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Tips for Riding Your ATV in the Winter


Winter has arrived. If you own an ATV, you could winterize the vehicle and store it away for the winter, but what fun is that? There are still plenty of opportunities for you to get out on rides even when there’s snow on the ground. You just need to take some extra steps to prepare for your trip to make it both safe and enjoyable.

So before you hit the trails for a wintertime ride, here are just a few tips for you to get the best experience out of using your ATV this season.

Always bring a friend

This is the most important safety tip you can follow when taking your ATV out for a winter spin—never do it alone. There are not going to be as many people on the trails during the winter, which means if you have a breakdown or an accident, you’re not as likely to have someone who can find you and come to your assistance. Plus, the days are shorter and colder, which means you can quickly become susceptible to hypothermia.

Having a friend come along with their ATV as well gives you a backup way to get out in the event of an emergency situation, and someone who can come to your aid if something goes wrong.

Stay on the trails

Look, we totally get how tempting it can be to get off the trails and explore the wilderness around you. Half the fun of darting through the country on an ATV is exploration and seeing new things. But it’s especially crucial during the winter that you stay on the trail. When the ground is covered with snow, it’s not always possible to see any hazards beneath the surface, including fallen logs, boulders or sudden drop-offs.

Pack all the essential
A few items you should always consider to pack

Pack all the essentials

Make sure you bring along all the essential items you might need on your excursion. This includes food and water, a first aid kit, a toolbox with all the parts and tools you could potentially need for on-trail repairs, a collapsible shovel to dig yourself out of a snowbank, some kitty litter or portable traction pads to add for traction if you get stuck, a fully charged cell phone with external charger, some extra clothes and anything else that might come in handy when you’re out on the trails. It’s better to pack too much and not end up needing all of it than it is to arrive unprepared.

Be careful with frozen water

While you can take your ATV out on to a frozen lake, you must be absolutely certain that there is at least six inches of solid ice before you drive out on to it. Pay attention to the weather conditions in the area—the weather must have been below freezing for an extended period of time for you to trust that the water is truly frozen enough for taking your ATV over it.

Dress in layers

The wind feels a lot colder during the winter months, so it’s important you bundle up and protect yourself from the icy temperatures. Your first layer should be a moisture-wicking layer to keep the sweat away from your skin, making it easier for you to stay warm. An insulating middle layer should be next to keep your body heat in and protect you from the cold. This could be a fleece pullover or other such outdoor apparel. Finally, use an outer shell, such as a parka, to protect you from wind and precipitation.

Inspect your tires before each trip

You should always stay on top of preventative maintenance with your ATV, but before heading out on winter rides it’s especially important that you carefully inspect your tires. Tire pressure will drop one psi for every 10 degree temperature drop, so you may need to add air before you head out. It may take a bit of warming up for your tires to start functioning as they should.

Understand Vehicle Clearance

While driving, you may come across bridges, gas stations, walkways, or other structures that display their height for certain vehicles. These signs tell the drivers of tall vehicles whether they can drive underneath the structure without hitting it. Typically these vehicle clearance signs are for long-haul truckers, however, drivers that are hauling RVs or off-road vehicles should also be aware of their height limit. If a driver is too tall to go under a bridge, they will have to either turn around or risk damaging their vehicle and causing an accident.

You’ll also want to know the ground clearance of your vehicle. This clearance is defined as the minimum distance between the lowest part of the vehicle and the ground. Low ground clearance means you’ll be scratching the underside of your car on bumpy roads.

Check your coolant levels

Before using your ATV during the winter, make sure you’ve got enough coolant in the vehicle. If it’s frozen, you should thaw it out and replace it before you take off, because frozen coolant could result in some significant damage to the engine. You can add an anti-freeze when you’re done with the summer riding season.

Plan your route

This is a good tip for any time of year, but especially winter when the days are shorter and you need to be more efficient with your route. Carefully plan out the route you’ll take in advance, and make sure someone who’s not with you knows where you’ll be and roughly what route you’ll be following.

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