A day of riding or racing your ATV doesn't end when you pack up and head home.
You've got to get your 4-wheeler ready for the next ride.
Cleaning your ATV is in many ways like washing the car but with a little bit more detail and a lot more grit. A good cleaning takes time - you can't just hose it down. It's always best to clean off the muck sooner rather than later. Not only is it easier before it dries and cements into place but dirt, grease and grime can wear down the vital parts of your bike, like the bearings, seals, chain and sprockets, among others, much faster. Cleaning is actually the first step in maintaining your ATV.
That ATV is getting dirty!
A variety of cleaners, degreasers and other equipment exist to make the cleaning process quicker, more thorough and bring back a showroom shine. The first step is spray down the major parts with a good quality cleaner. Spray down all plastics, the seat, tires, wheels, frame, and handlebars. Use a degreaser on the chain and sprockets and anywhere the chain lube cakes up and attracts dirt.
Note: Degreaser is not for use on plastic parts.
Before rinsing pop in a muffler plug. After everything you've put your ATV through you don't want to ruin the engine through inadvertent water down the exhaust pipe. An air box cover is also a good idea because you can wash out the air filter box without getting water or debris into your carburetor and engine.
Pre-ride Note: The airbox cover has a drain plug and it's worthwhile to remove this plug, if you're riding in water, to prevent water from puddling at the bottom of the air box and getting sucked into the engine.
ATV Muffler Plugs
ATV Air Box Cover
Now that you've sprayed down your ATV with a cleaner and degreaser and prepped the bike for washing, it's time to break out the hose. Use a mild detergent soap and a mitt or rag. Brushes are fantastic tools to easily remove heavy dirt and grease build up in areas like the chain, sprockets, and wheels.
Pressure washers can be used with caution. Lots of riders use them to help speed up the cleaning process and get into hard to reach nooks and crannies, but be careful. A pressure washer can rip the graphics right off the plastic and tear a hole in the seat. Use the pressure washer on chains and sprockets but don't forget the degreaser. Break up thick mud and muck with a brush. Avoid spraying directly in areas with bearings and electrical components.
ATV Cleaning Brush
Over time, especially without proper cleaning, the aluminum parts of your ATV tarnish. Nerf bars, bumpers and grab bars, but also your wheels, if made of aluminum, need proper cleaning after any ride. Skip the back-breaking work of rubbing compounds or steel wool and opt for a straight-up wheel cleaner. These products work so well all you really need to do is spray on and wipe off. You've probably got a can of it already for your car wheels. Simple Green is a good alternative but avoid avoid letting the cleaner sit on the aluminum for longer than a minute. Steer away from cleaners with acidic properties to avoid pitting your aluminum parts.
Once you're satisfied the mud, muck, dirt and grease is broken up, rinse everything off again. Don't forget to check underneath and on both sides of the tires and wheels.
Now it's time to dry the ATV.
Use a heavy towel to absorb excess water then switch to a microfiber cloth to wipe up the remaining dampness and residual dirt and grease. Microfiber cloths also leave your bike water spot and streak free. Compressed air is useful to dry in tight areas you can't reach like around the engine and to blow water from electrical components. But avoid spraying compressed air into bearings as it can actually push remaining dirt further into your bearings.
ATV Cleaning Accessories
Once dry, use a silicone spray polish on all plastic, and follow-up with a microfiber cloth, to help keep dirt and debris from sticking - this makes it easier to wash after the next ride. The silicone spray also gives that brand new looking shine you're after. Finally, lube up your chain and put in a new air filter if needed.
ATV Spray Polish
That's John Natalie's ride - the only problem with cleaning is you might never want to ride it!
Whether you enjoy cleaning or dread the thought of it, clean-up is an essential part of ATV ownership. Follow these steps after every ride to ensure not only the longevity of your 4-wheeler but so you're ready to roll out on the next ride.
Written By: AndrewT