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Troubleshooting guide to ATV engine timing

Troubleshooting guide to ATV engine timing

When you buy your ATV, it is important to fully understand how it functions in order to make sure you that you are riding a safe vehicle. One of the biggest components of an ATV is the engine, so it’s important that you understand how it runs and all the different factors that go into ATV engine upkeep. 

Since you will likely be riding on rough terrain, there are different scenarios which could have damaging effects on your vehicle's engine. One of the most integral aspects of the engine that you need to be aware of is timing. If you don’t know what engine timing is, or don’t know the different ways to troubleshoot timing problems, keep reading. In this article, we cover everything you need to know about ATV engine timing. 


Understanding ATV engines and their types

On the whole, an ATV engine works similarly to any kind of vehicle engine. In ATVs, fuel and oxygen are both drawn into the combustor which causes a squeeze in the piston. This allows the internal mixture to ignite. This ignition creates a controlled explosion which allows the vehicle to move forwards and backwards as exhaust is released in the output end.

There are two main types of ATV engines:

  • Two-stroke engines: A two-stroke engine weighs less than a four-stroke engine whilst also providing additional power to the vehicle. There is also no oil tank with a two-stroke engine, meaning less upkeep. However, on the whole, they are less practical for ATVs as they only generate power each time the cylinder reaches the combustor. 
  • Four-stroke engines: A four-stroke engine requires more upkeep as it has an oil tank which you need to regularly change. However, they are widely considered better engines for ATVs thanks to their lower RPMs and minor wear to the engine. 

Model specific ATV accessories


How ATVs function

Below is a brief breakdown of how exactly they work: 

  • Fuel is propelled into the pump and distributed through a combustion chamber. The first step of getting an ATV to work is to get the fuel to where it needs to be. This is done by the fuel pump and injectors which ensure there is enough fuel to equal the intake valve's oxygen. This equilibrium creates clean energy, which is needed to ignite the engine.
  • The piston is raised into the combustion chamber with the help of the crankshaft in order to meet the fuel-oxygen mixture. The piston is used to push and compress the fuel and air mixture, causing a rapid heating process. 
  • The power is created, as a small explosion occurs, propelling the vehicle forward. The noise you hear when you turn your engine on, is this small, controlled explosion occurring within the vehicle itself. 
  • Your exhaust gets to work. In order to prevent clogging and buildup, your exhaust pipe continuously exiles waste which is why your exhaust pipe is covered in soot. It is important to regularly clean your exhaust pipe. Otherwise, it will stop it from carrying out its duties and you could have some serious problems on your hand. 
  • The final step in the process is repetition. Two-stroke engines only require two repetitions, whereas four-stroke engines require four repetitions in order for the entire process to be completed.


What is ATV engine timing?

All-terrain vehicle engine timing is what is needed for the motor of your ATV to function properly. It ensures that the right sequences are happening in the right order and at the right time. If even one part of your engine is not working as it should, or is out of time by even a fraction of a second, your engine won't work properly.

In order to find out what exactly is causing the problem, the first thing you need to do is take a look at your cam sprocket position. You will be able to identify whether your ATV has jumped the time if your cam sprocket is not parallel with the timing direction. 


Will my ATV run if the engine timing is off?

In most cases, your ATV will not run if the timing is off. This is a good thing, and is somewhat of a safety feature, because if you ride your ATV whilst the timing is off, your engine could malfunction, which could be extremely dangerous. 

There are rare occasions in which your ATV will still run even if the timing is off. However, if you suspect there to be a problem with your timing, we strongly advise you not to ride your ATV. Instead, check the cam sprocket yourself, or get a professional to check it for you. It is better to be safe than sorry. 

Everything you need to know to avoid ATV accidents


What are the symptoms of timing being off?

Whilst all these can indicate problems with your engine timing, they can also indicate other common issues, so if any of these symptoms appear, run a full diagnostic on your vehicle:

  • No power
  • Backfiring
  • Popping in carburetor 
  • Poor idle
  • No start
  • Engine binding crank
  • Long crank
  • Hit starting issues
  • Won’t rev


How do I check my ATV timing?

Luckily for you, it is actually pretty easy to check your ATV timing. If you think there might be a problem, you can follow these simple steps:

  • Remove the spark plug
  • Rotate the fly wheel counter-clockwise 
  • Locate the timing mark (T) which indicates top Dead Center
  • Remove the camshaft cover inspection
  • If the cam sprocket timing marks do not align, turn the flywheel one complete turn counter-clockwise
  • Ensure the T is central in the inspection window


Resetting ATV engine timing

Whilst checking your ATV timing is fairly easy, resetting it is a whole other story. It is often easier to get a professional mechanic to come out to check your engine components and timing and rest it. However, if you are fairly competent in resolving engine issues and want to do it yourself, here are the steps to follow:

  • Remove the cam covers, the tensioner and the chain from the sprocket and holds 
  • Realign the sprockets
  • Re-attach the chains
  • Reload the tensioner whilst also fitting a new gasket and torque 
  • Fire the tensioner
  • Check the timing 
  • Rotate the flywheel and check the timing again 

As you can see, resetting the ATV engine timing involves virtually taking the whole thing apart and putting it back together. It is important that you do it correctly, so if you’re not confident in handling the engine motor or don’t have the relevant ATV engine tools, we recommend getting your vehicle checked by a professional.  


3 maintenance tips for ATV engine

Keeping your ATV engine in good spec is of the utmost importance. Here are some foolproof ways to ensure you keep on top of ATV engine maintenance and ensure the smooth running of your vehicle. 

Regularly check oil 

Both the amount of oil and the quality of the oil in your vehicle are important things that you need to regularly check. All you need to do is check the oil level against the dipstick. If it is level, then there is nothing you need to do, but if it is below the dipstick, then you will need to add more oil. You should also check the color of the oil. If it is dark and dirty, it is time to drain it and change it. A good rule of thumb is to check on your oil every 100 hours of use, as this is usually when it will require a change. 

Clean the air filter

Having a clean air filter is important as it ensures the fuel mixture in your engine is pure. If your filter is blocked or is not working properly, debris will get into your engine and the extreme heat within will set these things on fire, which can be extremely dangerous. The good news is that air filters are cheap and extremely easy to replace, so you have no excuse for not staying on top of air filter maintenance. 

Properly store your ATV 

Most people overlook the importance of where you keep your ATV and the impact this can have on ongoing maintenance efforts. On the whole, the best place to store your ATV is inside, in either a shed, or a garage in order to protect it from the elements. This is especially true in the winter when your ATV isn't getting as much use as the engine can freeze and become dangerous for you to use straight away. 

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


Shop for ATV accessories

If you are an ATV rider, you know how important customizing your vehicle is. Whilst the thrill of riding is a big part of the ATV experience, so is the community that you become a part of when riding. Generally, riders have a personalized ATV that reflects their personality and riding style. 

At Perfex Industries, we understand the need for ATV customization, which is why we offer worldwide shipping on a wide range of different ATV parts and accessories. We sell:

All the products we sell are compatible with a range of different brands of ATV vehicles, so you will be sure to find parts for your vehicle. Unlike most other auto supply stores, we adopt a more collaborative approach to the manufacturing of our products, working with consumers to find out what they need and what they like.

Browse our accessories

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