With winter fast approaching it is the time that most UTV owners start thinking about winterizing their side by sides. At least I hope that people are thinking about winterizing, otherwise you could potentially run into costly repairs down the road that could of been avoided with a little time and money.
In this guide we will show you how to winterize your UTV in 8 super simple easy to follow steps. These steps will help keep your investment in tip top shape so you can enjoy riding it for years to come.
Here are the 8 simple winterizing steps we will cover in this article:
- Give your UTV a good thorough cleaning.
- Grease and lubricate all moving components.
- Change/Check oil, fluids and filters.
- Use a good fuel stabilizer.
- Disconnect and Remove your battery.
- Prevent rodents from moving in.
- Protect your tires from flat spots.
- Put on a cover or store indoors.
1. Give Your UTV A Good Thorough Cleaning
I don’t know about you, but when I ride I like to get myself and my machine really good and dirty!!
With that said I also like to give my machines a good thorough cleaning after each and every ride because I also believe that keeping a clean machine is one of the most important steps when it comes to proper maintenance.
If mud and dirt is left on your machine, you will will surely regret it in the spring. All that mud and dirt will trap moisture which will find its way through paint and result in rusty, corroded parts.
Another good preventive measure (not necessary, but recommended) after you have given your UTV a good deep clean is to spray inside of frame rails, roll bars, skid plates etc. with a product like fluid film (amazon link) to prevent rust and corrosion.
2. Grease And Lubricate All Moving Components
Greasing and lubricating your machine keeps everything moving freely and prevents potential damage down the road.
Grease Fittings – Most UTV’s are equipped with grease fittings aka Zerk fittings near any pivot points on your machine such as A-arms, sway bars, torsion bars, driveline components, ball joints, bushings and bearings. Note that not all machines are equipped with zerk fittings in all locations and some machines don’t even have any at all.
Check your users manual, usually UTV manufacturers will have a diagram of all available zerk fittings on your machine. In the event that you don’t have any greasing locations, you can add them if you desire with self tapping zerk fittings.
This video by Bob Didrickson also does a great job of showing the different locations for zerk fittings. It is done on a Polaris 570 but will be helpful in finding your zerk fittings on other machines as well.
Cables and Linkage – Cables and linkage are prone to corroding, rusting and getting sticking especially when your machine has sat for a period of time. So it is a good to idea to use a lubricant like fluid film (amazon link) and give all of cables and linkages a good spray.
When it comes to your cables, if they are a steel cable inside a rubber or plastic boot, just give the ends of them a good spray and then work them back and forth. For example if you are spraying a brake cable, spray the end od the cable where the steel wire goes in, then apply your brakes a few times to work the fluid film into the cable.
3. Change/Check Oil, Fluids and Filters
Depending on how much you ride or abuse your machine, you should be changing your oil at least once a year (more if you put on a ton of miles). With that said, the end of the riding season is always a good time to change and check all oils and fluids.
Change Oil and Filter – The combustion process of a running engine causes an acid to form in your engine oil that can cause corrosion inside your engine. Changing the oil and filter during your winterizing process will also help keep excess dirt from settling in your engine.
Flush Your Coolant – Most manufacturers recommend flushing your coolant system once every 2 years. So it is a good idea to make this part of your winterizing routine every 2 years. Be sure to check your owners manual though just to be sure.
It also doesn’t hurt to have a look at the coolant every year to check for any discoloration or visible signs of excess debris. And if you are storing your machine outside it is a good to test your antifreeze with an antifreeze tester to see if the freezing point will be sufficient enough for your winters.
Air Filter – Either cleaning or replacing your air filter while winterizing your UTV is also a good habit to get into. It won’t make or break or machine but it will allow you to be able to have piece of mind in the spring when you pull out to ride for season.
4. Use A Good Fuel Stabilizer
Using a good fuel stabilizer like STA-BIL fuel stabilizer is very important any time you are storing gasoline for any amount of time. This especially stands true when the fuel is being stored in a machine like your side by side.
Once you have added fuel stabilizer to your tank it is important to run it through the entire fuel system for a good 10 minutes to ensure that you have treated all fuel in the system.
Failure to add a fuel stabilizer can result in very costly repairs. Let me explain…
Stale Fuel – Fuel is actually, only stable after being pumped from a high volume source for up to 30 days and as time goes by it will begin to degrade, oxidize. Once the fuel starts to go stale it will begin to gum up and clog vital fuel system components such carbs, fuel filters, injectors, pumps and fuel lines.
Once your fuel has started to gum these components then you will be sure to start getting into very costly repairs as the gum pushes through your entire fuel system.
Ethanol – Most fuel nowadays can contain up to 10% ethanol which is hygroscopic and actually attracts water. which can cause major issues because the fuel tanks on your UTV are vented meaning the fuel inside the tank is absorbing the moisture from the air.
Over time as the ethanol has absorbed enough water it will cause the ethanol/water mixture to separate from the gasoline and settle on the bottom of your tank. Then the next time that you start your machine you run the risk of pumping water through your fuel system and trying to start your engine on water.
I don’t know about your machine but my engine does not run well on water!
5. Disconnect/Remove Your Battery
Whether you just disconnect or completely remove your battery really depends on the conditions that you will be storing your UTV in over the winter.
If you will be storing your UTV somewhere warm where it will not be exposed to the cold then you will probably get away with simply disconnecting your battery. However if you will be storing your UTV outside where it will be exposed to cold temperatures you will be better off removing it and storing it indoors where it’s warm.
Another recommended step rather than just storing your battery is to hook it up to a battery tender throughout the winter. Battery tenders help maintain the charge in seasonal batteries while they sit for long periods of time.
Note: A battery tender is different from a typical trickle charger, a trickle charger is not recommended for keeping hooked up to a battery for a long period of time as it will not stop charging when the battery is full.
6. Prevent Rodents From Moving In
As it gets cold outside we are not the only ones who are trying to seek cover and stay warm. Mice, squirrels, chipmunks and other rodents are also trying to seek cover in the winter.
Your UTV has many holes, cubbies and other areas where rodents can seek warmth and even build nests. Once this happens and the rodents have made themselves at home they tend to destroy everything in their path.
In fact, a couple weeks ago I was riding with a friend who made the mistake of storing his brand new Can-Am ATV at his Dad’s farm without properly protecting it from mice. He couldn’t figure out why it wasn’t running right, after a little research we figured out that a mouse had got in and chewed his air cleaner into a million pieces.
That’s a prime example why this step is so crucial in winterizing your UTV.
You’re going to want to plug up any and all exhaust and intake ports on your UTV, as these are prime real estate for these little critters. This includes your air intake, CVT clutch (intake and exhaust), exhaust pipes, snorkels etc.
You can plug up these areas with things like rags, duct tape, bags etc. But I would highly recommend whenever possible to incorporate using steel wool as these rodents may try chewing through whatever means you have for keeping them out. They will not however chew through steel wool.
It is a good idea to keep a record so you remember everywhere that you plugged because come spring time you are going to need to remove all the plugs before riding.
7. Protect Your Tires From Flat Spots
When your UTV sits over a long period of time on its own weight it is likely that you will notice flat spots on your tires which will result in a very rough ride.
Oftentimes a flat spot will fix itself after a few miles of riding, causing the tire to warm up and reshape itself. But on occasion a flat spot can be permanent, meaning that you will find yourself replacing an otherwise perfectly good set of tires.
In order to prevent flat spotting while storing your UTV over the winter it is best to elevate it of the ground somehow. You could use 4 jack stands or even just jack it up and put blocks underneath it to elevate the tires.
8. Cover Your UTV Or Store It Indoors
Last but not least is to figure out exactly how and where you will store your UTV for the winter.
Obviously it is best to try to store your machine inside a nice warm shop (even if it means kicking the spouses vehicle out) but of course not everyone has that luxury.
If you are one of the many people who have to store your machine outside then you will probably want to cover it up with either a tarp or a UTV cover of some sort.
9. Sit Back And Wait For Spring
This is probably the hardest part of the whole winterizing process, sitting back and waiting patiently to be able to get back out on the trails, mud holes, hills or rocks. This is the time of year that you wonder, was it really worth buying a side by side only to park it for half the year?
Keep in mind though, this step of the process does not always have to be so depressing!! Now is a great time to spend the money you’re saving on all the gear that you found out the hard way throughout the season that you need.
It’s also a great time to work on those modifications and upgrades that you have been dreaming about all year!!
Have Fun and Happy Riding,