It was one of those things that was funny at the time, even though in the
back of my mind, I was thinking that it might cost a lot to fix. I hadn't used
my ATV since putting it away the previous fall, and had just started it for the
first time that spring.
Pop! Pop! Pop! Little white things were shooting out of the exhaust.
Mystified, my friend picked one up and gave it a closer look. It was a piece of
It turned out that mice had taken up residence and starting the ATV had
heated their cache of popcorn. I had never heard of such a thing happening, but
when I told that story, I always heard another story about the damage mice can
cause to ATVs.
I'd been lucky. All I'd gotten were a few pieces of popcorn. Mice can do
much more damage than that, especially if they gnaw any wiring.
So, before you turn the key, complete a checklist. If something has been
damaged, trying to make the engine turn over can worsen the damage:
* Check the wiring for any signs of mice chewing or loose connections.
* Take off covers and look for mice nests. You don't want a mouse nest, or
the little darlings inside it, to be sucked into any part of the ATV.
* Change the gas filter, air filter and spark plug. Many guides say to clean
them, but most ATV mechanics will tell you it's better to just start new.
* If you didn't purge the gas before putting the ATV away for the winter,
then do it now. Add fresh gas which has been treated with a fuel stabilizer.
* Check the oil level.
* Check the battery terminals. If you haven't already done so, purchase a
permanently mounted "trickle charger" for your battery. These make is so easy
to keep a good charge on the battery. This way, you won't have to remove the
battery to charge it.
* Check the tires for proper air pressure and any signs of dry rot.
* As you complete these tasks, make a list of the tools and parts that you
need to complete them. Then, add a cargo carrier to your ATV and keep a
matching set of all these items inside it, such as a spark plug wrench, fuel
stabilizer, tire repair kit, etc. Even if you never use it, you may be able to
help a trail riding buddy make a repair in the field.
* Other items which you may want to keep in your cargo carrier -- a first-aid kit, socket set, fix-a-flat (yes, they'll hate you at the dealer but you'll
make it home), tow straps, water, spotlight and/or flashlight, electrical tape,
duct tape, emergency flare or beacon, fire starting materials, ATV oil, small
Don't let the power of the machine fool you into being unprepared for an
emergency repair or even, a night in the woods. ATVs can take us almost
anywhere, but we also need to make sure they can get us back.
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