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How to start an ATV after it has been sitting idle all winter

How to start an ATV after it has been sitting idle all winter

It can be tough to decide what you need to do to get an old ATV running again if it has been sitting for a long time. Let this post serve as a roadmap for getting your ATV back on the path. The oil in the engine and the gas in the fuel tank will start to separate after a quad has been sitting still for a while. This often results in a dead battery and flat tires. If it has been exposed to the elements, it may develop more serious issues such as rust and corrosion, which is why winter ATV maintenance is so important.


8 tips to get an ATV that has been sitting to run again

The following are 7 ATV maintenance tips that will ensure your ATV will be up and running in no time.

1. Clean and Drain the Fuel Tank

You need to refuel the ATV if it's been sitting for more than six months. Fuel injected into the tank degrades over time and becomes less combustible. Water can also condense and collect inside a fuel tank that has been sitting for an extended period of time, especially if the fuel contains ethanol.

It's preferable to totally drain the gas tank and remove any gelled or gummed-up gas. This gel-like gas residue could harm your ATV's fuel lines and other components. Check the gasoline fuel filter and, if necessary, replace or clean it. Check that the fuel valve and the gasoline on/off valves are all in good operating order. Make sure they're moving smoothly and aren't leaking by turning them.

If you have a metal gasoline tank, the inside of the tank may have rusted due to water condensation over time. Empty the tank and shake it around with a little diesel and some little metal BBs inside it. With the help of the diesel fuel, the metal BBs will knock off the majority of the rust from the inside of the tank. In addition to refueling your tank, you might want to check on whether any of your accessories need to be replaced.

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2. Clean the Carburetor

If your ATV has a carburetor, make sure it is clean. It's possible that just spraying some carb cleaning in there won't be enough. You will most likely require a rebuild kit. Carburetors are inexpensive, and on an ATV that's been sitting for a while, it's advised that you repair the carburetor.

Examine the gasoline line from the tank to the carburetor. If you don't have a steady supply of fuel, you'll need to clean or replace your fuel lines. However, getting your ATV up and running again, might require more than just carburetor cleaning. You might need new ATV accessories

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3. Change the Air Filter

You might be able to reuse the air filter if it is in good condition but it is generally best to simply replace the air filter and air filter oil. It's not going to break the bank to get a new air filter, so we recommend replacing it. In any case, make sure the engine isn't sucking in any dirt, dust, or debris through the air intake. 

Even small amounts of sand can harm the cylinder walls, causing serious engine problems. Because most ATVs that have been sitting for a while accumulate dust, sand, and dirt, you'll need to clean the air filter. Also, there might be other parts you need to replace.

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4. Change the Oil

Although the oil in the engine takes longer to go bad than the fuel in the gas tank, the additives in the oil will eventually decay. Because you should change the oil in your engine on a regular basis, it's a good idea to do so before attempting to start an ATV that has been sitting.

We recommend switching to a synthetic blend or complete synthetic oil like Castrol Power1 10W-40 Full Synthetic 4-Stroke Motor Oil. Synthetic oil is best as it was designed for older engines. Synthetic oil has chemicals that help expand your gaskets, preventing leaks and compression loss in the engine.

You might consider replacing the oil filter as well. This easy step is often overlooked. You should replace the oil filter every time you change the oil. The filter could be clogged with sludge and other contaminants, which might contaminate your new oil. Make sure the pistons aren't rusted in place and the engine isn't seized at this point. 

We recommend putting a few drops of penetrating oil or deep-sea foam in the cylinder head and leaving it there for a bit. Simply remove the spark plug and use the spark plug hole to squirt a little sea foam into the cylinder head. Try to turn it over with the spark plugs out after letting it sit for a few hours (overnight if it looks really bad) to make sure everything works properly. 

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5. Change the Spark Plugs

The ATV's spark plugs may be fine and may not need to be replaced. However, the purpose of this step is to ensure that the engine continues to receive sparks. To perform a quick check, remove the spark plug from the engine, re-insert it into the spark plug wire, and try to start the ATV while holding the electrode close to the engine.  You're generally good to go if you see sparks jump from the electrodes on the spark plug. If not, you might need to consider changing your spark plugs.

6. Change the Differential Fluid

Only 4X4 ATVs require this step, and even then, it may not be necessary. Normally you should do this because you are already changing the rest of the fluids. It's as simple as changing the oil in your car. You'll have both a front and rear differential, and you'll need to change the oil in each of them. 

The most important thing to remember when it comes to differential oil is to use the one that your machine recommends. To find out, check your service manual or contact the dealer as different manufacturers advise using different oils. Using the incorrect one could result in harm to your differential. All you'll need are some socket wrenches and a drain pan once you've found the proper diff oil.

Both the front and rear differentials have a drain and inspection plug. Remove the drain plug and let all the differential oil drain. You may have a gearing problem if you find metal shavings in the oil. Similarly, you may have a problem with the seals if you find water or muck in the oil. 

Replace the drain plug and remove the inspection plug once the oil has drained. This is where you put new differential oil into the differential. If the oil bottle does not have a fill nozzle, you may need to use a funnel. Fill the differential with oil until it begins to leak through the inspection hole. Replace the inspection plug after allowing it to drain until it is hardly dribbling. 

7. Check the Battery

ATV battery care is an important part of ATV maintenance. You may be able to use your current battery if the ATV has been resting for a long time; it will just need to be charged. However, if it has been sitting for more than a year, you might have a dead battery on your hands and will most likely need to replace the ATV battery.

8. Start Up the Engine

Now that you've completed the tune-up, it's time to try starting the ATV. Put some new gas in the tank, make sure the kill switch is set to run, and then turn on the key. ATVs that have been sitting idle for a while, especially older ones, may be a little more difficult to start. Allow some time and patience, but not to the point where you kill the battery while trying to start it.

If you manage to get it running, we recommend mixing some fuel system cleaning with the gas and letting it run for a while. We also recommend checking the rest of your ATV thoroughly to see if you might need to replace other parts.

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Still Doesn’t Work?

If you still can't get the ATV to start, you may have more serious issues to address. You most likely have a spark, fuel, or compression issue. These are the most common causes of an ATV not starting. If this is the case, you might need to take your ATV to a mechanic.


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ATVs were formerly thought to be useful vehicles used by farmers and ranchers to get across Canada's challenging terrain. However, a substantial shift has occurred, with a growing number of people becoming enthused about the sport. Some people even consider it a way of life.

Perfex Industries is a Canadian ATV and SXS company with a simple mission: to provide you with the best ATV products at the best prices while giving the best customer service. Whether you need more wheel width, ground clearance, or protection, Perfex Industries has the components you need.

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