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ATV Maintenance and Safety


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Found this while browsing online, good info for new owners.

ATV Maintenance and Safety

Several times a year, customers show up with an ATV, that has significant wear to

undercarriage, suspension, and/or braking components. Some of these machines are

nearly new, or have low mileage or hours of use, which elevates the concern of the

owners even further. A few simple steps can help reduce the occurrence of this wear,

especially on machines that are only occasionally ridden, to a large extent.

First riders must realize, that most manufacturers do not recommend riding your ATV

in water and mud, that is deeper than the bottom of your wheels center cap or axle.

Obviously, even casual riders will encounter situations where this is unavoidable,

and some riders will use their machines on rugged trails, and under conditions that

tend to push the machine's fording capabilities to their limits.

That being said, the more your ATV is immersed in deep water and mud, the more

likely you are to accelerate wear on that machines components. There are however

some simple measures you can take to help minimize the impact associated with water

and mud intrusion, and help keep a dependable machine in good condition.

1) Routine Maintenance - Keeping your oil changed in engines, differentials,

transmissions, etc. If water infiltrates these components and is left unremediated,

the contaminated assembly WILL eventually fail, usually as a result of rust

formation on bearing surfaces, etc. This can lead to some exceedingly expensive

repairs, and is very straight forward and economical to prevent.

2) After crossing deep water, stop and remove drain plugs from your airbox and belt

drive, if applicable. Simply removing a drain plug can prevent a damaged drive belt,

which will end a nice day of riding, and could potentially damage other components,

or cause an accident. Engines that ingest water thru the air intake can be

irreparably damaged, water does not compress well in a cylinder. Since an engine is

probably one of the most expensive components of an ATV, you'll find the few minutes

is time well spent.

3) Keep It Clean. After the fun is done, your machine needs a bath. Mud is fun, but

it is also as invasive as it is abrasive. Wash down your ATV after riding in deep

mud, if not a total cleaning, at very least wash down brake and steering components,

and anywhere there are exposed moving parts. Allowing mud to remain dried into pivot

points, etc will result in the grit grinding away at parts and causing greatly

accelerated wear.

4) Not That Clean. Easy does it with the pressure washer. High Pressure water is

commonly used to clean the seemingly tons of mud, weeds, rocks, sticks, and other

debris from undercarriages, etc. Unfortunately, most high pressure washers are too

powerful to safely use on ATV's. Most Car Washes and gasoline powered pressure

washers generate sufficient pressure to actually cause more damage than they

prevent. For example, many of the best kept machines have premature wheel bearing

failures, not because they were not cleaned after use, but because in an attempt to

clean the machine thoroughly, the owner inadvertently forced water into bearings,

because the seals were not designed to withstand 2000-3000 psi. Even the smallest

electric power washer can be damaging, 1200 psi units can tear stickers from the

machine, and force water into places it otherwise would never be able to penetrate,

if not used carefully. Best practice is to just resort to a plain old garden hose

and elbow grease, and spend some quality time with your ATV.

5) Dry it out. Once your machine is clean, it needs to dry out. A nice sunny day

works nicely, when possible. Avoid setting the parking brake on a freshly washed

machine, especially if it will remain parked for an extended period, as this tends

to cause the brakes to stick on, and possibly drag when released later. In extreme

cases, in disc brake applications, especially those with sintered metal brake pads,

can cause the brake pad to rust firmly to the rotor.

6) Look it over. After the wheeler has dried, take a look underneath. Look for oil

leaks or seepage, damaged components, etc. Grab the components firmly and tug,

looking for any looseness in A-Arm bearings or bushings, Tie-Rod ends, Ball Joints,

Wheel Bearings, including loose bolts in suspension, frame or steering components.

Often if there is looseness in a component, and it is allowed to go unchecked, the

damage will be significantly greater. A loose or worn wheel bearing can rapidly wear

brake pads, rotors, destroy calipers, and damage knuckle or spindle assemblies, for


7) A word about Drum Brakes. While most newer machines have primarily switched to a

disc brake design, many older units and smaller less expensive machines still are

sold with drum brakes. While manufacturers design these units to stay relatively

sealed, invariably, mud and water WILL GET IN. Unfortunately it cannot get back out

and it will absolutely eat the brake shoes if left for long periods of time. If you

own a machine that employs drum brakes, you should know that it is crucial for you

to disassemble the drum brake assembly and clean it regularly if the machine is used

in deep water or mud. Failure to do so is to guarantee premature brake wear, severe

enough to render the brakes totally inoperable, in a very short time.

8) It's a long walk out of the woods. Swampy mud is more fun to ride in than walk

through. Your ATV enables you to go places you otherwise would not go, and if not

properly cared for, it can just as easily leave you stranded far from civilization.

Your ATV is your best friend and trusted companion on the trail, treat it that way.

9) Check tire pressure regularly. Make sure you are fueled up and properly geared

and dressed to ride. Wear your helmet at all times. Run with your lights on and

exercise caution as you ride. When possible, do not ride alone. Carry emergency

items such as first aid, drinking water, and a tow strap, in event something does


10) Be safe and have fun. Help promote the sport and safety. Respect landowners,

stay on trails, don't litter. We all are responsible, to ensure we can continue to

enjoy ATV riding in the future.

See ya on the trail,

Muddy Phats

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