Best Way To Check And Change Oil On Your ATV | Hunt or Shred

From cooling the engine to providing lubrication at super speeds, oil can make or break your engine. It’s essential to know how to check/change oil on your ATV.

The only indicator you have access to when it comes to checking engine oil is the dipstick, which will allow you to assess the quantity and quality of the oil in your ATV. If oil needs to be changed, you will need to drain the old oil and fill in the new one following simple steps.

Not checking and changing your engine oil at correct intervals can lead to expensive damage to the engine. Come to think of it, the cost of annual oil changes for an ATV is around $120. But if your engine needs to be overhauled, costs can run up to $4,000.

According to expert mechanics, oil changes are little costs that you should not try to avoid. An attempt to save a few dollars will most likely run you into problems that could cost an arm and a leg. Many problems root from rancid oil, such as overheating, excessive wear and tear of the engine, decreased performance, and overall engine life.

Table of contents


How to Check Engine Oil

Low engine oil can kill your engine. It can lead to very expensive overhauls to outright engine replacements. You can save yourself from these expensive problems simply by checking the engine oil at the right time.

Checking your ATV Oil is a very simple process. Here is how to do it

Allow engine to Cool Down

Start by parking your quad on a level surface and if it has been running, turn it off and let the engine cool down for at least ten minutes.

Since the oil moves to all parts of the engine, the oil needs to settle down to get the correct reading. After ten minutes, the oil should all be in the reservoir, and you can take a reading.


As the name implies, the dipstick is a stick that stays dipped in the oil. It will be located on the side of the engine and will have the letters OIL written on it.

Once you find it, start by using a clean cloth to clean around the dipstick. Then hold it firmly and unscrew it counterclockwise.

Understanding the Dipstick

Remove the dipstick and clean it. The dipstick will have some marks labeled as LOW, ADD, or "L," or it may have a dot or a line. This is the minimum oil level. Allowing the oil to go below this level can cause severe damage to the engine.

The stick will also have an upper mark, labeled as FULL, "F," or it may have a dot or line. It is advisable not to fill the oil beyond this level, as it can also damage engine parts.

Reading the Oil Level

Once you have cleaned and understood the dipstick, you will need to put it back into its place on the engine. Some ATVs require you to take the reading by simply dipping the stick into the engine, while others require you to screw it in all the way.

Once dipped back in, now remove the dipstick and check the oil level on it. The level should be between the top and bottom markings. If it is too low, you will need to add some oil.

Adding Oil

For adding oil, it is best to use a funnel. You must add the same grade oil that is in the engine. Make sure to add a little at a time and take frequent readings. You do not want to go over the limit as it can cause damage to your engine.

When to Check Engine Oil

It is best to check your oil at frequent intervals. It is good practice to check the oil after every other ride. But if you ride in extreme conditions such as mud, rough terrain, or snow, it is advisable to check the oil more often.

Checking the engine oil is a simple process and should not take you more than a few minutes. But it can prove to be a turning point for your ATV's engine life.

When to Change

Ideally, you should consult the user manual to find out the best intervals for an oil change. No one understands a machine better than the one who manufactured it. Sticking to the user's manual helps maximize the life of your precious quad.

There are many opinions on how frequently an ATV needs an oil change. Most experts believe that the first, or break-in, oil change should be done at 25 hours of use. Then at every 100 hours of use, 1000 miles or every year, whichever comes first.

A Few Signs of Bad Oil

If you love to go rough and tough with your quad, there is a chance that your engine and its oil are taking a toll. In addition to the scheduled maintenance, you might be required to change the engine oil sooner than you expected.

Here are some key signs your ATV gives you, which means it is time to pay attention to the engine oil.

Oil Color

We all love that golden transparent color of the engine oil. We wish it could stay that way longer. But with time, you notice the oil becoming darker and eventually black.

One of the many functions of engine oil is to trap contaminants. With time, as more and more impurities are trapped in the oil, it starts to become darker. There are two cases when you should change your engine oil; if it is very dark or black or stays golden over long periods.

The oil that remains golden for longer than usual means it is not picking up contaminants or impurities from the engine. Although you might be tempted to feel proud about the cleanliness of your engine, it is not the case. It is best to change the oil and go for a different brand as soon as possible.

Gritty or Rough Oil

Dark oil does not necessarily mean that it has gone bad. Some engines darken the oil quicker than others. So oil color alone might not be a very reliable indicator to change your oil. It is important to pay attention to other factors as well.

Try pinching off a little from the dipstick with your finger and thumb when you check your engine oil. Rub the oil between your fingers, and if anything in the oil feels rough or gritty, it is time to change.

The oil starts to feel gritty when it has reached its capacity of collecting impurities. Using gritty oil any further will not only make your ATV underperform, but it can also be detrimental to the engine.

Noisy Engine

There are hundreds of moving parts in your ATV engine, most of which move at very high speed. It is important to have the right lubrication between the parts to make sure they smoothly move along with each other.

As the oil is used, it becomes thinner and starts to lose its lubricating properties. When this happens, you will notice your ATV engine running noisier. However, since ATV engines are already noise factories and the noise increases slowly, it is difficult to notice if the engine has become noisier.

It is best to idle your engine and pay attention to unusual sounds like knocking or metal grinding. If you any abnormal noise, bad oil might be the culprit.

Vibrations while Idle

Usually, ATVs are smooth when at idle and have only little vibrations. But if your ATV is vibrating out of the ordinary at idle, this means that something needs to be checked.

Your ATV might be vibrating due to a clogged air filter, a faulty spark plug, or other settings. But it can also be due to overused oil. It doesn't hurt to pull out the dipstick and check the oil condition before moving to more complex solutions.

Peculiar Ticking Noise

As soon as you press the button to start your ATV, engine oil begins to circulate. If you notice that your ATV engine is making a peculiar ticking sound as soon as you turn it off, it could mean that the oil has become dirty. The oil is having a hard time moving through the valves and going back down.

Most ATVs require minor oil top-ups from time to time. But if you find the oil below the minimum level more frequently, you will need to check for any leaks around the drain plug or air filter. If there are no leaks and you are losing oil, you will need to take your quad for major servicing.

How to Change

If you think you can change the oil on your ATV as your next DIY project, you can. Changing the oil on your ATV is just like a car oil change but much simpler. Let us look at the steps you will need to follow.

The Right Supplies

You have purchased the right oil for your quad. Now you will need some simple tools to perform the change. You will need:

  • The correct oil and oil filter
  • A drain plug washer, if equipped
  • Screwdrivers, a few wrenches to dismantle and reinstall parts
  • A few rags - you never know when you could need some
  • A drain pan to collect the old oil
  • A funnel for pouring the new oil into the engine
  • Gloves

Find Your Way Around

With the right supplies at hand, you will need to check what parts you need to remove to access the oil filter and the drain plug. For some ATVs, you need to remove the seat, and for others, you need to take off a side panel, giving you easy access to the engine. Whatever your ATV design is, it helps to know beforehand how to get around it.

Once you access the oil drain plug and filter, start your ATV and let it run for at least ten minutes. Warming up your engine helps the oil flow easier, and it will drain better and quicker.

Drain the Oil

Once the engine is warmed up, put the drain pan under the engine and remove the drain plug. Exercise caution while doing this as the engine will be hot, and so will the oil. Use an extension socket to access the drain plug and unscrew it. Allow the oil to drain into the pan completely. Once the oil is removed, you can then remove the filter.

Adding Oil

Before putting in the new oil, remember to put the drain plug back in place and tighten it. Also, apply a little oil to the O-ring of the new oil filter and screw it back on, tightening as required.

Then add the two quarts of oil by placing a funnel on top of the new filter and pouring the new oil into the funnel.

Once completed, start the ATV and let it run for a few seconds. This will allow the new oil to reach all areas of the engine. You will also see if there is any leakage from the oil filter or the drain plug.

Turn off the engine and check the level with the dipstick. If it is low, keep adding small amounts and frequently checking until full. Once done, tighten all bolts and replace all the panels you initially removed.

Choosing the Oil

If you have ever gone oil shopping, you must have noticed a wide array of different oils lined up. Each bottle has a different appeal, and you soon get confused about which oil to buy. Sometimes, they all look good, and at other times, none of them look good.

It is best to first consult your ATVs user manual before selecting to find out which oil is best suited for your quad. Even for the recommended type, you will find a wide variety of oils.

There are three main categories of oils; mineral, semi-synthetic and synthetic. The mineral oil is mostly naturally occurring, and fully synthetic is manufactured.

Synthetic Oil

Synthetic oil is manufactured using chemical compounds. Initially, performance cars and jet engines used synthetic oils. But nowadays, they are becoming increasingly popular due to their benefits.

With a lot of research, oil manufacturers have found the right blends to suit your ATV that maximize its performance. While the main content of your oil bottle is still oil derived from crude oil, extra refining, and complex additives greatly improve the quality of the oil.

Can I Use Any Oil?

You might have some oil leftover from the last oil change on your car. Although you might be tempted to save a few dollars and use it on your quad, it is advised not to do so. Your ATV is built for a different purpose as compared to your car.

When was the last time your car ran through muddy ditches or over a dune with the engine clocking at six thousand rpm? These harsh conditions require the oil to do more jobs than regular automotive oil.

Most automotive oils lie in the 5w-20 to 20w-50 range; ATV oils can have a wider range between weights like 0W-40, 10W-40, or 5W-50.

It is best to stick to the manufacturer's recommendation to ensure a long life for your rugged ATV.





41 years old. I'm a freelance writer that specializes in informational blog posts. All my articles are detail oriented and well researched. I'm a huge Arizona Cardinals fan!

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