How Often Should I Service ATV? (Insider tips)


Taking care of your own ATV is it’s own reward, you’ll save a bag on workshop costs, suffer less breakdowns, but more than that, you’ll learn a ton of ATV know-how.

An ATV requires a lube service every 300 miles or three months, which ever comes first. Other important maintenance items and intervals, include:

  • Air filter clean every 100 miles or 1 month
  • New plug yearly
  • Drain carburetor every 3 months
  • Coolant change every 2 years
  • Clean spark arrestor yearly
  • Change diff oil every 4 years
  • Brake fluid 2 years
  • Brake hoses every 4 years

In this post you’ll learn when you should service your ATV and what other maintenance and adjustments that are needed.

Service Intervals

An ATV works hard and while tough, they do need some love. Taking care of your own ATV maintenance is the correct decision. You know your bike best and if it’s acting up you can get on it early and that very often saves you money and time in the longer game.

So what kind of maintenance needs to be done and when? ATV’s are so versatile, it’s not surprising they’re so popular. They’re used for a variety of forestry, search and rescue, recreation, farming etc.

And how they are used differs and that as you can imagine changes how they wear out their components.

Most ATV’s don’t cover lots of miles, instead they travel shorter distances, more of a stop start life. For that reason, three metrics are used as a guide to service intervals – Hours, miles and time.

Hours

Some ATV’s may be fitted with an hour reader, this is common practice with agri and construction machinery. The dashboard incorporated hour meter starts when ever the engine is running.

Miles

We’re all familiar with this concept, the miles travelled by the ATV are recorded by a digital or analogue dash Speedo.

Time

Time since last service isn’t recorded by most ATV’s, so the operator or maintainer must keep a good record of maintenance carried out and also maintenance needed at the next service and when that is.

It’s good practice to place a sticker on the bike as a reminder of its next service due date.

As ATV riders we doing preventative maintenance consistently, maybe without even realizing it. Checking the oil before starting, visually checking over tires, steering components, checking for leaks and being generally aware of our bikes.

You know your own bike best, how it sounds and feels, how it performs, gas mileage, oil consumption.

Noticing a change in your bike and being inquisitive about it is preventative maintenance.

Service Intervals

Oil and filter

Oil quality is mission critical to your motor, in fact the breaking in oil change is arguable the most important oil change of the machines life. Oil lubes the components but it also cools them and detergents in the oil help to dissolve harmful acids inside your motor.

You couldn’t change oil too often, I’ve worked on engines for over twenty years, and the difference between a well maintained motor and a neglected one is obvious even to the untrained eye.

Your oil type and quantity are important too, using the oil specified by your engine maker makes good sense as they have likely stress tested the motor using this lube.

A common lube is 5w30 but ambient temperatures will dictate the weight of oil you use.

Air filter

Clean and oil every 100 miles or 1 month, more regularly in dusty conditions.

A dirty air filter will cause your engine to run rich, blow black smoke, bog down under throttle and dilute the engine oil.

New plug

Replace the plug every year. Better plug design means they last a lot longer. Your plug will need to be removed, cleaned and gaped every 3 months.

You can tell a lot about how your engine’s running by examine the plug, a healthy running engine will cause the spark plug electrode to turn a tan color.

  • Black plug, means your running rich (Fat)
  • Black and oily means possible mechanical issue
  • Grey/white plug and your running lean

Gaping the plug will require a feeler gauge or a plug gaper tool. It’s a simple process of measuring the plug electrode gap with the gauge and adjusting it with a pliers if needed. An average gap spec is about .028 – .032 in (.7 – .8 mm).

Plug tightening

both too loose and too tight is common. Plugs are fitted with crush washers, which when new resemble a donut. As the the plug is tightened for the first time, it crushes the washer and makes a good seal.

Tips

New plug, always start threading the plug by hand, after the plug seats, turn it a half turn, using a ratchet and plug socket.

Used plug – Thread by hand until seats and turn a 1/4 turn with socket and ratchet.

Bowl Drain

All ATV carburetors cause problems eventually. Fueling is by far the most common ATV problem. It’s not because carburetors are bad quality, it’s simply because mixing gas and air to a precise ratio is only possible if all components of the fueling system are working correctly.

It’s worth noting that air plays a large part in how a carburetor functions, the root cause of a fueling system fault may be caused by an airflow fault.

Your gas is filtered and sometimes twice, but crap in the form of water, silt and other contaminates gets into the fuel system. Remnants of gas cans with mixed gas and stale gas is a common cause of performance issues.

All fuel passes through the fuel bowl and cleaning is all part of the maintenance checks. Gas bowls will have an easy to access drain screw, or removable bung.

It’s good practice to remove and drain the bowl every time you change the oil, if you have an in line filter, check it too and replace it yearly.

If you’re storing your bike for an extended period, stale gas can create gumming of the carburetor. this is a problem that’s becoming more common as blended fuels are more common.

I use a gas stabilizer additive and fill my gas tank to the top, it helps prevent gumming, moisture build up and keeps the gas fresh for up to 12 months.

Coolant Change

Not all bike are water cooled, but even if your bike is air cooled, it will need maintenance. Keep the engines cooling fins free from debris and obstruction.

Coolant is super important and it’s best to change it out every two years and no more than 3. Running no coolant or old coolant is risky.

Coolant is as you know specially formulated to have a higher boiling point 220°F and the antifreeze agents cause it to have a lower freezing point, mixed at a ratio of 50/50, freezing point is about 35°F.

Two other important agents in fresh coolant include a rust inhibitor that protects all the components of the system.

A lube in the coolant helps keep the seals, pump, thermostat, gaskets supple.

While it is possible to use water in the system it isn’t advised, water is harsh on all the components and promotes corrosion in head-gaskets frost plugs etc.

Spark Arrestor

Spark arrestor while not fitted to all ATV’s from new, it is the law in many states to have one fitted. The arrestor, prevents Forrest fires by catching any embers that may exit the tail pipe.

The arrestor is fitted to the rear of the tail pipe and is a simple wire mesh guard. The guard can become caked in carbon deposits with restricts exhaust gas flow and chokes your engine.

An inspect and cleaning once a year is normal, if your arrestor is choking up more frequently, you may have a mechanical issue.

Diff Oil

Differential oil lives a long life relative to engine oil – four years. Diff oil has a sticky, gloppy consistency and is excellent at coating components.

The ability to stick is important as a diff doesn’t have an oil pump to move oil around. Instead the diff relies on splashing oil about.

Differential oil becomes less sticky with age and contaminated by fine metal particles. The metal occurs naturally as gears wear and act like liquid sandpaper if not drained and replaced periodically.

Brake Fluid

Brake fluid is often forgotten about and it can be a costly mistake. Brake fluid likes to be changed every 2 years.

The problem with brake fluid is it absorbs water and the water promotes corrosion inside the brake system. Corrosive particulates then damage and tear the seals of master cylinders and caliper pistons.

Other issues with moisture laden brake fluid include, spongy brakes and brake fade, both problems can be solved by changing fluid.

Inspecting, Adjusting & Lubing

Various components will need adjusting at various times and putting a time limit on it or mileage just won’t make any sense.

Take brake pads for example. Pads could last years on one ATV and only months on another, it’s dependent on how the machine is used.

A thorough inspection of your machine is advised every 3 months, some inspections points will only require yearly attention and some of these won’t apply to your bike at all.

Tyres & Wheels

  • Tire damage
  • Thread dept.
  • Inflation

Wheels Rims

  • Damage
  • Bead lock fasteners
  • Wheel nut torqued
  • Clean debris buildup

Steering

  • Free-play ball joints inner
  • Free-play ball joints outer
  • Steering head bearing

Brakes

  • Leaks
  • Fluid level
  • Controls secure
  • Pads/shoes wear
  • Hoses perished twisted or cracked
  • Adjustments, drums and levers
  • Lube controls

Suspension

  • Bushing & ball joint free-play
  • Shock leaks
  • Loose components
  • Suspension Level
  • Grease joints

Engine

  • Check for leaks
  • Air box debris and drain pipes clear
  • Coolant strength
  • Clean exterior rad debris
  • Check rad cap, hoses and cooling fan operation
  • Rebuild water pump every 4 years
  • Carburetor mix adjustment
  • Valve lash check (Yearly)

Drive line

  • Leaks
  • Wheel bearing free-play
  • Drive shaft boots
  • CV joints
  • Diff lock adjustment
  • Diff vents
  • Grease joints
  • CVT belt inspection
  • CVT Clutches
  • Manual trans clutch adjustment

Electrical

  • Battery fluid level check
  • Battery cable clean
  • Battery test
  • Battery charging test
  • Check fuses and relays clean and dry
  • Solenoid cables tight and clean
  • Stater cable tight and secure
  • CDI box block connector secure
  • Rectifier/regulator clean and secure
  • Electrical switches secure and working
  • Electrical components secure and working lights winches etc.
  • Check engine loom harness secure, block connectors free from corrosion

John Cunningham

John Cunningham is an certified mechanic and writer on ATVFixed.com. I’ve been a mechanic for over twenty years, I use my knowledge and experience to write articles that help fellow gear-heads with all aspects of ATV ownership, from maintenance, repair to troubleshooting.

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