If you’re one of the owners who wants to ride your ATV all year long and enjoy playing and plowing in the snow, then these tips should suit you fine. OK, we know winter is cold, especially in the northern U.S. So, one way to winterize your ATV is to add warmth to it. We’re talking adding accessories to make the cold ride more enjoyable. ATV cabs or windshields are nice additions and usually require basic installation skills. Heated grips and/or gauntlets (hand warmers) are good ideas, too. We’ve used both and our gloved hands have fared much better than without either product. Heated grips are far more troublesome to install than the hand warmers, however you must make sure you can safely operate all the controls inside the handwarmers.
For winter riding we fully believe in adding larger diameter tires than the stock tires. Taller aftermarket tires offer more ground clearance than stock tires and also supply improved traction and biting edges. Don’t forget, riding on the ice is part of winter riding, too, so added traction is always important. Another option is to add a track kit that enables the ATV to ride on top of the snow, much like a snowmobile, instead of churning through it. If legal in your area, tire studs and tire chains can also help improve traction.
Another change to make for riding in the cold is changing the engine oil to something that is more resistant to cold temperatures. Some owners believe in synthetic oils because they resist thickening like petroleum-based oils. But, depending on the climate, 10w 40 engine oil could be fine.
In order to ensure painless cold-weather starting, invest in a fuel drier isopropyl additive or fuel antifreeze. These additives prevent gas line freeze and keep water (more often condensation caused from riding in cooler weather and re-entering a warmer garage) from forming in the tank. They are safe for fuel injectors for quads with EFI and claim to even improve fuel efficiency.
Even if you prepare your ATV by making it “warmer” for you to ride and easier to start, some ATV carburetors have been susceptible to freezing. Some manufacturers, such as Honda, recognized this and have increased the size of the carb heaters to improve cold-weather starting. The Rubicon’s integrated carb heater was increased from 10 watts to 20 watts. Essentially, a carb heater is designed to prevent ice crystals from forming and thus disrupting the carb’s operation. The heater will direct small amounts of heat to the carb to prevent ice from forming in the carb.
When riding in the winter it’s also a good idea to check for ice dams. They aren’t really “dams,” but they do freeze solid and can cause trouble to your radiator or brakes. As brakes heat up while riding in the winter, they melt the snow that hits and accumulates near the rotor and the wheel. When you stop riding and parts cool, the snow will turn to ice and freeze the parts. If you ride for a while and take a break and then return to the snow, you could find that the brakes are not functioning as they should. It’s best to wash your quad to eliminate ice build up.
If too much ice and snow packs in around an ATV’s radiator, it could lead to overheating or burn out the fan motor. Pay particular attention if you are pounding through snow banks or plowing snow.
Perhaps the worst thing for any ATV in the winter is corrosive salt or ice-melt products. These substances will instantly go to work rusting parts and corroding components. In fact, we made the mistake of transporting a brand new sport quad on an open trailer in the winter. We thought nothing of it but two months later, the quad was rusty and being eaten by road salt.
To attempt to prevent this from happening to your ATV, wash it after riding and spray it down with WD-40 or something similar. It’s a good idea to cover it while trailering, too. Or you could invest in an enclosed trailer or put it in the bed of your truck.
Club articles are usually reviewed for content prior to posting. Articles re-posted by other sources may not always represent the true spirit of the club. If you find the content of one of our articles questionable, please email us your comments or concerns.