We give you a pre-season maintenance checklist and a few accessory suggestions to make your first trip of the season simple and fun
If you love to ride off-road and live in the Southwest US, it’s no doubt you know that riding season is quickly coming up. For those of us who live in Southern California and the surrounding states, this means trips to the desert for endless hard pack or dune riding at some of the country’s premier destinations like Glamis, Dumont, Ocotillo and the like. When the scorching summer temps start falling it’s the perfect time to make sure that your ATV is in top shape and that it’s properly outfitted if you’ve never been before.
If you’ve got an ATV that typically only gets ridden in the cooler months of the year, it’s a good chance that you might need to do some maintenance before your next trip. From making sure it starts and changing out critical fluids, it doesn’t take much time to go through your machine so can go on a ride with peace of mind that you’ve taken care of preventable issues. Here is a basic checklist of things to inspect before heading out for your first trip.
Even if you serviced your filter before storing your ATV, you never know what you might find when you’re ready to ride again. Photo: autotrader.ca
1. Air filter maintenance: Maybe you cleaned it after your last ride before storing it, but most likely not. This is the perfect time to inspect the filter for any tears that might allow dirt to pass through the motor. It’s also not uncommon to find rodent nests in your air box, and the possibility is they used your filter material to make themselves more comfortable. Replacement air filters are relatively inexpensive these days and you can even upgrade to a K&N Air Filter if you’re looking for a little better performance. If you’ve never done it before, we put together a great air filter cleaning how-to that will walk you through the process step-by-step.
2. Oil and Filter: Do you remember when the last time was that you replaced your engine oil and oil filter? My personal rule of thumb is after every 5 gallons of fuel burned in a race, but for the average recreational rider that is unrealistic. I do recommend that you at least change them out after each trip though. The motors in these machines are spinning at some insane RPMs when we’re riding, and if you’re out in the dunes you’re putting some good stress on the engines. Do yourself a favor and extend the life of your engine by changing your oil after each trip and make sure to inspect and replace the filter. It may be an opportunity to catch a wearing item in your engine so you can get it fixed before catastrophic failure.
If you’re doing maintenance to your ATV, take a few minutes to inspect and lube your cables.
3. Inspect your controls: If you’re doing maintenance, it’s not going to hurt for you to give your cables a quick once over to inspect for any fraying that could cause them to break when you’re out on a ride potentially stranding you. Make sure that your thumb/twist throttle operation is smooth and doesn’t have any hang-up and also that your clutch cable is operating freely as well. Take a couple of minutes to disconnect the cables and flush them out using a cable lubing tool and lube like you can see in our how-to video here. This is also a good time to look over your grips and make sure they’re not rotting away.
It won’t hurt to flush out your brake lines every year with fresh fluid. It will keep your brakes feeling consistent.
Also, make sure that your brakes are in good operating order. Inspect the calipers to make sure that you don’t have any leaking seals and I recommend flushing the system with fresh brake fluid on a yearly basis to ensure that you eliminate any moisture in the lines that can cause a spongy feel. While you’re inspecting the brake calipers, be sure to check your brake pads to ensure that they still have adequate thickness and aren’t contaminated with rocks or other debris that can cause premature wear of both brake pads and expensive rotors. We’ve put together a great blog post that covers inspection of brake components and step-by-step procedure of bleeding the brake system. Sure it’s on a streetbike, but when it comes down to it, the systems and procedure are the same.
5. Check your coolant: Just like brake fluid, I recommend flushing out your cooling system on a yearly basis. Sure it may seem like overkill, but when it comes down to it why not take a few extra minutes to perform a simple procedure that can help the reliability of your machine. Inspect the radiator hoses for any swelling or any signs of coolant coming from weep holes that could be a sign of a failing seal. We did a great video that not only details how to change out the coolant, but also flush it out with a solution to get contaminates out of the system. This also covers making sure that the cooling fan comes on. Click here to watch the video.
With the quality of today’s fuels, it doesn’t take long for that Premium fuel to turn to varnish and cause problems in your carburetor.
6. Fire it up: Now that you’ve gotten all of the maintenance out of the way, make sure that your quad will actually fire up. If your quad is electric start and you’ve kept the battery maintained with a Battery Tender or similar unit, it should crank without any issues. If not, you take the chance of having a dead battery that may or may not come back to life with some time on a battery charger. If not, it’s time to order up a new battery at a killer price from BikeBandit.
If it does crank over but doesn’t fire up, chance are you might have left the fuel petcock in the on position allowing fuel to sit in the float bowl of the carburetor and turn to varnish that plugs the carburetor jets and air passages. This is a common occurrence since the quality of that premium fuel has gotten worse and worse year after year. A simple fix that only requires a little time and a good carburetor cleaner.
If you don’t have any of the above issues, your ATV should fire right up and purr like a kitten and if you’ve done all of the above, you should be good to go on your ride right? Mechanically yes, but do you have the stuff you need for where you’re riding? That is what we’ll tackle next.
Add-on’s and Accessories
If you’re heading out to one of the many off-road areas that get packed full of off-road enthusiasts you might want to deck out your bike with some well needed necessities. Here the top 5 add-on or upgrade items that I strongly recommend doing to enhance your riding experience.
You don’t need paddles to have a good time in sand.
Tires: Most tires that come on Sport ATVs feature a 2-ply construction, so when you start heading in to rough terrain you stand a greater chance for puncturing a tire. If you’re heading out to an area with lots of rocks you might want to invest in a set of aftermarket tires that are more durable. Take a look at our selection of Maxxis, ITP, CST, Kenda and other tires for all Sport ATV applications.
Sure your knobbies will work in the soft sand, but when you want maximum traction to get up the steep dunes, sand tires are the only way to go. To enhance the handling of the machines, some manufactures also have a front tire with a single rib to make steering more precise. Those aren’t a must have, but for maximum performance it definitely helps. We’ve got a great selection of sand tires from ITP, CST, Duro, Kenda, AMS and more to suit your needs and finances.
When the stock lights just won’t do it’s time to step up your lighting game with some quality LED lights.
Lighting Kits: If your idea of fun is riding all day and just sitting in camp all night, then more power to you. Riding at night is a whole different experience and a whole lot of fun. Just make sure that you’ve got a good lighting system on your ATV because stock lights just never seem to put out enough light. LED lights have minimal draw so they’re a great way to upgrade your lighting system and come in multiple patterns so you can see our further or have a wider range of view. We offer lights from Open Trail, Rigid Industries, Quadboss, PIAA just to name a few of your options with various mounting options.
Power Adders: Regardless of where you ride, I have yet to come across anyone that was complacent with the power of their stock Sport ATV. In fact, most Sport ATVs come extremely de-tuned from the factory to pass emissions laws affecting their performance. By modifying the intake and exhaust systems of the ATV, you can drastically increase the power output of the engine thus improving the rideability of your ATV. In some cases it’ll feel like you’ve gained twice the power from what you had before. If you’re not sure which products to go with, know that we only carry the best from companies like Yoshimura, FMF, HMF, K&N and Pro Design just to name a few.
The chassis skid plate from TM Designworks not only protects the underside of the ATV, but it also allows you to glide over dunes and other obstacles easier.
Protection: Protection on ATVs from the showroom floor is minimal at best. There’s nothing worse than having your riding trip cut short by objects getting kicked up and bending a rear rotor, sprocket, snapping a chain or even the extreme case of cracking your engine cases. Whether you’re headed to a rocky desert or the smooth sands of Glamis, I always recommend installing skid plates on the swing arm to protect the rear end components and also a good full-length frame skidplate to complete the package. Aluminum skidplates from companies like DG have always been popular and still are for swing arm protection, but more and more companies are a thick plastic for the frame protection. TM Designworks has been using these types of materials for years with their case savers and chain guides and now has applied it to the skid plates,which stand up to serious abuse.
Whip Accessories: If you have ridden in the dunes, you know that having a whip at least 6’ tall is mandatory. Most come with a pinch bolt style mounting system that can be a pain when you’re loading your ATV into a trailer. They’re even more of a pain if you happen to snap your whip in the middle of a ride, forcing you to break out tools, get the broken piece out and reinsert the good portion of the whip. We’ve got a great selection of quick release mounting options and even an LED lighted whip in case you want to be seen at night.
There you have it. A simple pre-season, pre-ride checklist that will help you get your Sport ATV ready for its first trip back out to the desert topped off with a few recommendations to make your experience even better. Remember to get those parts early so you’re not scrambling at the last second and when you get them from BikeBandit.com you’re going to get the best deal on the web!