How To Prepare An ATV For Long Term Storage


If you plan on storing your ATV for a long period of time, there are a few things you can do to make your life easier when it finally comes time to take it out of storage. Without the right preparation, your quad might not even run after sitting for a long time.

This article will focus more on long term, 6 months or longer, storage times. If you just want to store your ATV for a few months, like over the winter, you don’t really need to do everything on this list.

For a more in depth step by step on winter storage preparation and winterization of an ATV, check out this How To Winterize An ATV article I made for you. For winter storage you really want to put the battery on a charger and stabilize the fuel, but that article will go into a lot more detail, and can act as a guide for you.

For long term storage, there are a few more things you want to do though. I’ll put a checklist here for you if you’d like to keep tabs as you go. Click image to expand, then you can right-click to save and print, or do what you like with it.

atv storage check list

Wash And Clean

You’ll want to wash and clean the ATV real good before putting it away into storage for a long period of time. Get all the mud and gunk that you can out and try to clean off any oily messes.

Gas and oil and other fluids tend to sit on the machine components gathering dirt and mud as you ride. These chemicals can speed up the break down of key parts on the ATV. If you don’t clean the quad real good, you could come back to some bad rust problems, that can turn into a real headache.

Change The Oil

If you haven’t changed the oil recently and plan on storing the ATV for a long time, I suggest getting some fresh oil in it. The used oil will become acidic and corrosive to the engine after long periods of sitting.

It’s best to go into storage with a fresh oil change. If you plan on storing the ATV for more than five years, I would consider draining the oil and storing it empty. The oil itself doesn’t necessarily ‘go bad’ but over time the oil will lose some of it’s lubricating properties due to hot/cold temperature changes and such.

There is no shelf life to engine oil. But after about 5 years some engine oils don’t hold up to the SAE rating standards anymore. The oil will start to cake up around the edges and lose some of its properties over time.

If you’re storing for less than 5 years though, just getting some clean oil in it is good enough. Also, you’ll want to take the spark plug out and drop about a tablespoon of oil in there. Turn the engine over one or two times to coat the cylinder head.

Empty Fuel Tank Or Use Stabilizer

If you have a plastic fuel tank and you’re storing the ATV for more than 6 months, drain the gas out completely. The gas in a plastic tank can actually pull chemicals out of the plastic. I can’t tell you the science or what is actually going on, but I do know storing gas in a plastic tank long term is a bad idea.

If you have a metal gas tank however, you can fill the tank with gas and add a fuel stabilizer. Look for a fuel stabilizer designed for storage use, like this Sta-Bil Fuel Stabilizer For Storage from Amazon.

This stuff is pretty cheap and does a good job keeping your gas fresh for about a year or two. If you plan on storing your ATV for over a couple years, I suggest emptying the fuel tank completely.

Whether you’re storing the tank empty or storing with a fuel stabilizer, you still have the rest of the fuel system to worry about. If using a fuel stabilizer, run the engine a little while to make sure the stabilizer makes its way throughout the rest of the fuel system.

If you’re storing empty, try running the engine until it dies. After you’re sure the tank is empty and the carburetor too, a lot of people like to spray some WD-40 into the tank to prevent rust. That applies only to metal tanks of course.

Top Off Antifreeze

This is especially important if the ATV will be stored somewhere cold. Make sure the antifreeze is topped off to prevent ice from forming inside the radiator.

Also to be extra safe, you could add some Motor Medic Radiator Anti-Rust to the antifreeze or some other type of protective fluid. If you plan on storing for over a year or two, you’ll want to make sure the radiator isn’t rusted out when you’re done storing the ATV.

Lubricate Chain

I like to clean the chain and put a fresh coat of chain wax or chain lubricant on it before sending it into storage. If you don’t, your chain will rust and possibly snap the first time you try riding again.

I like using this Maxima Ultimate Chain Care Kit from Amazon. I use the chain cleaner to clean the chain up real good. The penetrating lube is great to get into those small places on the chain, like around the o-rings on an o-ring chain. And then the chain wax keeps the chain in good condition for years in storage.

Remove Battery

You may not actually need to remove the battery if you can store the ATV near an outlet, and I’ll explain why later. But usually for storage of more than a year, people will take the battery out and put it on a smart charger or Battery Tender.

I’ve had a battery tender before and I recommend them, they work great. But to leave the battery on the ATV, I like to use the Ctek Smart Charger and Ctek Comfort Connect found on Amazon.

The comfort connect hooks up to the battery itself, and stays there. Then you can hook the Ctek smart charger to the comfort connector without removing the seat, the battery, or any other parts of the quad. For me it’s super convenient, and worth the money.

The point is, for long term storage, the battery is going to die. Probably to the point that it won’t hold a charge anymore and you’ll be forced to spend 100 dollars or more on a new battery.

Keeping the battery on a charger will help extend it’s life, and save you some money. Here are some helpful articles related to ATV batteries if you need more info.

Storage Location

Of course if you can store the ATV inside a heated garage that would be ideal. But not everyone has that opportunity. If you don’t have indoor storage on your property, consider renting a small storage unit. Like I said, indoors would be ideal.

If you do find indoor storage, make sure light won’t be shining on the ATV regularly. Either cover windows or put an ATV Cover or tarp on the quad. The direct sunlight will dull the plastics over time.

It’s best to have the machine up on blocks or on jack stands or a motorcycle lift. Anything to get it off the ground so you can remove the wheels. This will save your tires and your shocks. The tires will no doubt slowly go flat, this will cause a flat spot in the tire which leads to cracking.

If you need to store the ATV outside, it’s still a good idea to lift it and remove the tires as they will most likely rot from sitting on the ground long periods of time anyway. It also takes some unnecessary strain off your shocks. Remember to cover the quad with a Waterproof ATV Cover or tarp.

And there you have it, follow this checklist and your ATV should be ready to go when you take it out of long term storage. Wouldn’t hurt to do a tune up, but you should be able to just put the tires back on, put the battery back in, fill up the gas tank and be good to go.

Rob

That's me sinking another ATV. I love to ride no matter what it is, snowmobiles, four wheelers, dirt bikes, and anything else off-roading. I've experienced my fair share of machines, and like to share that experience here.

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