4 Tips for Winter ATV Maintenance

As the weather gets colder good ATV maintenance becomes more important. Winter’s lower temperatures often mean a machine that moans and groans,  reluctant to fire up fast in frosty weather. Achieving the best performance in cold temperatures depends on careful ATV maintenance that you can do right now. 


Poor quality fuel causes far more start-up problems than any other issue. It’s all about preventing moisture from getting in the case tank, a problem that only gets worse as temperatures dip. All fuel comes from the same refineries and is distributed to stations, and very few brands have an extra moisture-reducing additive. Station fuel tanks have some water in them as well, either through condensation or because the refineries may use water to separate fuel in pipelines. Stations that don’t maintain their own in-ground tanks just add to the problem.

Filtering your fuel to remove moisture with a “Mr. Funnel” is one easy solution. The circular motion drops water into the bottom of the basket so you can dump it out when you’re finished. This gadget is inexpensive at about $24 online or through a dealer. Make it a habit to use a fuel stabilizer to mitigate moisture and prevent ethanol from causing long-term problems with gummy contaminates. One good choice is Stabil.


When batteries die, cold temperatures often deliver the kill shot. An inexpensive $30 trickle charger that’s permanently mounted to your ATV and plugged into an outlet overnight keeps the battery fresh and ready to go. Be sure to keep battery connections clean and tight. 

Newer machines may have higher voltage draws from items like clocks or system computers that can sap battery strength. While usually not a problem in mild-weather months, when the temperature regularly drops to near zero these items can draw out enough power to make smooth start-ups an issue.


Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for oil viscosity and type and always have a full fresh oil change to prepare for winter. The colder the average winter temperature is where you live the more you should consider switching to a light synthetic oil. Good choices include Mystic JT-4 Synthetic ATV oil in winter months using a zero-40 weight. 

Of all ATV fluids, oil has the greatest impact on extreme cold start-up, but it’s wise to check differential and transmission fluids too, making sure they are clean and filled to the proper level.

While you’re checking fluids, take a look at the air filter. Months of dust can build up with the miles, but changing or cleaning the filter will improve starts and make acceleration smoother.

Warm Up Slowly

Most of us are less than patient and it’s always tempting to simply start the ATV and head out to the trail. To extend the life of your ride, resist that temptation! Let the ATV idle for as long as 10 minutes, allowing the heat from the engine to gently warm the rest of the moving parts. When you do start to move, take those first few minutes at a slower pace – around 5 mph. The reward for your patience will be a longer and more trouble-free life for your machine.

Photo credit: Dreamstime.com