproof tarp to protect a vehicle stored outside; a breathable cover is better for indoor storage.  If storing the vehicle indoors, ensure the space is well-ventilated for the fuel vapor.