Preparing Your ATV for Storage: The Ultimate Checklist

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When your ATV is not used for more than two months, you should take a few crucial steps to ensure your ride stays in good condition and is ready to ride when you are.

In this guide, we’ve made a simple checklist that makes preparing your ATV for storage quick and simple and ensures you don’t miss any essential steps. 

Why Is It Important to Prepare Your ATV for Storage?

Preparing your ATV for storage will significantly reduce the risk of vehicle damage from improper storage and ensure the ATV is ready to go when it’s time to begin using it again. 

Storing your ATV without the proper preparations can lead to issues like dead battery starting problems, fuel degradation, or corrosion.

1. Choose a Suitable Storage Location

Choosing a suitable storage location for your ATV is essential to ensure its safety and maintain its condition throughout the storage period.

What to look for in a good ATV storage:

  • Dark and protected from harmful UV radiation from the sun.
  • Dry and well-vented to prevent moisture buildup. 
  • Somewhere theft-protected, preferably inside a locked building or storage unit with an alarm. 
  • Access to electricity to keep a maintenance charger plugged in through storage.
  • Protected from rodents that can chew on wires and seat covers. 

Check this guide to learn what locations meet these criteria, making them the best places to store an ATV.

2. Clean the Exterior

Begin with a proper wash to ensure old mud doesn’t cause stains or corrosion through storage.

Related: leave mud

3. Consider the Need for Repairs

The off-season is the perfect time to perform any much-needed repairs you didn’t find time for through the riding season.

Now that the bike is clean, any signs of needed repairs become easier to discover. 

The most effective way to discover any unknown needs for repairs is to go through the entire vehicle systematically by performing complete ATV maintenance and service according to our checklist. 

Note any potential problems to have them sorted out until the next riding season. 

4. Stabilize the Fuel and Add Carbon Cleaner

Gasoline tends to go bad over time, leading to starting issues and the fuel lines and carburetor becoming gummed up by old fuel.

This is how to know if your fuel has gone bad.

You can prevent most storage-related fuel problems by filling up the tank and adding a quality fuel additive to ensure the fuel stays fresh through storage. 

I use the Polaris brand “Carbon Clean” additive on my Sportsman because it offers several other benefits besides fuel stabilizing.

  • As the anime implies, it contains ingredients that help remove carbon deposits from the pistons, piston rings, valves, and exhaust systems. 
  • It removes any water from the fuel system that could freeze in cold weather.
  • It is alcohol-free. When used with ethanol-based fuels (E10), alcohol-based fuel treatments can raise the alcohol level above the recommended levels, causing the engine to run too hot, which could potentially cause severe engine damage. 

I’m sure other brands offer similar products, but at least now you know what properties to look for.

  1. Fill up the tank with the recommended fuel.
  2. Add a quality fuel stabilizer. Ensure to follow the instructions on the container to use the right amount. 
  3. Start the ATV and allow the engine to run for 15 to 20 minutes to ensure the fuel stabilizer disperses through the entire fuel delivery system. 

NOTE: If you’re not adding a fuel additive, you must completely drain the fuel tank, fuel lines, and carburetor or injectors of all fuel. 

5. Change The Oil & Filter

While not mandatory for safe storage, many riders prefer to perform a post-season oil change before putting away the ATV. That way, you ensure the engine is good when spring comes. 

Most ATVs should change the engine oil at least once a year, depending on their use.

6. Inspect and Clean the Air Filter and Air Box

Ideally, you should ensure the air filter and box remain clean as a part of your daily pre-ride maintenance, but now is a good time for a thorough inspection and cleansing. Replace the air filter and pre-filter if necessary so you don’t start the next riding season with a dirty filter. 

7. Block All Air Inlet and Exhaust Ports

Consider blocking all openings using a rag to prevent small animals from crawling inside your machine.

  • Engine air intake system.
  • CVT transmission air intake and CVT outlet port.
  • Exhaust muffler.

Just remember to remove all rags before you start your ATV after storage.

8. Inspect & Lubricate

Inspect all cables and ensure they slide without drag. Lubricate all the wires to prevent corrosion through storage.

Also, ensure that grease is applied to all lubricating points. This will expel any trapped moisture that could cause corrosion damage through storage. 

9. Check All Fluid Levels

Before storage, it’s a good idea to ensure all fluid levels are within spec and add more when necessary.

  • Front and read differential (gearcase).
  • Transmission (gearbox)
  • Brake fluid. Most ATVs have one handlebar reservoir and a separate reservoir for the foot lever brake cylinders.
  • Coolant level.

10. Check the Coolant Strength

For the coolant not to freeze in sub-zero temperatures, it needs to be in good condition and have the proper mix between coolant and water, typically 50/50.

To read the coolant strength, you need an antifreeze strength test tool.

11. Fog the Engine

Fogging the engine is a method of coating the engine internals in a layer of fresh oil to protect them from corrosion or seizing piston rings through storage.

Modern two-stroke engines typically have a fully automatic engine fogging feature, but you must do this manually on four-stroke machines.

The exact procedure for doing this might differ between brands and models of ATVs, so please refer to the owner’s manual for instructions for your vehicle. 

This is how to fog the engine on a Polaris Sportsman ATV, but it should work on most ATV engines:

  • Fill up the tank and add fuel treatment to the fuel as described earlier.
  • Remove the spark plug and pour 30-45ml of engine oil into the combustion chamber through the plug holes. 
  • Reinstall the spark plug and torque to specification. Do not over-tighten like many people tend to do!
  • Apply dielectric grease inside each spark plug boot to protect the spark plug from water and corrosion. Reinstall the caps. 
  • Activate the electric starter for 1-2 seconds to turn the engine over a few times. Doing so will force oil behind the piston rings and coat the engine internals with a protective layer of oil.

Note: If you start the ATV during storage, you will disturb the protective film you created from fogging the engine. That is why you should never start the engine while in storage, or you’ll have to do the fogging process all over to keep the engine internals protected. 

12. Drain the Carburator

This step only applies to carbureted ATVs. Drain the carburetor float bowl to remove any water, sediments, or remaining old fuel.

  1. Turn the fuel valve to the OFF position.
  2. Loosen the drain screw at the bottom of the carburetor float bowl.
  3. Drain the contents into a suitable container for proper disposal.
  4. Tighten the drain screw.

13. Prepare the Battery for Storage

Many people forget when putting away their ATVs for storage that all batteries self-discharge at a rate of 1-3% per month, depending on battery type.

In addition, parasitic battery drain speeds up the battery discharge rate until the battery becomes fully discharged.

Your battery will likely become drained entirely when left for months unused. But why is this bad?

When a battery sits in a discharged state for extended periods, it may become permanently damaged or develop a reduced capacity from an internal chemical process known as battery sulfation. 

A crystal layer builds up in the internal battery plates, inhibiting their ability to receive a charge. 

The best way to ensure the battery isn’t ruined through storage is to keep it fully charged the entire time. 

You can achieve this by giving it a top-off charge at regular intervals or connecting a fully automatic charger with a maintenance mode that puts a charge on the battery whenever it drops below a specified level. 

For more information, please refer to our complete guide on proper ATV battery storage.

14. Elevate the ATV

When in storage, it’s best to elevate the ATV and put it on jack stands or suitable wooden blocks so that the tires are slightly off the ground. 

Elevating the ATV has two main benefits.

Firstly, it removes the load and stresses off the suspension, reducing the risk of the sporing losing some of its tension.

Secondly, it ensures the tires remain completely round and don’t form a flat spot, which would cause annoying vibrations. 

15. Cover the ATV

Finally, covering the ATV is recommended to protect it from dust, mechanical impacts, scratches, UV radiation, or curious children climbing all over the vehicle. 

Ensure you use a well-ventilated cover that does not trap moisture, which will lead to corrosion. Plastic-coated materials and tarps are not suited to cover your ATV. 

If you’re storing your ATV indoors but don’t have a suitable cover, it is better to leave it uncovered rather than wrapping it in plastic. 

The Bottom Line

Preparing your ATV for storage does take an hour or two, depending on how thorough you are, but for the longevity of your bike in the end, it’s usually well worth your time. 

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

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