Skip to Content

How Often Should I Start My ATV (Don’t, this is why)

I’m a mechanic and I’m often asked about starting ATVs during hibernation, sure it keeps the battery charged, but it can cause some other issues. Prepping your ATV for hibernation is not difficult, but it does require nailing a few procedures correctly. Getting four simple hibernation steps right will save you a ton of trouble and money.

It’s not necessary to start an ATV if it’s winterized correctly. To keep an ATV in great shape and ready to run at the touch of the start button, follow these four tips:

  1. Store bike indoors
  2. Use a gas stabilizer
  3. Keep gas tank full
  4. Use a smart battery charger
ATV battery test

In this post, you’ll learn why you shouldn’t run your ATV engine for short periods. You’ll also learn how to keep your bike in top shape and ready to roll at a moment’s notice.

Don’t Start Your Bike

I don’t recommend starting your bike during hibernation unless you’re going to ride it. Allowing your bike to idle for a few minutes every few days or weeks does more harm than good. An engine needs to get up to operating temperature before it can burn off the moisture that naturally develops inside the motor.

In addition, starting a cold engine requires a choke, which when repeatedly done simply causes raw gas to wash the cylinder, stripping it of its protective oil coating. Allowing your exhaust to get warm and not hot will only cause condensation buildup, which promotes corrosion.

Starting and riding your bike until it reaches operating temperatures regularly, like every week, is a good thing. It will help keep the brakes clean, the cables operating, and the internals moisture-free. Generally, machinery doesn’t like lying about. But if riding it every few weeks to get it properly warm, isn’t a solution for you then you’ll need to winterize your bike properly.

Winterizing an ATV for long-term storage is a multi-step process that I cover towards the end of this article. But there’s a shorter version, by nailing the four steps laid out below, your ATV will be covered pretty well covered.

1 Storage

Where your bike is stored will have the largest effect on how well your bike survives during the hibernation period. Storing a bike in a heated garage would be the very best solution, and bikes stored indoors will cause the least trouble over their lifetime.

Failing that, a shelter and breathable cover is the next best option. But a breathable cover is important, a plastic sheet will cause condensation and lock it in, which is exactly what you don’t want. A dedicated breathable cover is worth the investment and will pay for itself many times over.

2 Gas Stabiliser

Use a gas stabilizer additive in your gas if you don’t intend to ride your bike inside the next thirty days. Blended gas, which is most gas now, only stays fresh for about a month (depending on storage) and regular gas about three.

Aa blended gas ages it loses its zing, your bike will still run but won’t have the same punch. But add a few more months, and the gas starts to evaporate, and bikes fitted with carburetors will develop a sticky gummy deposit that blocks up fuel circuits.

The only way to fix this is carb removal, strip down, and thorough cleaning. You may also need to replace components like float needle and seat. All this can be avoided by using the gas stabilizer, you could use it year-round, but I only use it when the bike is hibernating.

Gas stabilizer

It’s easy to use. Mix it with the gas to the ratio direction on the bottle and fill up the tank. Run the engine long enough to get the mix throughout the fuel system. That’s it fuel system protected for up to two years in some cases.

3 Keep Gas Tank Full

Keep your gas tank full to the top. It prevents moisture buildup and corrosion. This is great advice I got from an old-timer many years ago. In those days, gas tanks were sheet metal. But the advice still stands for today’s plastic tanks. Gas tank corrosion has been eliminated, but water in the fuel system will still cause headaches.

ATV gas stabilizer

The theory behind this is pretty solid. Keeping the gas tank full reduces interior gas tank surface area, and therefore nowhere for condensation to form.

4 Battery Charger

A flat battery is one of the biggest challenges with storing your bike. A battery, as you know, is designed to be charged and discharged continuously. That’s what keeps it vibrant. Connecting and disconnecting batteries is a pain in the jacksie and isn’t practical.

The solution is a smart charger. It’s called a smart charger because you plug it in as any normal charger and forget about it until you want to ride. It continuously senses the battery state of charge and applies charge only when needed. It won’t overcharge your battery and is inexpensive to use.

No need to disconnect the battery, no need to start the bike to charge the battery. It’s plug a play kit and can be used on cars, trucks, riding mowers, etc.

Charging a Flat ATV Battery

Allowing an ATV battery to discharge completely will cause problems when attempting to recharge when using a regular battery charger. A battery charger’s fail-safe won’t allow the charger to turn on if battery voltage is too low.

Battery charging

Connecting a fully charged battery with jumper cables allows the charger to operate and the jumper cables may be removed after twenty minutes or so.

Continue to charge the battery for 3-4 hours.

ATV Winterizing

As said the four steps detailed above do most of the heavy lifting when storing an ATV, however, if you want to go all the way here are all the steps you’ll need to take.

  • Add fuel stabilizer and fill the gas tank – gas stabilizer keeps gas fresh and full tank prevents condensation
  • Warm bike and change engine oil – old oil contains moisture, changing the oil helps prevent internal corrosion
  • Wash and allow the bike to dry fully – removing muck and road salts helps prevent corrosion
Engine set to TDC
  • Lube cylinder – oils the walls of the cylinder, helps prevent corrosion
  • Set engine to TDC – setting the engine to top dead center closes the valves and helps keep moisture out of the cylinder and prevents sticking valves
  • Clean, gap and refit the spark plug – makes for easier starting
  • Remove air filter and clean – discourages rodents from making a home in your airbox
  • Stuff tailpipe – prevents moisture inside the exhaust system
  • Fit a smart battery charger – check battery terminals are clean and tight and fit your smart battery charger
  • Teflon coat the body and electrics – helps protect from moisture
  • Place bike on axle stands – takes a load off tires and suspension components
  • Store bike indoors – storing in a heated garage would be best
  • Cover bike with a breathable cover – helps protect from moisture and rodents

That’s it, for longer periods of storage the extra steps are worth it.

You may find the following posts useful:

How to jumpstart an ATV?

Okay, to leave bike in the rain?

Storing bike outside

Can you run bike without battery?