Failing to properly winterize your off-road vehicle may lead to unnecessary wear on both its exterior and its inner workings. The simple steps outlined above can go a long way to protecting your ATV or UTV over those long winter months—and help it rev right back into action as soon as your riding season comes around.
How to Winterize Your ATV or SxS/UTV
For some of us, winter is just another season for riding our ATVs and UTVs out on snow-covered trails—and maybe even for putting them to work doing a bit of plowing. But many riders put their rigs into hibernation mode for the cold and snowy season. That’s not as simple as just pulling the four-wheeler or side-by-side into the yard or the garage and forgetting about it until the spring thaw: You’ve got to do a little prep work beforehand. Learn how to properly winterize ATVs and UTVs with these straightforward tips.
ATV/UTV Engine Maintenance for Winterization
Winterizing side-by-sides and ATVs partly involves conducting a little routine maintenance on the engine and the starting system. From dealing with the fuel tank to caring for the battery, let’s dive in!
Winterizing the Fuel System & Carburetor for ATVs or SxS/UTVs
Fuel allowed to stagnate in the tank can gum up the system with varnish, and condensation may cause its ethanol component to separate from the gasoline (phase separation) and thus lead to performance issues in spring. To avoid these degradations over winter, you should either run your machine out of gas before putting it into storage (siphoning out anything that remains in the tank after the engine dies) or add a fuel stabilizer in the proper dose. After adding the stabilizer, run the engine for five to ten minutes to allow it to penetrate all parts of the fuel system. Top off the tank with fresh fuel to limit the amount of air inside and thus ward against the formation of condensation.
If your ATV or UTV has a carburetor, close off the petcock and drain the fuel out of the float bowl.
Winterizing the Oil for ATVs or SxS/UTVs
Old oil can cause its own problems, given the acidic and otherwise damaging combustion products that tend to accumulate in it. If your four-wheeler is due for an oil change, take care of that before putting it in winter storage.
The same goes for your transmission and differential fluids.
How to Winterize the Air Filter for ATVs or SxS/UTVs
Leaving a dirty air filter in your ATV or SxS over winter can cause it to degrade, plus make starting up in the spring a bit of a trial. Therefore, clean the air filter (or, if necessary, replace it) ahead of storage.
You may also want to block off the airbox intake to keep critters out. You should also consider similarly blocking any other intakes and exhaust tubes or pipes where rodents might otherwise get in and start nesting.
Storing your ATV or SxS/UTVs Battery for Winter
Remove the battery when your ATV or SxS is positioned for storage. Take the opportunity to give the terminals a good cleaning so they have the best connection possible when you pull your machine back out of storage.
Where to Store Your ATV or SxS/UTV During the Winter
If you have the structure and the space, it’s always preferable to store your SxS or ATV in a garage, barn, shed, or other indoor shelter to minimize its exposure to the winter elements. Ice, road salt, snow, and mud can all promote corrosion and rust, and extreme temperatures can cause their own problems. Read on for advice on properly storing your UTV or quad!
Clean & Wash Your ATV or SxS/UTV
You should be cleaning your four-wheeler after every ride (check out our POLARIS guide to UTV/ATV cleaning right here), but make sure to give it a thorough wash and scrub, and apply a protective wax for good measure before putting it up for storage. Again, everything from dust and dirt to chunks of frozen mud or ice can damage the body or finish if left caked on your machine for an extended period.
Use an Appropriate ATV or SxS/UTV Cover
Certainly, if you’re storing your four-wheeler or SxS outside but even if you’ve got a garage or shed space for it, cover the machine to keep off debris, buffer it from windblown or falling objects, shield it from degrading UV rays. While an old tarp is better than nothing, you can get more complete and secure protection from a specially designed ATV or SxS/UTV cover. Made of durable, weather-resistant materials such as nylon or polyethylene, these covers are generally equipped with some mechanism for cinching or tying down the cover to the off-road vehicle.
Jack Up the Vehicle
Leaving your ATV or SxS/UTV parked on the ground or on concrete all winter long can result in strain or damage to the tires. To prevent this—and to also give your machine a little more protection from water and snow—it’s best to elevate it for winter storage. Jack it up and secure it on jack stands, cinder blocks, or other adequate supports, throw that cover over it, and you’re all set!