How To Prepare Your ATV or UTV For Winter Storage – The Complete Guide

In ATV Setups by Kevin

For those who live in more snowy areas like Montana and New York, preparing your UTV for the winter is a necessity. Depending on the UTV that you have, this might vary a little bit, but you are going to be doing the same thing with 99% of UTVs. This article is a comprehensive step-by-step guide on how to prepare your UTV for winter so that when winter is over you can go ahead and start riding without any issues.

Step 1: Check For Rust, And Wash!

What You Will Need:

The first thing that you are going to be doing looking for rust and then washing your UTV.

Before storing your ATV/UTV for the winter, make sure that it doesn’t have any rust on its frame

Rust is a compound that will create when metal is exposed to humid environments. snowy and humid conditions are notorious for accelerating rust formation, and so, not treating rusty spots might mean that the rust will have expanded by the time you start using the UTV after winter, especially if you do not cover your UTV well. Not good!

So you are going to be looking all over your UTV for rust, working on whatever rust spot you find. I sadly haven’t made an article on how to deal with UTV and ATV rust yet, but I found this article on the internet that details how to deal with it.

The rust step is not 100% necessary, but you run the risk of making things worse if you just store the machine with rust all over the frame.

The second thing to do is to clean the whole machine from top to bottom. you are going to follow the following steps:

  • Wash UTV With Plain Water & Wipe Down Snow: You are going to spray the UTV with water, especially if it’s muddy. if it’s snowy, Brush off all the snow on the top of the UTV or ATV and then you are going to water the UTV down. you can water your UTV down with some buckets or garden hose, If you have a high-pressure washer, then that is even better.
  • Remove Grime, Mud, And Grease With Foam Hose: after you water down your machine, then you are going to remove all the grease and particles with soap and the foam hose.  You are going to need a cleaning kit to do so. I personally use the Chemical Guys Cleaning Kit. It has everything that you need, including soap, protectant, a foam hose, and even brushes and towels. In short, you are going to mix the soap with some water, apply the mix to a sponge or the foam hose, and start washing down the frame.
  • Rinse Off The Soap And Dry With Tower: After leaving the cleaner mix on the frame for a few minutes, it’s time to rinse it off! the best way to do so is with a pressure washer, but if you do not have one, a normal hose will suffice. anyways, you are just going to remove all the soap, ideally from top to bottom, making sure you do not leave any soap on the frame. after that, dry the remaining water with a soft cotton cloth or a microfiber patch.
  • Apply A Protectant (Optional): After your UTV is completely dry, you are going to apply either a protectant or a wax. The cleaning kit that I mentioned above comes with a protectant, so I just apply that to the UTVs plastics, vinyl, and rubber. Do not apply protectants to the tires though.

Step 2: Coolant (Change If Due)

What You Will Need:

Replacing the coolant is not something that everybody needs to do. You should only change it if the date of change is getting near. but if this is not the case, then you don’t need to do this. for those who do need to though, here’s a step by step guide on how to do so:

  • Find Out Where Is The Radiator Cap: this is usually found on the top of the engine, which is usually found by lifting the plastic fender on the front of the UTV. Make sure that the UTV is off before doing this.
  • Remove The Radiator Cap: the pressure cap usually has a very distinctive symbol at the top, plus some warnings too.  DO NOT TOUCH OR REMOVE THE PRESSURE CAP UNTIL THE ENGINE HAS BEEN OFF FOR A FEW MINUTES
  • Notice How Much Coolant Is Left And Add As Needed: After you open up the pressure cap, examine how much coolant is left, then you are going to add coolant as necessary to fill to the top.
  • Bleed The Coolant System: After you have added the coolant, it’s time to get to the bleeder screw, which is a screw that you twist to make sure that there is no air inside the tank. The location is going to vary between models so I recommend that you get the manual of your machine. after you know where It is, get a screwdriver, twist the screw a little bit until there is some coolant flowing out, and after that, you are going to tighten the screw.
  • Screw The Pressure Cap Back In Its Place: after you bleed the coolant system, you are done! simply put the pressure cap back in its place.

Step 3: Add Fuel Stabilizer (or Drain Gas From The Fuel Tank)

What You Will Need

After you refill the coolant, the next step has to do with the fuel system. if you didn’t know, gasoline can degrade as time goes on, and so leaving untreated gasoline in the fuel tank for the winter will damage the walls of the tank and other internal components. so the point is that unless you want to take your ride back to a mechanic when your machine doesn’t turn on, you are going to have to do something about the gas inside the tank.

And you have two choices when it comes to that: you either drain or use all the gasoline already inside your machine, or you completely fill up the tank and add in some fuel stabilizer.

If you want to drain the gasoline, then you are going to have to get yourself a fuel siphoning system. this is just a pump that sucks the gas out with a hose. when you drain the gas, you can store it or use it on another vehicle. you can also just ride until you are out of gas.

But you can also just store your UTV or ATV with gasoline inside, as long as the gas is treated with a fuel stabilizer, which works by preventing the fuel from degrading inside the tank. if you prefer this option, then simply follow the instructions printed on the fuel stabilizer bottle.

Step 4: Drain The Engine Oil

What You Will Need

  • Wrench

When it comes to the engine oil, you need to drain it from the engine, especially if your ride uses conventional oil. and this is a very easy process which I explained in this (for ATVs) and this (For UTVs) article, but to summarize here, this is how you do it:

  • Locate The Drain Plug In Your UTV/ATV: This is usually found on the bottom of your machine’s frame, right below the engine. depending on the model that you have, you may or may not need a wrench to remove the plug
  • Remove the drain plug: After you find the plug, remove it and oil should start coming out of the hole. make sure you have a small container right under the plug before removing it so that you don’t spill oil all over the place. after that, just put the plug back in.

Step 5: Remove The Battery & Connect To Trickle Charger

What You Will Need

If you leave the battery on the UTV/ATV for long periods of time without it being used, then the battery is slowly going to run out of charge and be dead by the time you start riding again. because of this, it’s important to take the battery out.

After you take it out of the machine, you are going to have to get yourself a trickle charger, which is a device that connects to the battery and keeps the battery power levels constant, avoiding a dead battery because of lack of use. you can also of course just use the battery in your car or even another UTV/ATV if you have one.

Step 6: Make Sure Tire Pressure Is Adequate( Or Remove Them If Possible!)

What You Will Need

When it comes to the tires, there are 2 things that you can do: the first one is taking the tires off and leaving the UTV/ATV suspended with most of its weight on a platform, or you can also leave them on, making sure that the tire pressure is correct and that the tires are not going to deflate over time.

The second choice is what I recommend. the only thing that you need to worry about is the tire pressure. ideally, you should be checking the pressure every 30 days while the ATV/UTV is stored. also, make sure that the tires don’t have any defect that might contribute to them deflating over a few weeks, damaging the wheel structure.

Step 7: Pest Control (Block All Holes And Places Where Bugs Could Make A Nest)

What You Will Need

  • Nothing

This is something that you shouldn’t skip. UTVs, ATVs, and motorcycles tend to get infested by bugs, mice and other animals when left alone for extended periods of time. because of this you are going inspect your whole machine for holes, nooks, and crannies that a mouse could live in, and then seal the hole with paper. newspapers work well for this.

The most important hole to fill with newspapers is the muffler pipe. it is usually lower to the ground, which means that animals can easily get in there, so filling it with newspapers or something similar is important. you should also try to cover the transmission lever if you have a UTV and any other opening that a small animal could get through really.

Step 8: Store Your ATV/UTV On A Dry, Dark, Indoors Place.

What You Will Need

  • Nothing

After you did all of the above, it’s time to look where to leave the machine! if you have a garage, then you are all set, but many people don’t though. if this is your case, and you really want to put your machine away for the winter, then you can always ask for a neighbor to store it for you. if bob next door has extra space for your ride, then trying doesn’t hurt.

If this isn’t feasible, then you are going to have to store it outdoors. the best thing to do is to leave the machine near a building and chained down to a light pole or another steel frame to avoid getting the ATV robbed. You also should cover it with something, which brings me to the next step:

Step 9: Cover The Machine With A Tarp:

What You Will Need

  • Tarp to cover ATV/UTV

This is the last step. you are going to get yourself a tarp that will cover the UTVs frame completely. It doesn’t need to be anything special, but it should cover the whole frame of the machine so that bugs don’t get into the quad/UTV.

If you are going to be leaving your UTV outside, then obviously get a waterproof tarp.

Other Things To Keep In Mind:

  • Do Not Leave Key On: If your UTV/ATV turns on with a key, then please don’t leave it on the machine. this is because the components inside could rust, which means that your machine might not turn on the next time that you want to ride on it. No having the key on the UTV/ATV also means that it’s less likely for thieves to take your machine.
  • Engage Killswitch If Available: Some ATVs/UTVs have kill switches that will disengage the whole electrical system. If your quad has this system, then it’s a good idea to turn it ON for the winter, especially if you are going to be leaving the battery on.
  • Change Brake and Clutch Fluid If They Are Due For A Change: Some people recommend changing brake and clutch fluid if retiring the ATV for the winter, but this isn’t mandatory though. You shouldn’t refill them unless you haven’t done so in a long time.