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Ok to Pressure Wash an ATV? Yes, but don’t make this mistake!

Whether you are skidding around on dusty trails or splashing through the mud, your ATV is bound to get dirty. Most of the time cleaning your ride requires nothing more than a little soap, water, and a garden hose, but then there are times when the dirt and grime gets into places that a garden hose just cannot seem to clean, which prompts many ATV owners to ask, “Is it ok to pressure wash an ATV?”

According to many pressure washing websites, you can pressure wash your ATV so long as you use the correct PSI and practice caution. However, you should be aware that pressure washers can damage certain materials.

Continue reading to learn more about pressure washing your ATV so that you can make an informed decision about the best way to wash your machine.

ATV power washing

Pressure Washer vs Power Washer

If you are not familiar with the difference between a pressure washer and a power washer, you are not alone.

A pressure washer is as you know a cleaning machine that sprays water at extremely high pressures, it blasts away stubborn dirt and grime, and they absolutely get the job done! They come in several shapes and sizes and work in diverse ways, with some being more powerful than others.

Pressure washer

They are most often used by homeowners to clean sidewalks, garage floors, walkways, and the siding on their house. However, depending on the amount of pressure being used, they can be used for an assortment of things, including cars, patios, fences, decks, and even rugs.

A power washer is almost identical with one critical difference. A power washer employs a heating element to heat the pressured water. Since hot water cleans better than cold a hot pressurized wash is a killer combination and with the correct heat level and pressure, a power washer has no trouble removing paint.

What ATV Manufacturers Say About Pressure Washing

Technically, most ATV handbooks recommend not using a pressure washer and some even warn against it altogether. However, many ATV owners will tell you that it is possible, and perfectly safe, to use a pressure washer to clean your ride.

As long as you use the correct water pressure and understand how to use a pressure washer properly, you will have no trouble washing your ATV.

Are Pressure Washers Dangerous?

Some of the more high-powered machines can get up to 40,000 PSI, which could cut through human flesh and cause serious internal injuries. So, yes, power washers can be dangerous if they are not used with caution and care.

In addition to being dangerous to humans, they can also wreak havoc on certain materials and items. In fact, there is a lengthy list of things that power washers should not be used for. Although, it most often depends on the amount of pressure being used.

As far as whether a pressure washer is dangerous for an ATV, it also depends on the amount of pressure being used. If the water is too high pressure, it could crack the plastic or break other pieces of your ride. It could also force water into areas that you do not want it, such as the engine. A low-pressure bath should be fine, but you should always be wary of where you aim the spray.

ATV Pressure Washing Mistakes To Avoid

Electrics – Avoid spraying on the electrics. Dashboard clocks contain circuitry and LCD displays but even simple light fittings may be damaged by forcing high-pressure water at them. In addition, an ATV’s ignition system won’t appreciate water.

ATV ignition coil

Avoid the coil, coil wire, plug cap, and spark plug. Pressure washing sensitive areas promotes corrosion and may cause engine misfires or not starts.

Avoid the CDI box.

TV engine stator location

Avoid high-pressure washing of the stator engine cover.

Avoid the Rectifier / Regulator

A damp electrical system can develop into a flooded engine as unburnt gas saturates the spark plug.

Avoid bearings – Sealed bearings are at risk also, high pressure power washers are powerful enough to force water into bearings, and once in the water has no way out. Instead, it causes corrosion and eventually premature bearing failure.

Powerwashing washes away critical grease from components such as chains and pivots, which isn’t an issue once replenished but the correct grease should be used.

Fuel system – Avoid spraying water around the gas cap or carburetor, doing so may cause water to enter the system and that’s a real pain to remove. Avoid also the air intake, spraying water around the airbox risks soaking the air filter.

What Nozzle Should I Use?

Pressure washers come in many shapes and sizes, but luckily, their nozzles are universally color-coded. Which one you use will depend on the job that you are doing, but below you can find a list of the different nozzle colors and a brief description of each one.

ColorDegree Brief Description
RedThis tip offers the narrowest angle, and it creates the most powerful
stream. Users should use caution when washing with this tip. Water
is concentrated into a single straight stream, this tip can often damage
soft materials such as wood and plastic and should be used
on hard, unpainted surfaces.
Yellow15°This tip works well for washing mold and mildew off surfaces, and it can
also help scrape paint. However, it is not a good idea to use this on an
ATV, as you might damage or chip the paint, which could result in rust
problems later.
Green25°This tip provides a wide spray, which makes it easy to cover large areas
quickly, making it one of the most popular tips for household cleaning.
This works well for decks, fences, and siding.
White40°This is one of the more popular tips used because it works well for
more delicate surfaces. It works well on vehicles and other painted
Black65°This nozzle produces a very light spray, which is why it is often not
used for cleaning but instead for pre-rinsing and rinsing. It can also be
used to apply cleaning solutions.

Although the nozzles are color-coded, how they work may vary depending on the amount of pressure being used. For example, using the red nozzle on a high-powered pressure washer would produce a much different result than if you used the same nozzle on a very low-powered machine. So, while it is not generally recommended to use a red nozzle on an ATV, if you are using a low-powered washer, it might be safe.

How To Wash an ATV Using a Pressure Washer?

Now that you know more about power washing, it is up to you to decide if you want to use a washer on your ATV. Power washers can make the job of washing your ride a lot easier, especially when it comes to the more stubborn dirt and grime, and by following the steps outlined below, you’ll have your machine ready for your next big adventure in no time.

  1. Pre-rinse: Before you do anything else, you should rinse the vehicle. This will help you knock off any loose dirt and grime and soak the more stuck-on dirt. Pay good attention to the lower areas and underside where most of the loose dirt will have collected. The last thing you want is for clumps of dirt to fly back up onto your machine after you have washed it so be sure to get it all now.
  2. Soap up: Some power washers allow users to add detergent to the water and use the black nozzle to spray the soapy water all over the vehicle. However, you can just as easily apply the soap with a brush or cloth yourself. Allow it to soak, and then use a sponge or special brush to scrub the hard-to-reach areas of the machine.
  3. Rinse: Use the pressure washer to rinse off any soap or degreaser that you applied during the last step. If you notice any areas that may need a second scrub, do that now. While rinsing, make sure that you do not aim your spray directly on any wires or seals, and always avoid getting any water in the engine. If you are using a high-powered pressure washer, make sure the spray is not ripping off decals or damaging any components. It is also a wise idea to use a muffler plug to avoid getting any water where it should not be.
  4. Dry: There are a few ways that you can approach this step in the process. The most obvious way to dry your machine is with a towel. Simply wipe off as much water as you can and allow nature to do the rest. However, some ATV owners prefer to use an air compressor (or even a leaf blower) to dry their machine. Doing this can help prevent water from pooling in places you cannot reach with a towel, which could prevent rust problems later.
  5. Grease: Once your machine is dry, you can add wax or grease to areas that need it. Keeping chains and grease fittings oiled is an effective way to prevent rust issues and other future problems. You might also decide to spray a protective coating on areas such as the shocks and springs or undercarriage.
  6. Show Off: Now that all the hard work is done, it is time to relax and take a nice muddy ride!

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