How to maintain your quad bike and keep it running smoothly

Old oil collects dirt and debris, meaning it’s another area where corrosion of your quad’s internal components becomes a risk
Old oil collects dirt and debris, meaning it’s another area where corrosion of your quad’s internal components becomes a risk

Just like a motorbike, moped or car, routine maintenance is a necessary task to keep your quad bike running smoothly.

For obvious reasons, the more frequently you use your quad bike for day-to-day duties on the farm, the more frequently you’ll need to give it some attention.

Mud can grind against important fittings and fixtures if you let it dry, and chains and brakes in particular really suffer if they’re left clogged up. Damp, muddy conditions also invite the corrosion of expensive electrical components.

Some quad bike makes and models require more work than others. As a general rule, premium quality bikes withstand wear and tear if you just follow the suggestions in your manufacturer’s maintenance guide, while cheaper bikes demand thorough regimes.

Taking your machine in for servicing is a straightforward tactic if you can’t find the time to maintain it yourself, but it’s easy to save some cash for fuel by doing these simple checks and updates.

Chains and brakes

You should be checking your brake fluid and brake tension before just about every use, and washing off mud from your drive chain and brake cables before it has time to dry.

If you’re trying to blast off heavy grime, don’t be tempted to pick up a powerful pressure washer and go to town; too much power could cause the water to get past seals and bearings, and do long term damage to your electrics. Stick to low-pressure where possible when it comes to the mud-removal part of maintenance.

If your quad bike has drum brakes rather than disc brakes, take them apart and thoroughly clean after every 20 hours or so of riding (or 150km/100 miles, depending on which comes first). All brakes should be inspected and cleaned every couple of months, while chains should be checked for rust and correct tension.

A common mistake in DIY maintenance is using WD40 instead of proper chain lubricant. WD40 is great for getting off little bits of rust, but if you’re hearing crunching sounds when you change gears or feeling resistance, lubricating your chain with WD40 isn’t going to do the job.

Make sure you don’t douse disc brakes in lubricant either – for obvious reasons, a disc brake that’s been covered in lubricant during a clumsy clean-up will not function as it should.

Oil and filter changes

Old oil collects dirt and debris, meaning it’s another area where corrosion of your quad’s internal components becomes a risk.

Your quad bike will perform better and run more efficiently if the oil and oil filter are changed regularly, with the recommendation being that you replace these after every 15 hours or so of driving.

Your owner’s manual should give specific advice, as some ATV models need oil changes after every five hours while others may run for more than 20 before needing attention.

For oil to drain out easily, your quad will need to be warmed up. Run your engine for a few minutes before unscrewing the drain bolt, to get the oil flowing better and allow contaminants to leave the engine more easily.

Once you’re done and your new filter is in place, it’s wise to use a funnel to get new oil in to take away the risk of spillages.

Air filter cleaning

Just like your oil filter, the air filter on a quad bike can get clogged up with dirt and put unnecessary stress on the engine.

You shouldn’t need to clean this too frequently unless you’re getting heavy use out of your quad bike. As a rough guide, try to check on your air filter after every 100 hours or 1,000km (600 miles) of riding – whichever comes first.

Don’t use abrasive brushes or compressed air when cleaning paper air filters, because this can cause damage. Water and cleaning solvent should suffice. For foam filters, you’ll need to start by handwashing with a basic dish soap and allow to dry thoroughly before re-attaching.

Nuts and bolts

Tightening nuts and bolts is an easy job which takes no time at all, but could be the difference between easy riding and a dangerous day out.

Quad bikes are designed for being bounced around on rough terrain, so there’s no expectation that you’ll be checking every attachment and fitting after every ride.

However, wheel hubs, sprocket bolts, pivot bolts and all kinds of other small-but-important details do need to be checked regularly and tightened up when you notice they’re starting to vibrate or come loose.

If the idea of keeping check on the hours and distance you’ve ridden sounds like a lot of bother, don’t let it be. The simplest way to stay on top of your maintenance is to keep a log, similar to what you already do for your annual MOT due date and when your quad bike insurance is set to renew.

If in doubt, check everything over every three months or so as a minimum. What seems like a small or unimportant task could be what stops you from having a brake failure or engine malfunction, and even issues that aren’t dangerous can become expensive.