Tech Tips

Know your Machine

It is very important to inspect your ATV regularly. To help you out we compiled the following tips.

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Follow the guidelines in your ATV’s owner manual and perform the maintenance listed. You should find the following tips very useful.

[su_tab title=”Before a Ride”]

Before every ride follow these simple tips:
  • Check your oil level and top it up if necessary.
  • Check your tire pressure and inflate to manufacturers recommendations.
  • Start every ride with a full tank of gas.

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[su_tab title=”Towing”]

This is just little advice for beginners.

[su_spoiler title=”Should I upgrade my midsize SUV to a full size truck with a diesel?” icon=”caret”]
I have towed an aluminum flatbed trailer with 3 quads with Ford Explorers (4.0 V6 and 5.0 v8), and a Jeep liberty (3.7 V6). They did extremely well, mainly because the trailer was aluminum and was not very heavy. However, the bigger the tow vehicle the better it will handle a heavy trailer with a high tongue load, and the better it will handle trailer motion on highway bridges etc. A diesel will have more torque for towing fast without downshifting. A diesel will get better gas mileage. If you are trying to save money, get the gas truck because you have to drive a lot of miles to recover the cost of the more expensive diesel truck. If you got the dough, get the diesel. Additionally, 6 speed automatics are usually much better for towing than four speed automatics.
[su_spoiler title=”Can I tow an ATV with a small car?” icon=”caret”]
Yes you can towed a single quad on a very small aluminum trailer using a Ford Focus rated for 1000 lb towing capacity. It towed exceptionally well on the highway and it was fairly good in city, but wasn’t much good in the dirt where ground clearance was needed in rutted parking lots. A car and even most small SUV’s do not have the frame and rear suspension strength to tow a trailer with a lot of tongue weight.
[su_spoiler title=”Do I need a transmission cooler?” icon=”caret”]
Yes. If you tow a large trailer with a vehicle that has an auto transmission, you need a cooler to prevent transmission fluid breakdown. Fluid breakdown is the leading cause of reduced transmission service life decrease in towing vehicles. If you have a full size truck with a towing package you may already have one. You can install these yourself or go to the dealer to do it.
[su_spoiler title=”My truck downshifts a lot.” icon=”caret”]
The more torque the engine has, the less downshifting. High horsepower doesn’t mean anything for towing, torque at the highway RPM is what you need. Downshifting is irritating to the driver, but it can also wear the transmission out prematurely. A manual transmission can sometimes be nice for highway towing, since you can control things better. A higher ratio rear axle can help make a tow vehicle tow better. However, it is wise to disable the overdrive on the truck to prevent excessive downshifting which causes overheating of the transmission. It may use a little more gas, but it will save wear and tear on the transmission. The engine will be fine at a little higher RPM, it won’t wear faster. Use a synthetic engine oil if you are towing a heavy load, especially if you have a smaller engine that you are overworking. You should also consider driving a little slower – towing isn’t a race.
[su_spoiler title=”Should I get a trailer with brakes?” icon=”caret”]
Check the laws on this for sure, but I recommend brakes on a trailer hauling 3 or more quads. Electric brakes usually are actuated with a controller in the cab, but you have to adjust the pull when the trailer is loaded versus unloaded. I have used hydraulic brakes a lot and they work really well too. Hydraulic brakes adjust automatically to the load. Hydraulic brakes often have issues with engaging while backing up unless there is an interlock that is activated by the backup light, or someone hops out and puts a lockout pin in the tongue. Take your pick on whether you like the hydraulic or the electric ones (hydraulic is best for boat use). I prefer electric.
[su_spoiler title=”My trailer bobs side to side when going fast and it is worse going down hill.” icon=”caret”]
It is loaded to heavy to the rear, and/or the springs are too soft, and/or the trailer is too high. Most likely the center of mass of the trailer is too close to the axle (or middle of the axles for tandem). Either move the axles rearward or load it heavier up front. Additionally, weight distribution problems of the tow vehicle or suspension problems of the tow vehicle (bad tie rod, ball joint, front radius arm bushing, front leaf bushing) can cause this as well.
[su_spoiler title=”Do I need a spare tire on my trailer?” icon=”caret”]
Yes. Unless you feel comfortable leaving your quads in the trailer at the side of the road while you go get the tire fixed. If you use exotic tire sizes on you trailer, don’t even think about waltzing into Walmart on Sunday to get the tire fixed. Grease your wheel bearings too, even if they do not need it, just to make sure that they are OK.
[su_spoiler title=”What about air drag?” icon=”caret”]
Rear expanded metal ramps need to be removed from your trailer for highway travel. They are a huge power drag. If you think your truck is tough enough to pull it, you may be right, but you are still wasting a ton of gas. Aerodynamics of the tow vehicle and and the load play a part of whether the drag is high or not. Also, in my experience with towing things using a small to medium V6, I have found that loading the quads sideways makes them a bit harder to tow than loading them single file.
[su_tab title=”Drowned your ATV”]

If you drowned your ATV, chances are you got water in the engine. What to do depends on where the water is and how much is in there.

[su_spoiler title=”Water in the cylinder” icon=”caret”]
Water in the cylinder will prevent the engine from running, and can prevent it from turning, this is a hydraulic lock. It can also bend valves or the connecting rod it you try to crank it too hard or if water got in fast while the motor was turning fast. If the motor will not turn, remove the spark plug or possibly see if you can turn the engine backwards by hand and water may exit exhaust port. If the motor will turn, just crank it with the starter motor and the water will blow out the spark plug hole. Try to make it run.[/su_spoiler]
[su_spoiler title=”Water in the crankcase” icon=”caret”]
This is not a good thing. Do not run the engine if a lot of water is in the crankcase. Oil will look like chocolate milk and the oil level will be high. If only a little water is in the crankcase, running the motor will cause it to boil out. Detergents are designed to trap water anyway, so a little water is no big deal but remember that leaving water in the oil can cause bearings to rust and destroy the motor and transmission. So, change the oil with cheap oil and change the oil filter too. Run it or 10 or 15 minutes. Check the new oil for milkiness. Repeat if necessary. If the ATV is an auto shift, do not use automotive oil since it will glaze the shifting clutch and make it slip. Always check your owners manual to confirm the proper oil to use. Do not forget to check the front and rear differentials for water in them also.[/su_spoiler]
[su_spoiler title=”Water in belt drive” icon=”caret”]
Drain if possible. If you do not have a drain, run it at high RPM’s in neutral. Running in neutral will help dry the belt. Push the ATV while in low range to help it start to move so that it slips as little as possible. Hop on and ride it without stopping to cause the normal belt heat to dry it out. Driving it fast will help. Do not drive it slow if the belt slips.[/su_spoiler]
[su_tab title=”Boosting a Battery”]

Lots of people are leery of using a truck or car battery to boost an ATV. This is not a problem if you follow these tips:

The donor vehicle must not be running.

    • Shut off the engine
    • Put the keys in you pocket to avoid any current spikes.
    • CAA of donor battery does not matter


“What is the reasoning behind these tips?”

[su_spoiler title=”Why should the donor vehicle not be running?” icon=”caret”]
If the donor vehicle is running, then the alternator is online, and when it senses the dead battery of the quad, its going to increase output voltage. ATV’s have a zener diode, which is rated at 15 volts. Anytime it senses more than 15 volts, it shunts the excess to ground through a heat sink. Since many trucks and cars are capable of much more than 15 volts, it will not take long for the zener to give out. Because its sealed in the regulator unit this will render the whole regulator as junk. This is totally avoidable, by just making sure the donor vehicle is not running, while boosting your ATV.[/su_spoiler]
[su_spoiler title=”What about the donor battery?” icon=”caret”]
It doesn’t matter if the donor battery is 900 cca, because 12 volts is 12 volts. The internal resistance of the starter motor, determines the current draw. Just because a battery can deliver up to 900 amps, doesn’t mean it will. The only time it will deliver that kind of amperage is if there is a dead short. As long as there is resistance in the circuit, then ohms law will rule how much amps will flow.
Ohms law is current(amps) equal to the voltage divided by the resistance. I=E/R
Because the battery has about 12.6 volts, in a non running circuit, and the resistance is fixed, and for the most part, doesn’t vary (heat will change the resistance), in a normal starting circuit, the 12.6 volts is divided by the 3 or so ohms resistance of the starter. This produces a current draw of 4.2 amps. Doesn’t matter what the max rating on the battery is, the starter will only pull 4.2 amps, (assuming the only problem with the quad is a dead battery).
If the brushes are shot in the motor, the resistance can be much lower, which will allow more current. If you suspect the starter is damaged, do not boost, get the starter repaired or replaced. For example, if the brushes wear, and the resistance goes to .5 ohms, the current draw will be 25 amps. What happens when 16 volts is being used? Well using the first example, 16 volts divided by the 3 ohms produces a current of 5.3 amps, which is a 25% increase over what should be flowing. This creates a lot more heat than the circuit is supposed to handle, and can damage things.[/su_spoiler]

Basically, its safe, to boost your ATV using a vehicle’s battery as long as the vehicle’s engine is not running, and assuming nothing else is wrong with your ATV but a dead battery. Always confirm that the charging system is performing properly.

Note: Remember that your ATV’s charging system is not meant to be a battery charger, it is designed to maintain a battery charge. Always replace a defective battery ASAP to avoid any charging system concerns.


Northumberland District ATV Riders Club