ATVs need winter care to keep in top shape

Lacey Jarrell/The Capital Press Skyler Goar, parts manager at I-5 Powersports in Albany, Ore., demonstrates how fleece-line sleeves secured around ATV handlebars can protect an operator's hands during cold-weather driving.

Capital Press

Installing a windshield or buying a pair of fleece-lined handlebar mitts can help all-terrain vehicle and side-by-side owners stay comfortable this winter.

The mitts are 90-degree sleeves that encompass handlebars and the driver’s hands while allowing for full steering rotation, according to Skyler Goar, a Polaris parts manager at I-5 Powersports in Albany, Ore.

ATV owners can warm things up a little more by installing handlebar and throttle heating elements, Goar added. Handlebar heating elements are virtually invisible because they are placed under the grip, and throttle elements are shrink wrapped over the thumb throttle.

“You would think your thumb is no big deal, but when you’re riding in the wintertime, and it’s cold, it literally feels like your thumb will fall off,” Goar said.

Side-by-sides don’t require all the bells and whistles that ATVs do, but they can be fitted with a windshield, windshield wipers, and defroster kit for winter use.

“You can basically make them like a car,” Goar said.

Also much like cars, ATVs and side-by-sides require maintenance for optimum winter performance or spring start-up after they have been stored, he added.

A basic oil and filter change is a good place to start. The most important factor for winter weather conditions is the right viscosity oil for colder temperatures, he said.

Brian Difani, assistant manager at Tread and Track Sports in Klamath Falls, Ore., said ATV and side-by-side owners need to look for non-friction oils that are labeled with additive packages for those vehicles. He said the specialized oil has to perform three jobs: it has to perform as an engine lubricant, a transmission oil and as an oil for gears inside the transmission.

“Buying it at your local dealership is your best bet; they should know what you need,” he said.

Difani said 10w-40 oil is suitable for climates with a broad range of temperatures, and 20w-50 works well in hotter climates. When ATV owners start seeing temperatures hover around zero, a lower viscosity oil like a 5w-30 or a 0w-30 — needs to be used.

Coolant fluid should be topped off before the weather gets too cold. If the radiator is already full, the coolant should be tested to learn the ratio of coolant to water, according to Goar.

“You want pure coolant in wintertime because any water in the system has a chance to freeze,” he said.

The preferred way to store ATVs is in a heated garage. If it’s outside, at the very least, it should have a outside waterproof, dustproof, cover that encloses the vehicle. In addition, when ATVs and side-by-sides sit for prolonged periods of time, owners should hook up a 2-amp trickle charger to the battery, according to Goar. He noted that because power sports batteries are smaller than automotive batteries, they lose their charge faster.

Electrical connections should also be inspected for cracks and damage.

“If plastic connections are already damaged, the combination of extreme cold with the rain and snow and condensation that comes with that, can sometimes start messing with electrical components,” Goar said.

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