How To Wash ATV: Step By Step Guide | Hunt or Shred

You had fun with your ATV running through muddy tracks. Now, you find your ride full of mud and dirt. Here’s the ‘How to wash ATV: step by step guide’ you need.

Properly washing your ATV will make it look good and add more years to its life. It takes basic tools and some time to get your ATV looking like new again. After letting your ride cool down, you will need to cover its parts and begin washing. After drying, a little polish will add to the aesthetics.

You need to take care of your precious baby to make sure that it doesn't end up becoming a pile of rusted steel. The mud and soil stuck in the framework can quickly rot your ride and needs to be cleaned out. It is best to get to cleaning as soon as you can because over time, the mud can harden and become part of your ATV forever.

We went out and about to ask numerous experienced ATV owners about washing their rides. All of them emphasized that basic washing needs to be done after every off-asphalt ride. They all had their style of washing, but summed up, they provided similar steps to the ones that follow, just like Napa Online.

Table of contents


How Often to Wash Your ATV?

Everyone has their unique style when it comes to keeping their ride clean and pristine; all of them can be classified into four major categories:

  • The Fanatics - Noooo! Are those fingerprints on my handlebar?
  • The Respectable - It should be clean before I put it away.
  • The Lazy - Yes, it should be clean, but I will start soon. I am busy with other things right now.
  • The Muddy - Say what? Clean an ATV? It has to be dirty!

You are the best judge to know when you need to clean your precious ride. It is best to strike a balance; don't overdo it, but don't be lazy with it either. Left alone, a dirty and muddy ATV will start to accumulate rust. Rusting in some areas, such as suspension arms, can also be a threat to your safety.

Similarly, mud left on can harden and permanently scar or scratch your paint job when you try to get it off later.

If you like to go on muddy tracks and dirt trails, you will need to clean more often than if you only drive around on paved roads. Whatever the case, make sure to strike a balance - if it looks dirty, it needs to be cleaned.

The Equipment

To provide the best care to your ATV, you can invest in fancy equipment like high pressure washers, foaming cannons, and expensive automotive detergents. But sometimes, simple things like a garden hose, liquid detergent, sponge, and rags are all you need to keep your ride clean and shiny.


A pressure washer is hands-down the most favorite tool of all ATV owners. It makes the job of washing so much easier. Watching the high-pressure blast mud off the wheels, radiator, and plastics is so satisfying to watch. A good washer saves some serious frustration and time. It is also more environmentally-friendly as it uses less water than a typical garden hose.


Brushes will help you access hard-to-reach areas. Try to invest in a variety of brushes, such as:

  • Wheel brushes to care for your alloys
  • Stiff, long-stemmed brushes for your undercarriage and metal parts
  • Medium brushes for those plastic pockets

Wash Mitts

Do not use brushes on painted parts of your ATV. Anything that comes in contact with the shiny surfaces of your ride can damage the coat. Microfiber wash mitts help to protect the paint and make the job easier.

It is recommended that you get at least two washing mitts of a different color. This way, you can keep one for the really dirty parts and the other for the not-so-dirty areas.


Automotive detergent works great for your ATV and is better at getting your ride looking clean and pristine. It is best to use a little detergent and work it on with your wash mitts and brushes.

If you invest in a foamer, you can apply a thick foam coat above and below your vehicle and then scrub and wash using wash mitts and brushes.

For some oily spots, you might require a degreaser. Letting the degreaser and detergent set in works wonders for oil stains.

Plastic Scrapers

A plastic scraper helps with stubborn clumped mud and debris chunks. You can use the scraper freely without having to worry too much about paint and coating.

Microfiber Towels

For the best finish, you will require some normal and at least one microfiber towel. You can use the normal towels to dry the lower part of your ATV and the microfiber for the painted and polished parts.


You never know when and where you might need a rag to clean. It is best to keep some rags aside for underside and dirty areas.

The Steps

Cool Down

You get off your four-wheeler, and you notice it to be very dirty, and what do you do? You grab a hose and start to water it down; this is a common mistake that many riders make.

Putting cold water onto a heated vehicle can cause expensive damage to the engine. Allow the engine to cool down for at least 15 to 20 minutes before spraying it with water. It will be safe for your engine and save you from getting burnt from the hot components.


Start by selecting a spacious place where you can easily have your vehicle and cleaning gear together. You will be moving about a lot, so it is best to be away from obstructions like low ceilings or furniture in which you can stub your toe. It is best to wash on brickwork or paved surfaces as it will be easier to clean afterward.

Remember, ATVs can accumulate a lot of mud and garbage, and washing in the wrong places can make your environment dirty. If you have access to water, you can also choose a remote location, such as a forest, to do the dirty work there.


Not all components of your four-wheeler are designed to get hit by high-pressure water. It is important that you carefully cover all sensitive parts. Pay close attention to the ignition switch, engine, and other switches.

If water creeps into sensitive parts, you might need a professional mechanic to diagnose and fix the problem. It is better to take precautions beforehand.

Removing Debris and Mud

Your ATV is a mud magnet, and a lot of mud and debris can get stuck to it. You will need to soften mud clumps and scrape them off with a plastic scraper. You can also choose to water down your quad and wash the debris off before applying soap.

Plastic scrapers are not as threatening to paint jobs as other cleaning objects, but it is still advisable to be careful with them.

High-Pressure Rinsing

A pressure washer will quickly and efficiently remove any stubborn mud that has fallen in love with your quad. Pressure washers work wonders in saving you the effort of scrubbing and scraping.

It is important to select the right kind of washer to get the best results. Try to aim for a pressure washer that gives 1400-2000 psi to get the job done.

Soaping and Scrubbing

Once your quad is free from clumped dirt, you can start putting soap on. Apply some automotive detergent using soaked wash mitts. Try to use different wash mitts for the top and undercarriage areas and cover everything from the handlebar to the tires.

You can use brushes to pull out grime from hard-to-reach areas. It is best to use softer brushes on painted and polished parts and stiffer ones on metal parts. Don't forget to pay attention to the rims and tires. Use the wheel brush to clean inside the rim slots.

For the oily areas, you will need to apply a degreaser. You can mix the degreaser with the detergent and let it sit in for a while before scrubbing.

In the end, give your quad a good pressure wash to get all the detergent and degreaser fully off once they have done their jobs.


Some people wash their quad and then leave it out in the sun to dry itself. Please don't do this; it is a quad, not some old clothing. Not properly drying out your vehicle can lead to rust accumulation.

Use a clean towel to wipe off the water and dry the top and other components of your ride, frequently wringing out the towel as required. If you have an air compressor, it can make your job much easier. High-pressure air can blast water out of nooks and crannies and get your ATV dry in no time.


Now that your ATV is clean and pristine, it is time to add to the aesthetics. Spray on some plastic polish and wipe it down to get that lustrous shine. But do not overdo it. Rubbing too much into polish can damage your paint.

You might be tempted to make your seat match the shine of the rest of your quad, but don't do it. Polished seats are slippery, and you will have difficulty staying seated, especially on bumpy rides.

Go the Extra Mile

Got a long weekend coming up and have nothing to do? Why not spend some quality time taking care of your precious vehicle.

The following services are not to be done with every wash but do consider doing them at least once at the end of every season.

The Skid Plates

The skid plates, installed at the very bottom, protect vital components from mud and debris. But some mud and debris will go past them and clump onto your machine parts. Take these shields off, and you will be surprised at how much grime there is inside. Use water from a hose and a long thin brush to wash off all the debris.

With these shields off, you also get a chance to inspect vital components of your quad. Look for any unwanted accumulations or damages on the suspension arms, engine base, and other areas.

Electrical Wiring

The wiring on your quad is covered using plastic tubing that is slit on the side. This slit is there for a purpose, but it also acts as a doorway to debris and mud. Too much mud and debris left on wires can cause chaffing and lead to short circuits.

You do not want to uncover wiring and unwrap entire harnesses. But make sure to check the exposed areas and clean them with a brush or rag. Be careful when cleaning wires and do not tug or pull any wires during the process.

In addition to the wiring, some components are installed low on your quad. Please make sure you pay attention to them and keep them clean. Any electrical components becoming faulty can directly affect the performance and ride quality of your quad.

More Mud Hiding Spots

Most manufacturers claim that their ATV chassis have been triple treated with corrosion-resistant chemicals and then powder coated and painted up. If we take their word for it, we should not have any rust on our precious rides. But this, as we all know it, is not true. We have all seen brand-new rides with rust starting to creep up from the tight spaces.

Upon close examination of the chassis, you will notice that there are quite a lot of little spaces for mud and debris to hide. Use a water hose and a thin brush to access these places and remove all the muck sitting there.

Handling the Pressure Washer

It would be best if you were careful when using the high-pressure washer on your ATV. Wrong pressure settings and angles can push debris into seals. Damaged seals can lead to leaking lubricants and ultimately costly repairs. If you want to give extra life to rotating parts such as ball joints and bearings, it is best to use low pressure when working on the undercarriage.

Similarly, you must be careful with your pressure settings in other areas of your machine. High pressure can damage many other parts, such as radiator fins and plastic fittings.

Pay Attention to the Tires

A long handle stiff brush is a good tool for washing tires. The long handle helps you reach areas on the inside of the tire. Turn the handle left and right for the front wheels to make areas more accessible and easier to clean. Apply detergent to the brush and scrub the rubber well. Rinse off with water to get that original black rubbery look.

Do not use the same brush on those shiny and polished rims. It will damage the chrome and lead to rusting. You can use a washing mitt for the rims in general and a soft brush to reach the inside of small slots.

It is important to have the right tools and use them only for the purpose intended. The wrong tools and equipment can end you up with a condition worse than the one you originally started with.




23 years old. I work at a motocross store where we specialize in gear, parts, and apparel for ATV and UTV riders.

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