Are ATVs High Maintenance? (The Harsh Truth)

One of the reasons why people enjoy renting out ATVs whenever they feel like riding on mountain trails instead of buying one is the maintenance. Even though ATVs are built for rugged trails, this doesn’t mean that you get to skip maintenance. In fact, four-wheelers require more maintenance than regular cars because you will be riding them mainly on bad roads.

ATVs are high maintenance. In fact, they are higher maintenance than regular cars because people ride them on rugged trails. Four-wheelers require regular maintenance such as changing the engine oil, differential fluid, air filter, engine coolant, bakes, and tires every year. In fact, you will have to change the fluids and schedule regular checkups depending on how often you ride the ATV on the trail.

ATV Maintenance Checklist:

  • Check and change the oil;
  • Check the brake fluid (also the braking pads);
  • Check the spark plugs;
  • Check the condition and pressure of the tires (also look for loose bolts)

Even though it might be discouraging to learn that ATVs are high maintenance, I still have some good news to share. ATV maintenance is not that complicated. You can do it all from your garage and I’ll explain how.

Are ATVs High Maintenance?

pouring oil

Some might be shocked to find out that ATVs are higher maintenance than regular cars. However, there is a good reason for that. Just think about the fact that you drive your car on paved roads and avoid all potholes but still have to do regular maintenance such as changing the oil, tires, and brake pads every year. Considering that you will be riding your ATV on difficult roads such as muddy or mountain trails, it’s understandable that you need to do maintenance far more often on a quad.

On the bright side of things, ATV maintenance is not too complicated. You don’t need to take the ATV to the mechanic’s shop every couple of months (as you do with a vehicle). In fact, changing the oil is the most “complicated” thing you have to do. Don’t worry. I have a complete oil changing guide that shows you how to do this.

What Regular Maintenance Should be Done On an ATV?

Below you can find a more detailed version of the ATV maintenance checklist that I showed in the intro:

#1 Check and Change the Oil

Changing your four-wheeler’s oil should always be at the top of your priority list. If you don’t do it on time, then you will have to spend a small fortune on repairs. This is thanks to the fact that the oil ensures the engine runs smooth. In general, it is recommended to change your ATV’s oil every 50 to 100 hours of use. If you lose track of time when riding ATVs, another rule of thumb is to change the ATV oil every 1,000 miles.

#2 Fill Up the Brake Fluid

I first started riding ATVs when I was about 15 years old. As you can imagine, I had no idea of how ATV engines work, and one of the things that surprised me the most was that I had to change the brake fluid. I thought that only the brake pads needed to be changed. Luckily, you don’t have to change the brake fluid very often. The friendly folks at the Polaris ATV forum agree that you should do it every two years. My advice is to regularly check the brake fluid container and make sure that it’s at the recommended levels. After all, you don’t want to hit the brakes and have nothing happen.

#3 Inspect the Brake Pads for Any Damage

Inspecting the brake pads is one of the most important steps when doing regular ATV maintenance. While brake pads don’t get damaged very often, it can happen when you are riding on difficult trails and little rocks or dust get stuck in between the tire and the pad. This can damage the braking pad, which will make them less effective. It’s also a good idea to take a look at the clutch. Check out the most common ATV clutch problems.

#4 Check the Spark Plugs

If you don’t want your ATV to idle or misfire randomly, then you need to make it a habit of checking the spark plugs. That’s not all. The four-wheeler will use more fuel if you are riding with bad ATV spark plugs. Make sure that you learn how to detect bad spark plugs.

#5 Check Tire Condition and Pressure

Since most of the time you will be riding on rugged trails, you need to pay extra attention to the condition of your tires. Even though ATV tires are designed to handle the most difficult roads and don’t break easily, this can still happen. I personally make it a habit to check my tires before every ride. That’s not all. I also take a look at the tire pressure. This is very important because if you are riding with uneven tire pressure, you will have higher mileage, the quad will be more difficult to handle, and the tires can get punctured easily. ATV tire pressure needs to be between 2 and 10 PSI. Since you are already looking at the tires, check to see if there are any loose nuts.

Final Words

Whether you are planning to buy a 300cc ATV or a 700cc ATV, you still have to do the same level of maintenance. Luckily, ATV maintenance is not very complicated. If you can follow a YouTube guide that shows how to change the oil, you are good to go. My advice to everyone who is new to quads is to don’t overlook maintenance. This is the easiest way to cause serious engine damages that will cost hundreds of dollars to fix. It’s always better to prevent any unwanted issues. Before signing off, I also want to mention that you should clean your ATV chain after every ride! Click here to learn how to clean ATV chains.

Bob Kelly

Hey there, my name is Bob and I've been riding ATVs, dirt bikes, and UTVs for most of my life. Going on outdoor adventures has always been my passion. I love sharing tips and tricks with beginners who are getting ready to join the world of outdoor enthusiasts. You can reach me at if you want to get in touch.

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