Having your ATV preprepared for the winter vs the summer are two very different situations.
This is especially true if you don’t ride your ATV during the winter, as you need to do proper storage procedures!
Even if you ride your ATV or side by side during the colder months, there are a few things you need to do to it to have it running at top performance.
1. ATV Battery Winter Maintenance
ATVs and UTVs use lead-acid batteries, and they simply hate the cold.
Some guys will wrap the battery in foam or some type of insulating material, but to be honest, it’s not worth it unless it’s really cold where you live.
The best thing you can do for your ATV battery, especially if you’re not going to be riding for weeks, is to keep it on a smart battery charger or a weak solar panel charger.
The cold slows things down, like the chemicals in the battery, and causes the battery to sulfate over time and makes it weak. Keeping the battery active by charging it keeps it from sulfonating and extends the life of the battery.
If you don’t have a power outlet to run a smart battery charger near your ATV, then get yourself a 5-watt solar battery charger. The charger needs to be exposed to sunlight and if it snows a lot you’ll need to tilt it in the direction of the sun, so the snow can fall off it.
I keep my solar charger completely vertical on the side of my shed so no snow sticks to it. The goal is to tickle the battery, not charge it, so the panel just needs to be exposed to sunlight.
2. Stabilize Your Fuel
Gasoline that sits for a long time, especially in harsh environments, tends to go bad.
It’s only gotten worse when governments started adding ethanol to the gasoline as ethanol loves water and overtime it gets mixed into your gas.
If you have an older ATV, especially one that uses a carburetor, you need to pay extra attention to your gas. You need to add fuel stabilizer* to it and one’s that help with the ethanol problem.
If your ATV is fuel injected, you don’t need to choke it to start, they’re less picky, but you still need to add stabilizer to the gas if you intend to store for a long time.
If you have a carbureted ATV or UTV and plan on storing it for a long time, then you should drain the carb of any gas. The gas will gunk up over time and clog the jets in your carb, keeping it from running right. You’ll notice this when the ATV will only run on choke or when you give it gas it shuts off. The ATV should have an off valve so slide it to off when the ATV is running and when it shuts off most of the gas is removed from the carb, and you can store it.
3. Change Your Oil Before Winter
If you ride during the winter months, then the best time to change the oil in your ATV is in the fall.
The cold thickens the oil, and dirty old oil is thicker than fresh oil. The oil in your ATV is the lifeblood of it and if it’s not flowing properly, then it’s only causing problems for the future.
If it’s really cold where you ride, consider a lighter/winter grade oil.
When starting your ATV in the cold, give it a minute to warm up the oil. ATV engines are more simple than your car engines, so more care should be taken before heading out.
4. Check Tire Air Pressure
ATVs and UTVs run lower air pressure tires than your car or truck tires and when there is a change in temperature these tires tend to go flat quicker.
I’ve been a fan of these battery-powered tire inflators* that let you set the PSI you want. It’s been easier to use then getting out the air hose to fill the tires.
Also, make sure you use a low-pressure tire gauge as ATVs tend to run about 7PSI and UTVs are around 15PSI, but on the fenders of your ATV will tell you what PSI to go with.
5. Check Air Filter
Cleaning your air filter regularly is a good idea no matter the weather.
A dirty or worn out air filter will affect performance of your ATV, so care needs to be given to it. Don’t forget to oil the air filter if you ride in dusty environments.
6. Wash Your ATV
Don’t put away a dirty ATV or side by side.
It should be common sense, but wash your ATV before the snow.
Mud and dirt will stick to just about anything, like your radiator, so make sure it gets cleaned off.
While cleaning, it gives you a chance to look over your ATV to make sure nothing is wrong. Clean the dirt and mud away to see how things are and to make sure they move or don’t move like they should.
7. Can You Store An ATV Outside During Winter?
An ATV or side by side can be stored outside during the winter months with no issue so long as the proper procedures are taken as talked about here.
I do suggest getting a cover for your ATV, a universal fitting one will work.
You want to keep the sun and snow off the ATV while it sits.
Also, try to cover any openings, as mice love to get inside and even eat plastic and foam. If you have dogs or cats, try to keep it near them, as the mice don’t like the trouble.
Probably the best solution I’ve seen is to use a portable storage shed like this here*. You provide protection to the ATV without the hassle of putting the cover on, and if done right, can do a better job of protecting against mice.
If you can store your ATV in a garage, then that is the best option. If space is tight, consider making an ATV storage shelf:
8. ATV Tires Long-Term Storage?
If you’re not going to be riding your ATV or side by side for a few months, then it’s best to get the tires off the ground.
The tires will lose air pressure over time and to keep them from dry rotting and getting flat spots you should lift the ATV off the ground.
Either get some jack stands or cinder blocks and have the tires at least 1 inch off the ground.