Off-Road Vehicle (ORV) Maintenance Guide>
Regular maintenance is the key to getting the most out of your quad or SxS—which, among other things, means riding it as long as possible and as safely as possible. Learn more about choosing the right UTV/ATV oil, coolant, and other essential fluids, and about following the proper upkeep schedule in the following overview.
Typical Maintenance Schedule for Off-Road Vehicles
An easy way to maximize your chances of keeping your ATV or SxS/UTV running smoothly for the long term is following the recommended maintenance intervals laid out in your owner’s manual. Keep in mind that the kind of riding you do will influence this timetable; more intense or severe use of your machine warrants more frequent assessments and service. That kind of use includes regular mud and sand off-roading, ORV racing, the kind of high-load and low-speed operations often involved in farm or ranch work, and plenty of riding in dusty settings.
Let’s break down some of the basic fluid and filters you’ll want to be keeping close tabs on to properly maintain your off-road vehicle.
Engine Oil for ATVs or SxS/UTVs
The oil that lubricates your UTV or ATV engine is, a harder-working oil than your automobile’s. ORV engines run at high temperatures and high RPMs, often have to both get going in frigid weather and run in intense heat. They also commonly operate under intense use for concentrated periods while sitting unused for lengthy intervals in between. To compensate for this comparatively extreme demand, ATV/UTV engine oil has special additives to dissipate heat and maintain a wider range of viscosity and shear stability over longer use than standard automobile oil.
As with automobile motor oil, you can choose between conventional, semi-synthetic, or full synthetic oils for your SxS or quad. Conventional oil is made from a mineral base, synthetic from chemically altered molecules, and semi-synthetics from a mix of the two. Given their superior performance at high temperatures and better stability, synthetic oils tend to be the best choice for UTVs and ATVs.
Any motor oil is obviously vital for allowing the moving parts of an engine to function, and when you consider the extra work and wide range of conditions a UTV/ATV oil is subjected to, maintaining its level and changing it consistently are essential. Check the level of your UTV/ATV motor oil before every ride and add to the full mark if necessary. Consistently dropping oil levels may indicate a leak in the system, which should be promptly investigated and mitigated. A rising oil level, meanwhile, is just as much a cause for concern: It may betray a buildup of contaminants in the oil sump or the crankcase, which also should be dealt with immediately.
Speaking of contaminants—byproducts of combustion, dirt, and other material are among the chief reasons oil needs to be changed regularly. Check your owner’s manual for the recommended schedule; normal ATV or SxS use often requires an oil change every six months, 100 driving hours, or 1,000 miles. Your owner’s manual will also indicate the UTV/ATV oil capacity for your particular machine. It should also suggest when the oil should be changed during the break-in period of a new engine.
Oil Filters for ATVs or SxS/UTVs
Premium base oils specially designed for ATVs and UTVs don’t do much good without the proper high-quality oil filters. The filter should be changed with every oil change, following the same maintenance schedule as the oil itself.
Transmission Fluid for ATVs or SxS/UTVs
As with motor oil, refer to your owner’s manual to select the best lubricant for your ORV transmission, which may be manual or automatic. Although it’s not as necessary as with motor oil, it’s never a bad idea to check the transmission fluid level and appearance before each ride. The fluid should be somewhat clear; clouded or dark transmission fluid indicates contamination—potentially metal flakes from normal clutch/transmission wear that over time can cause significant damage— and should be changed out.
A typical interval for changing transmission fluid in your ATV or SxS is 100 hours (or 1,000 miles, or every year—whatever comes first). For easily tracking this (and of course the window for other fluids), many riders opt to use a meter..
Demand Drive Fluids for ATVs or SxS/UTVs
The Demand Drive fluid recommended for POLARIS ATVs and SxS/UTVs is a lubricant for the front gearcase. These machines typically deal with extreme torque and heavy loads, requiring specialized front drive oil. The schedule for changing this lubricant is generally the same as for the transmission oil: 100 hours, 12 months, or 1,000 miles. And here again, periodically check the level and study the appearance of the front gearcase oil to identify potential leaks or premature contamination.
Antifreeze for ATVs or SxS/UTVs
The antifreeze or coolant for your four-wheeler actually does more than the crucial work of keeping the engine cool: It also helps lubricate some internal components. Premixed antifreeze should not be diluted with water.
As we’ve already spelled out in the motor-oil section, the intense conditions and loads under which UTV/ATV engines operate mean you really have to be diligent about maintaining adequate levels of the recommended coolant. Check the level before each and every ride and add coolant if necessary to the overflow bottle. You should only check the coolant level in the radiator itself if the overflow reservoir is completely dry, which is a potential sign of a leak somewhere in the system. Periodically take a look at the radiator cap as well to make sure it’s in good condition. A degraded or poor-sealing cap will throw off the pressurization of the cooling system, which needless to say is not something you want to let go unattended to. Whether to check the cap itself or the level of fluid in the radiator, only remove the radiator cap when the engine is cool.
Typically, your ATV or UTV coolant should be changed every 60 months.
Keep Your Ride Running Smoothly with Regular Maintenance and the Right Fluids
Follow manufacturer recommendations for the types of fluids and filters to use in your off-road vehicle. Your owner’s manual should dictate how often to perform routine upkeep and maintenance to get the most out of your vehicle. So, check out what your manufacturer suggests for service, perform routine checks, and no matter when the trail is calling, you’ll be ready.