Can You Keep an ATV Outside? What You Ought to Know

When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn a commission at no additional cost to you. Learn More

Most will agree that an ATV is better off when kept in a dry, vented garage or shed protected from sun and rain. But that is not always an option. How bad is it for your ATV to be left outside instead, exposed to the elements? 

An ATV can be kept outside if stored under a quality cover that breaths and allows enough ventilation to prevent condensation. However, keeping an ATV outdoors without a cover may cause corrosion, electrical issues, paint damage, and increased theft risk.

Before you decide to keep your ATV left outside long term, you need to determine whether you are willing to accept the downsides that may come with it. It’s also a good idea to consider a few simple measures to minimize the potential negative impacts on your bike. 

Before storing your ATV long-term, please refer to your bike’s owner’s manual guidelines for proper storage. These guidelines apply whether you’re keeping your ATV indoors or outdoors under a cover. 

How Rain Affects an ATV

One of the main concerns people have against leaving their ATVs outside is whether it is okay for an ATV to get rained on.

ATVs are designed to be used in the rain, and the occasional shower should not cause any significant issues. But that doesn’t mean it’s okay to keep it outside long term where it gets rained on regularly. Some downsides are corrosion, wet electronics, and damage by acid rain.

Water May Enter Electric Components

A modern ATV is packed with electronic components such as the ECU, electric motors in the power steering and winch, relays, switches, sensors, control panels, speedometer, and more. And as you probably already know, electronics and water do not go too well together. 

Most ATV manufacturers recommend cleaning your bike using a garden hose and a soft brush rather than a pressure washer. If you use a pressure washer, you should not aim it directly at the above electrical components. 

The same applies when the ATV is left outside to get rained regularly. While most of the electronic components on an ATV are designed to withstand the occasional soaking, they are not always entirely waterproof. 

In time, water may enter and cause damage, particularly when left wet for extended periods without a chance of drying up properly. 

Typical damages are short circuits and switches not working or stuck due to internal corrosion.

One can take preventive measures like packing all connectors with dielectric grease to prevent water intrusion. But the best alternative is to store the ATV somewhere it will dry up properly between uses. 

Exposed Metals May Corrode or Oxidate

While most of the metal components in an ATV are painted to withstand corrosion, parts like nuts and bolts, brake disks, rods, and mounting brackets will rust when stored in a moist or wet environment.

Other parts exposed to corrosion are tie rods, a-arms, and frame parts with paint damage from hitting rocks when going off-road. 

Untreated aluminum components are prone to oxidation, where water and air react with the bare metal and leave an oxide surface that adds years to the bike’s appearance. 

Some ATV owners make the mistake of using plastic or any coated material to cover their ATVs. A watertight material such as plastic does not breathe and will allow for condensation buildup, which is almost equal to leaving the ATV out in the rain. 

Related: 15 tips to prevent rust from developing on your ATV

Acid Rain May Damage Paints and Fabrics

This heading may sound overly dramatic, but it holds quite a bit of truth, as it turns out. 

Rain contains a weak but abundant acid formed when carbon dioxide in the atmosphere mixes with rainwater. Other sources of acid rain are sulfur dioxide from coal plants, volcanoes, and coastal marches that react with oxygen and nitrogen and act as chemical weathering agents. 

Although the acids in rainwater are weak, they are plentiful and can gradually cause noticeable damage to painted surfaces and fabrics, like the seat cover, over time.

The Battery Needs to Be Removed for Charging 

When an ATV is not used in a few weeks, and for no more than three months, you should remove the battery for charging. 

When storing your ATV indoors in a dry garage, you could charge the battery while still in the vehicle, at least in a pinch.

However, when the ATV is kept outdoors, you’re better off removing the battery and charging it somewhere dry where moisture won’t disturb the charger and the charging process. 

How UV-Radiation From the Sun Affects an ATV

While I’m not one to complain about a sunny day, it’s essential to remember that too much sun exposure can harm your ATV. 

UV radiation from the sun may negatively impact several of an ATV’s materials. Natural and synthetic polymers such as rubbers, paints, and PVC are particularly prone to damage, known as UV degradation.

Some materials are designed to be more UV-resistant than others, so it can be hard to predict how severely affected your specific ATV will be. Your best bet will be to keep your bike away from direct sunlight whenever not in use. 

These are some of the materials used in ATVs that typically get negatively affected by UV radiation: 

  • Paint: Painted surfaces may fade, change color, and produce a chalky surface. You can polish larger surfaces to restore some shine, but smaller components such as A-arms, suspension, and the handlebar can be more fiddly to repair. 
  • Rubbers and PVC: Parts made from rubber, such as brake lever protectors, handlebar grips, CV boots, wiring, and tires, are receptive to UV degradation. The same applies to PVC used in some seat covers. When these materials are exposed to too much UV radiation, they may fade color, lose strength, become less flexible, crack, and disintegrate. This process happens gradually and can be hard to notice before it’s too late. 

An ATV Kept Outdoors Are More Exposed to Critters

When taking your ATV out of storage, critters and animals may have left an unpleasant surprise for you to discover.  

The seat is particularly prone to damage where mice can eat away pieces, or cats may use the seat cover to sharpen their claws. Late fall, when many put away their ATV for the winter, is also the same time when mice search for their winter residence and maybe a plate to give birth to their offspring. 

While few places are completely safe against unwanted guests like these, your ATV is undoubtedly more exposed when left outdoors than in a dry and preferably closed-off garage or shed. 

Moss and Fungus Buildup

You’d be amazed at how much moss or fungus can grow on an ATV left outdoors through a couple of late-fall or winter months, depending on your local climate and vegetation. 

Dust blowing in the wind may add to the problem by creating a coating of dirt required for most moss and fungus types to thrive. 

Keeping your ATV clean can extend the life of various components. Even if you clean your bike properly before storage, keeping it clean is much easier in a garage’s dry and protected environment than outdoors.

ATVs Are More Prone to Theft Outdoors

Your typical ATV thief is an opportunist, a smash-and-grab type that will take whatever they can get their hands on. 

An ATV left outside is, first and foremost, more visible and, therefore, more prone to theft than when parked in a garage. The barrier of a locked garage door is another aspect that favors keeping your bike indoors. 

Related: 13 Effective Tips to Prevent ATV Theft

How Ice and Sub-Zero Temperatures May Affect an ATV

Keeping your ATV outside in the winter in sub-zero climates adds a new range of issues caused by ice and freezing temperatures.

Water may enter and freeze inside components such as the ignition and all types of electric switches and inside the throttle or brake cable sleeve, effectively leaving them unusable until you can thaw them back up. 

Condensation in the oil or fuel tank is another common issue related to riding in sub-zero temperatures. Keep an eye out for rising levels in the oil tank, as this may indicate that condensation has collected in the bottom of the tank. 

While condensation issues apply to all ATVs operated in sub-zero temperatures, ATVs parked outside are more exposed to rapid temperature changes, the leading cause of condensation. 

Any condensation needs to be drained. To prevent condensation, make sure to run the ATV long enough for it to reach operating temperatures each time you ride it. Also, consider installing an engine heater kit if condensation is causing you significant issues in the winter.

Tips When Storing Your ATV Outside

When storing ATVs outdoors, preventive maintenance is key to ensuring longevity and performance.

  • Quality ATV Cover: Firstly, choose a high-quality cover designed for ATVs; it should be made of breathable, waterproof material to protect against rain and moisture while preventing condensation buildup. Look for covers with UV protection to safeguard against sun damage.
  • Moisture Control: Place the ATV somewhere dry and well-ventilated to reduce the likelihood of condensation.
  • Regular Rust Inspection: Routinely check for rust or corrosion, especially on the exhaust, suspension, and undercarriage.
  • Tire Maintenance: Regularly check tire pressure and inspect for cracks or signs of dry rot due to temperature changes.
  • Electrical Component Checks: Inspect all electrical components for moisture damage or wear.
  • Battery Maintenance: Use a battery tender or periodically charge the battery to combat the effects of temperature variations on battery life.
  • General Condition Check: Periodically inspect the overall condition of the ATV, looking for any early signs of wear or damage due to outdoor exposure.

By following these guidelines, your ATV will remain in good condition, even when stored outdoors.

The Bottom Line

In conclusion, while it’s ideal to store your ATV in a dry, ventilated garage to protect it from sun and rain, sometimes outdoor storage is the only option.

If you must keep your ATV outside, use a breathable, quality cover to minimize risks like corrosion, electrical issues, and paint damage.

Always consult your owner’s manual for specific storage guidelines and take additional steps to protect your ATV from the elements.

Haavard Krislok
Haavard Krislok
Haavard Krislok is an ATV and off-road enthusiast with a rich background spanning two decades in owning, maintaining, repairing, and utilizing ATVs for farming, logging, and hunting. Outside his professional life as an engineer and project manager, he cherishes recreational trail riding and is the creative force behind, serving as its owner, editor, and content creator.

Welcome to Boost ATV

Hi, I’m Haavard, the guy behind Boost ATV.  I made this site to share what I have learned as an avid ATV owner and enthusiast. I hope it can help boost your ATV experience! About Me