Just because winter is here and the snow has fallen, doesn’t mean your ATV has to locked away for months on end. Yes, driving in sub-zero snowy conditions is challenging however your machine is called an all terrain vehicle for a reason.
With the right skills, preparation and gear there is a lot you can enjoy from ATV riding this time of year.
And that’s exactly what we are going to dive into here. This article will reveal some essential tips so you can get out there with your ATV no matter how much of the white stuff is on the ground.
ATV Snow Driving – Gear Prep
ATV upgrades and accessories are an essential element in preparing your vehicle for the snow.
Let’s take a look at some of the most important you should consider.
We’ll start with the obvious. If you want increased traction and increased driver safety larger diameter tires are a good starting point. They will offer greater ground clearance (which will help you from getting stuck in raised snow beds) and will have improved bite on the edges.
Tire chains also improve traction, but we suggest you use them for only working with your ATV and not full-speed riding.
ATV track kits are another great way of adding traction to your wheels.
Replicating the method of transit of the snowmobile, you will literally ride on top of the snow rather than through it.
Track kits vary in their configuration. Some models will have tracks that cover all four wheels, others may cater for rear wheels and require skis for the front.
If you do decide to add a track kit, it is wise to contact the manufacturer first to ensure that there will not be any incompatibility issues with your ATV.
The kits do vary greatly in price and design, so explore your options before you buy.
ATV Snow Plows
Adding a snowplow is a good way of ensuring your ATV will cope with the tough conditions.
We have covered in detail some of the best ATV snow plows currently available here. The fact is there are a wide selection of sizes, designs and shapes to choose from.
Much like the track kit scenario, before you buy anything you should check with the manufacturer to ensure the snow plow will fit with your vehicle.
Winches are a great addition to your ATV and can be used in situations all year round. If you get stuck in a snow drift, a powerful winch will likely save your bacon.
Furthermore, if you decide to fit a snow plow to your ATV, many models require a winch to power the up and down movement of the plow.
If you plan on being out in the bracing cold for long, you will want to minimise the wind chill factor as much as possible.
To that end, windshields, hand guards and gauntlets are all worthwhile ATV additions that will make your ride a whole lot more comfortable.
Gauntlets have the added benefit of creating a water-resistant barrier between the elements and your hands.
Stopping the cold from penetrating you is one thing, actually heating you is another.
There are now a number of electronic devices that can be fitted to your ATV that work to warm you up.
Everything from heated grips to seat warmers can be installed. All will make a big difference to your overall enjoyment while out in the snow. There’s nothing worse than being freezing.
ATV Snow Driving – Vehicle Prep
So we’ve looked at the various accessories you can buy to modify your ATV for winter conditions. Now it is time to look at the general vehicle maintenance and preparation work you can undertake to ensure that your ATV is up to the job of being out in the snow.
Ant-freeze oil and solutions
Sub-zero temperatures put a strain on the engine. You will need oil that is suited to the cold, and this could mean conducting an oil change.
In order to help your motor start in the cold it is worth looking into fuel drier isopropyl additive or fuel antifreeze. These will help prevent the gas line from freezing over and ice from setting in on the inside of the tank walls.
While safely at home you should ensure that the brake discs are not worn and the fluid levels are as they should be.
While you are out using your ATV in the cold you will have different problem. The brakes will heat up and melt the snow lodged in the rotor and wheel. When you stop driving for a period of time, this melt will turn into ice inside your important break mechanisms.
This can result in your brakes performing badly when you hop back on to ride.
If you are in a position to do so, a sprinkle of warm water over the wheels can alleviate the issue, (you can also pee over the wheels if you feel the need to go).
The radiator is another part of your ATV that can suffer if too much ice and snow packs up around it.
This can and will occur if you are driving through deep snow. If this happens there is a very real possibility that your motor could over heat as the radiator will not be able to cool down efficiently.
You should obviously ensure that the radiator is topped up with anti-freeze solution so that the water inside doesn’t freeze up while the vehicle is not in use.
The last thing you want is to be out on the trail somewhere only for your ATV battery to fail.
A newly charged or fresh battery is an important consideration and will bring peace of mind while you’re out in the wilderness.
The battery will also be under more strain if it is being made to power additional accessories such as a winch, extra lights or a heated seat.
Finally, one of the most important vehicle maintenance tips to follow in wintery conditions is to clean your ATV after use.
Corrosive salt or ice-melt products are detrimental to the longevity of your ATV’s body work and engine if they are allowed to sit and fester.
After riding you should wash the vehicle down thoroughly and apply WD-40 to the various exposed components.
This will ensure your vehicle is in a clean, tip-top condition next time you choose to use it.
ATV Snow Driving – Tips for the trail
So your ATV is prepped, you’ve added the accessories you need and you’re ready to hit the trail.
Here are some essential tips to remember when you’re out driving in challenging snowy conditions.
Never trail alone
If you’re heading out on a wilderness trail, you should always team up and go with a friend. If anything happens out there, (i.e you fall off and become incapacitated) you’ll stand a far greater chance of getting out if you are with some one.
In extreme cold hyperthermia can set in very quickly. Where time is of the essence you cannot afford to wait around hoping that someone will find you.
Do you have permission to be there?
Not all trails will accept ATV use in certain times of the year. The trail may also be closed. You should make sure that you are not breaking the law by being there with your ATV.
Look out for other people using the trail, and find out online before you leave whether your chosen route is allowed.
Stick to the rules
Once you have established that the trail is open for business, make sure that you follow the rules that are set out to keep everyone safe.
Pay attention to the signs (some of which may be hard to read due to being covered in snow, so stay vigilant in trying to spot them), and stick to the parts of the trail that have been designated for vehicle use.
Follow reasonable etiquette too. Give way to snow mobiles, (they have the capacity for greater speed in the snow so will not want to be bogged down behind you).
And slow down when visibility is bad or for twists and turns. You never know if someone has come off their vehicle around a blind corner. If you’re heading towards them at too high a speed, you’re looking for trouble.
What lies beneath
What may look like a path of smooth fresh snow may have some hidden obstacles. The snow fall may have covered obstructions such as fallen trees or large boulders, and they will do some severe damage to you and your ATV if hit at speed.
This is where keeping to the trail path is important; there will be far less chance of surprises hidden beneath the white stuff.
Ice & Lakes
While it is tempting to traverse across a frozen pond or lake you need to be more than 100% sure it is safe to do so.
Do not attempt to take your ATV across a frozen body of water unless it has at least six inches of solid ice. Even then, ice surroundings islands or land inlets will potentially be thinner. The fact you do not know how uniform the coverage is, makes this one a bit of a lottery. Tread carefully, that’s the best advice we can give.
And there you have it. Hopefully with these various tips you will be able to head out with your ATV and enjoy all the thrills that winter trailing has to offer.
Have fun and stay safe.