— The basic maintenance tips all UTVers should know —
Based on the situations of life our UTVs sometimes may sit for long periods of time between rides. This is especially true during the winter months for people who live in the colder northern areas. There are things you should provide special attention to before you go blasting on your machine after it’s been parked for extended periods. Here is a handy guide on the procedures you should follow.
FUEL SYSTEM 101
The number-one concern when storing a vehicle for any period of time is the fuel. Since its inception, gasoline has had a shelf life. From the moment it leaves the refinery, fuel begins to slowly break down, lose potency and eventually dry up or evaporate into a varnish-like substance. Twenty years ago, fuel storage problems would surface after about six months in the tank, and you would need to drain fuel for a fresh tank of gas. Today’s ethanol-based, blended or mixed fuels have drastically reduced this shelf life, especially when talking about a smaller quantity like a UTV fuel tank or, even worse, a carburetor float bowl.
You will start experiencing issues with today’s fuel at about 4–6 weeks in a fuel tank, or even less in the fuel system. If your fuel has been left in your UTV’s tank untreated for two or more months, you are going to need to drain/siphon it for some fresh petrol. There are many different kinds of fuel pumps or siphoning systems, but we really like the simplicity of the shake-ball-type siphon hose.
You basically feed the valve end of the hose into your fuel tank and shake it until the ball’s movement starts a siphon for you—it sure beats the garden hose and possibility of a mouthful of gas. Be sure to work in an area with plenty of ventilation and no open flames, like a water heater or furnace pilot. We like to jack up the side of the UTV to get all the fuel into one corner of the tank for complete removal.
If your machine is fuel injected, it can probably take a few months’ storage, but the bowl on a carbureted machine will definitely need attention. At a minimum, you can remove the bowl drain and hose it out with brake cleaner and the spray straw. In more extreme cases, you will need to remove the carburetor bowl for proper cleaning of it and the jet passages. For a quick-clean attempt, you might also try pulling the pilot jet to make sure it is clear, as the smaller the jet, the easier they will close up on you.
When it’s time to pull out that UTV or ATV after its winter break, you are going to need to address the fuel system. Or are you? The old proverb of “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” rings truer than ever in this case. Both Star Tron and Lucas Oil make very efficient multi-functional fuel additives that can stabilize fuel for up to two years.
Star Tron allows fuel to burn more completely, resulting in maximum performance, fuel efficiency and reliable operation. Star Tron will stabilize fuel for up to two years, preventing the formation of gums and other solids that clog carburetors and fuel injectors. The Star Tron Enzyme Fuel Treatment even claims to rejuvenate old fuel to some extent. Star Tron can be used with every fill-up, but should most definitely be used as the season is winding down and starting up in the spring.
Lucas Oil makes a fuel stabilizer that is designed solely to prevent gasoline breakdown during storage. As an added bonus, it is said to clean and lubricate fuel pumps, carburetors, fuel injectors and compression rings. It’s simple to use, with only 1 ounce needed per gallon of gasoline. Before vehicle storage, simply run the machine until the carburetor or fuel system is filled with treated fuel.
You should be using a trickle-charging battery charger or tender for extended vehicle storage. A battery tender installs in minutes and costs less than 1/3 of a new battery for most machines. If you’re not trickle-charging, you’re going to need to address the battery before starting your machine. Start by cleaning any corrosion from the connections. If the battery is not sealed or maintenance-free, you can also add distilled water to any of the cells that are low. You should charge your vehicle’s battery with it disconnected from the vehicle and on the lowest amp option your battery charger has. A fast charge will drastically affect the life expectancy of a small UTV or ATV battery.
TIRES NEED ATTENTION TOO
Months in the garage will also have a definite effect on tire pressure, even on fresher tires that don’t leak down. While it is good practice to check and set tire pressure every time you drive, it is especially important to check and set all four tires after any type of extended storage. If you carry a spare, it’s a good time to check it, too. Foremost, a low tire can be dangerous at higher speeds, but it will also be more susceptible to puncture or premature wear. Also, check the lug nuts for tightness.
A GOOD TIME FOR BASIC MAINTENANCE
While extended storage shouldn’t really have an effect on your service intervals, you should definitely still inspect the basics before starting a new riding season. Check the oil; if it’s low, add to it. If it’s black or even questionably dark, you should change it. Be sure to use a quality oil that’s rated for your machine’s engine and the temperatures you operate at. Check the air filter; if it’s serviceable, clean it and re-oil it. If it’s a paper-pleated type, you can knock it on the concrete or blow it out in reverse with compressed air. If it needs replacing, do so.
A chain-driven vehicle’s chain deserves lubrication after a long, cold winter, and it’s also a good time to clean out the CVT cover and tract of any dust or moisture. Be sure to inspect the CVT belt while you’re in there. Check CV boots for cracks, tears or punctures, and replace if necessary. You should also check and top off fluids like brake master cylinders, coolant reservoirs, front and rear differentials, and your vehicle’s transmission. Also, give the Zerk fittings on your suspension mounts a healthy shot of grease.