When storing your ATV for the winter, there are a few things you should make sure you do first. To make sure you have a painless start-up come spring time, you want to make sure condensation, critters, and corrosion won’t be a problem. Some people ride their quads throughout the winter. If that’s the case, these tips are still helpful for storing your ATV for longer periods of time.
If you want to just do the bare minimum so your ATV will start right up in the spring. All you have to do is put some Fuel Stabilizer (link to Amazon) in the gas tank and run it for a few minutes to get it through all your gas lines. Then take the battery out and hook it up to a Smart Charger (I use this one) while it sits for the winter.
I personally do a more thorough winterization because I also take this time to do some yearly maintenance on the ATV as well. If you care about your quad and want it stay in good shape, I suggest you do a more thorough winterization also.
ATV’s are expensive toys, it’s always a good idea to maintain and keep them running smoothly to get the most bang for your buck. Storing them for the winter is no exception. Here are some things I’ve picked up over the years that you can do to keep your machine in tip top shape.
Change The Oil
Change the oil and oil filter if it needs it. It’s best to do this while the engine is a bit warm, but not hot, hot oil hurts. This will help avoid any corrosion to the engine that could happen while the ATV sits. If you have old used oil in your engine, it will contain acids and other things from the combustion of the engine that aren’t good to leave sitting.
Check your owners manual to find out how much oil your engine takes. It’s usually as easy as taking out the drain plug on the bottom of the engine, letting all the oil drain, put the drain plug back, change the filter, and fill with new oil. I suggest using a torque wrench to avoid causing any damage to the ATV, like breaking the drain plug bolt off in the machine.
Fluid Top Off
Top off or change your brake fluid if it needs it. When storing a quad for the winter I find it a good time to do the yearly maintenance type stuff anyway. If your engine is liquid cooled, top off the coolant as well. Make sure the coolant you use a has good antifreeze protection. Use the coolant recommended by the manufacture if you can. If you don’t know what the manufacturer recommends, here is a Powersports Engine Coolant on Amazon that has been specifically designed for quads, ATVs, and UTVs.
If you need to replace the coolant all together, I would suggest just bringing it into a shop. If you keep your coolant topped off and check it regularly, you could go years without needing to replace it.
Fuel Lines / Gas Tank
To keep your gas tank and fuel lines protected, fill the tank with fresh fuel and add a fuel stabilizer, like this Sta-Bil 360 Performance Fuel Treatment (link to Amazon). This 10 oz bottle is good for 50 gallons of gas, so be careful how much you add, follow the directions on the bottle. I use this stuff in all my engines that I store over the winter, like the lawn mower etc. And it works like a charm.
After adding the fuel stabilizer to the full gas tank, run the engine for 10 minutes or so to get the fuel treatment into all the fuel lines. After that top off the fuel tank once more, fill just to the bottom of the filler neck. This will prevent any condensation from taking place in your gas tank while it sits. This is one of the easiest and best ways to protect your quad for the winter.
If your engine has a carburetor, it’s a good idea to drain the fuel from it if it’s going to be sitting for a while. Most newer machines don’t have a carburetor, but if you do, it’s not that hard to drain. Just shut off the fuel petcock valve while the engine is running. The engine will run out of fuel and stall in a short amount of time. Find the drain screw on the float bowl of your carburetor and drain the rest of the fuel out of it.
Clean And Protect
Give your quad a quick wash and rinse, then dry it completely when you’re done. The goal here is to remove dirt, bugs, and brake dust that can lead to corrosion. If you want to go the extra mile, you could also apply a thin layer of wax to any chromed or painted parts.
You could even lubricate all exposed metal parts that have the potential to corrode. Like the chain, sprocket, lug nuts, and any brake or clutch cables. I’ve even been told to give the exhaust pipe and other metal parts a spray of oil to keep it rust free.
How far you go with this is up to you. For me, it depends how long it will be sitting. If your only storing it for a month or two in the winter, you may not need to go greasing up every inch of your machine. I like to at least apply some Wax Based Chain Saver (link to Amazon) to the chain, but that’s something I do on a regular basis anyway.
Some people like to fog the engine to prevent corrosion. It’s not hard to do, and a good idea if you want to take extra good care of your engine. Simply remove your air filter and spray some Professional Grade Fogging Oil (link to Amazon) directly into the air intake. Do this while the engine is running so it gets into all your cylinders. Spray a good amount, you might see your exhaust get a bit smokey.
If you have a catalytic converter or a carburetor you already drained, don’t use this method. Another way to keep the cylinders protected is to take out the spark plugs, drip a little oil (about a tablespoon) into each cylinder, cover the holes with a rag or something, and turn the engine over a couple times to coat the cylinders. Then you can replace the spark plugs and you’re done.
This is another one of those things that’s not crucial if your quad’s only going to sit for a month or so. I’ll leave it up to you, but any more than a few months of sitting and your pistons and cylinders could start to rust.
Really the only thing you have to do for tires is to make sure they don’t sit with a flat spot on the tire. If your tires aren’t inflated enough, there will be a flat spot where they touch the ground, which can cause the tires to crack. Most people just inflate the tires to a good riding pressure or just above. A good riding pressure is about 5 psi, so around 6 psi for storage works fine for me. If you want to learn more about ATV Tire Pressure check out this article.
If you can set your quad on blocks or ATV jack stands, that would be the best case scenario. It’s not necessary, and might seem like overkill. But if you have expensive tires and want to keep them fresh for as long as you can, it’s a good option to consider.
Batteries are expensive, but if you take care of them, they can last you years of riding. I’ve written an entire article about How To Charge An ATV Battery, in case you haven’t done it before. For storage purposes, you want to keep the battery hooked up to a smart charger or trickle charger throughout the winter. Keep it stored somewhere that it won’t freeze, and it should be in good working condition come spring time.
I take the battery out of my ATV (or use a quick connector) and hook it up to a Ctek Smart Charger (link to Amazon). Whichever charger you decide to use is fine, just make sure it shuts off when the battery is charged to prevent damaging it.
Keep It Covered
Storing your ATV in a garage or shed with a breathable cover is always the best option, but not everyone has the room for that. If you have to store your ATV outside, cover it with a water proof tarp. Getting a nice cover like this All Weather ATV Cover (link to Amazon) will save you a lot of hassle with tarps and bungee cords. This ATV cover as an elastic bottom and fits most full size utility ATVs.
If you want to go the extra mile, try covering areas that rodents and critters might try to make nests in your quad. Taping over any exhaust pipes and intakes is a good place to start. A lot of utility ATVs and UTVs have belt drive transmissions these days. If a small animal, like a mouse, gets into this belt drive area, it could ruin your drive belt on just your first ride in the spring. Critters love small areas to nest in, so try to tape off your CVT box inlet and outlet to prevent them from getting in there.
If your air filter is old and dirty, now is a good time to replace it. You don’t always need to do this part, but I like my machine to be ready to go come spring time. And leaving a dirty air filter in your ATV while it sits for months could cause corrosion from the dirt and oil on the filter. The filter will deteriorate if left in that condition, and will perform poorly when you go to start your quad up again.
Winterizing your ATV is not all that hard, and will save you money and headaches in the future. It’s worth the time and effort to just get it done right the first time.