If you're contemplating buying a used ATV, you need to know what its lifespan is so you don't end up stuck somewhere with a dead ATV.
An ATV, just like any other vehicle, is just a machine that will one day stop working. Generally, any ATV that has crossed the 10,000 mile mark will start causing problems. But there are various other things that you need to factor in when estimating how much life your ATV has left in it.
If you're an ATV owner trying to estimate how much longer your ATV will last, or if you're just someone looking to buy a used machine, you should know that the age of the ATV is not a very good indicator of how much life is left in it. There are factors that can shorten the life of an ATV or elongate it. That's why it is important to know how, where and for how long the ATV was driven. Only then can we estimate how much more it is capable of.
After chatting with several ATV enthusiasts, people who have owned and driven these vehicles for years, and reading up on many articles and forums, I have come up with a list of signs that indicate that your ATVs parts are about to fail.
If you observe any of the indications, take it as a sign that the ATV won't last much longer. So if you are looking for a used ATV, make sure it doesn’t show any of these signs. On the other hand, if you are an owner who recalls having observed any of the signs in your machine, then it's time to upgrade.
Signs of a Failing ATV
Loss of Power
ATVs normally use an engine that works the same way as a car engine. Loss of power is an indication that your engine has worn out. More often than not, the piston in the engines is the reason for this issue, the piston or the rings have worn out leading to loss in performance. If the problem escalates, it could lead to engine stalling as well. You would need to replace the entire engine or buy a new ATV.
Unusual Odors or Smells
An internal leak could lead to the engine burning off the engine coolant. This would give out a sweet smell along with white smoke in the exhaust of the ATV.
Another reason for the unusual smell could be that the piston rings have worn out and lubrication oil is seeping into the combustion chamber. This would lead to dark sooty exhaust smoke. This is a red flag indicating poor engine condition. It would potentially result in engine seizure.
Ticking Noise in the Engine
This is again a sign of a failing engine; these kinds of sounds arise when oil seeps into the combustion chamber hindering the combustion process. This leads to an unusual sound in the engine.
This can also happen due to weakening cam chains, when they are stretched or do not have enough tension, they result in engine noises.
Loss of Mileage
This is another sign that the engine has weakened, this is probably occurring due to a problem in the compression stroke of the engine. The engine should be checked as soon as possible.
Popping or Clicking Sounds When Turning
Put your ATV in reverse, turn the handle bars all the way one way. If you hear a sound that persists or even gets louder, it means that there's a problem in the axle. You would also feel clunk sounds when accelerating or during transmission shifts.
Cracks and Rust on Frame
Upon close inspection, if you find cracks in the body of the ATV, which would appear as dark silver or black lines, take it as a red flag. Cracks and rust on the frame are clear indicators of a damaged and weakened body. A chassis with cracks on it means either the machine has been in an accident or was pretty roughly used.
Cracks and rust compromise the structural integrity of the ATV, the body of it will never have the same strength as it did before. It would be wiser to replace the ATV if you encounter these signs.
Vibrations and Under Steering
Vibrations and poor steering can have two major causes. Feeling vibrations means that the ATV is not stable, and could possibly indicate a faulty axle.
Another reason for this could be weak bearings and ball joints. This would again lead to vibrations in the wheels and sloppy steering. If these signs ever come up in your machine, get them checked immediately. Ball bearings and ball joints, if not in the proper condition, can separate during use which could lead to major accidents.
These are some of the major signs that would indicate whether an ATVs lifespan is close to the end or not. Some very old ATVs are up and running even today, because like I said, their life depends more on how you maintain them rather than the number of miles they have covered. What are the major ATV killing habits, you ask? Well, I'll list them down for you.
What Shortens an ATVs Life
Not Changing the Oil
Oil lubricates the engine components minimizing wear and tear. But oil needs to be changed after a certain time or after a certain number of miles have been covered. Failing to do so would indefinitely lead to engine degradation shortening the life of your beloved ATV.
Running with Loose Bolts
Tight nuts and bolts keep the ATV from falling apart More specifically, this helps in distributing shocks throughout the structure without one part having to bear too much stress. Loose nuts prevent the stresses from moving from one part to another, with a certain part bearing more than its fair share of stress. This leads to weakening of the structures and shortening the vehicle's life. Lug nuts, pivot bolts and axle nuts, these are just some of the nuts and bolts you should be tightening regularly.
Not Cleaning Off Mud
Mud and dirt have a way of rubbing the paint off of the ATVs body. This gives way for rust to settle in, which as we know sucks the strength out of metals. And since we're on the topic of rust, drying off your ATV after a muddy, wet ride or after washing it is also extremely important. Not doing so would increase chances of rust claiming your ATV.
Crashing the ATV
Although ATVs are built for rough and tough roads, they're still not immune to structural damage. Crashing it into trees and bushes and riding straight into craters will significantly reduce its life.
Avoiding the above practices would substantially improve your ATVs lifespan and make it live well past 10,000 miles.
About THE AUTHOR
23 years old. I work at a motocross store where we specialize in gear, parts, and apparel for ATV and UTV riders.Read More About Kellie