Most of us are on a regular maintenance routine with our everyday vehicles. We get the oil changed twice a year, along with a servicing of other parts of the vehicle. But do we do the same with our Side by Side or ATV? Fall is the perfect time to check over your machine and get it ready for the season ahead – whether you park it for the winter or use it all year long. And you can do most of it yourself – you just need a few simple tools, a bit of time, and your owner’s manual/manufacturer recommendations for reference. The little things we don’t do can lead to a whole lotta damage down the road – you can’t afford not to.
Here are 6 simple ‘checks’ to add to your maintenance routine:
Fall Maintenance 101
1. Change your oil & other fluids
This is one of the easiest maintenance routines to perform so there is no excuse not to do it. How often and how hard you ride – even where you ride – will determine how often you need to change your oil. Gunk will collect in your oil over the season so it is a good idea to change out your oil at the end of riding season. If you ride in the winter you want to switch to synthetic oil that will help your machine run smoother in our frigid temperatures.
You also want to check the levels of your transmission oil and engine coolant. Reference your manufacturer recommendations for how often to change these. If you switch to a waterless coolant like Evan’s Powersport Coolant you can increase your engine life and eliminate many of the problems that come with typical water-based cooling systems.
2. Change your fuel
Did you know that fuel goes bad? We don’t get an expiry date on it when we fill up at the gas station so we often overlook this, but we don’t want gasoline sitting for long periods of time. There are a number of reasons your fuel can go bad – basically it comes down to the properties of the hydrocarbons and ethanol in the gasoline. Chemical reactions with oxygen can form a gum that starts clogging up the fuel line causing problems starting your engine; or cause water to form in your tank that will begin to corrode your engine. If you are storing your machine for winter – or even if you have longer periods without riding – you want to add a fuel stabilizer to your tank. This will protect your fuel system from corrosion. Don’t forget about the gas in your jerry cans too – we don’t want that going bad either.
3. Change/Clean your air filter
A dirty air filter can cause serious damage to your engine. Your engine needs air and fuel to produce power – if your air filter is too dirty it can’t do its job effectively and will allow dirt to get sucked into the engine. With dirt particles bouncing around your engine won’t run as well as it should, resulting in a loss of horsepower (who wants that?) and damage to the engine. It’s a good idea to keep spare air filters on hand because depending on where you ride you may need to change your air filter more frequently – like after a particularly dusty ride on the trails or a day at the dunes.
4. Ball Joints, Bushings & Bearings
Your machine will show signs of fatigue if something is not right – whether it is clinking noises, excess vibration, uneven tire wear, or steering issues. Pay attention – know your vehicle! Your ball joint is an important component of your machines suspension – they basically connect the tire/wheel to the suspension system. That’s important. Ever wonder how the !@#$ that car on the side of the road managed to wedge its tire underneath itself at such a crazy angle? The ball joint broke. No one wants to be that guy – especially out in the backcountry. When your ball joint begins to weaken, the overall handling of your machine will be affected. You want to make sure the ball joints you are riding with are capable of withstanding the force you apply to your ride. For most of us we are going to want something more than stock OEM ball joints.
You also want to check for wear and tear on your bushings/bearings. There are a number of reasons these can get damaged and fail, allowing mud and water to get past the seal and onto the bearing itself. Your best chance of prolonging the life of your bearings is to keep your machine clean – you just want to rinse the wheels with a garden hose, no high pressure water that pushes the dirt into the bearing you are trying to clean.
5. Drive Belt
If your belt breaks you’re in trouble – and it can get ugly real fast. You want to inspect your belt for signs of deterioration at least once a year. You can feel your belt break apart, but you usually smell it first. Stop driving immediately – if you drive when the belt starts to fail it can cause a huge mess, and depending on the machine you ride it can be a real pain in the ass to get to. Razorback Technologies belt temperature gauge is an awesome tool to install on your vehicle to help you gauge the condition/efficiency of your belt. It is definitely worth the investment when you think of what can go wrong.
We all know brakes can fail. And they are pretty important, so we should be checking them at the end of the riding season. Check your pad’s thickness, along with the quality and level of your brake fluid. Take a look at your rotors too to make sure they are not wearing unevenly.
There are a number of other checks you can add to your maintenance routine. Grab a torque or socket wrench and check that all your bolts are tight, see if there is anything that needs greasing, check that all your lights are working, and make sure your tire pressure is where you want it. And don’t forget to give it a good clean – inside, outside and underneath, including all those hard to get at places. Taking a bit of time to check over your vehicle and get it ready for the season ahead, whether that’s winter riding, ice racing, or sitting in the garage, will do a lot to ensure you don’t have costly breakdowns and repairs in your near future.