Keeping today’s ATVs in top running condition can be a lesson in computer training and electronics. New ATVs run more efficiently, and they’re more comfortable and powerful. However, laced with computers, sensors, and digital readouts, they are also vastly more complicated.
All of these accoutrements are great when you’re running down the trail. However, if you find yourself with an electrical short from a mud bath, or a dead battery on a minus 10-degree morning, you could be in real trouble. I live in Alaska, and since my move to the 49th State, I see ATVs in a completely different light than my former rides in the Midwest and Western states. Today, my association with these machines has little to do with recreational riding, and more to do with work and practical transportation.
One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned in the last few years is the more an ATV weighs, and the more electronics that are used in the machine, the greater your chance for serious trouble in the backcountry. If you’re comfortable not having the newest, latest, fastest and most complex bike on the market, there are choices that will be easier to maintain and will save you a ton of cash. Look for three features if you want to ride into the wilderness:
It’s not that electronic fuel injection isn’t an improvement, but if you have a problem, only a dealer is going to repair it because only they have the diagnostic gear to determine what’s wrong.
Don’t shy away from an electric start, just make sure you have a pull rope. While starting your ATV like a lawn mover can really be unpleasant, you will be able to get it started.
Digital clocks, GPSs and beeping sensors are all potential power robbers when it comes to wilderness travel. A microscopic draw on your battery can be a big problem in near zero temperatures.
Less Can Be More
A new ATV will set you back $8,000 to $12,000 for EFI and power steering. That machine will treat you with comfort and style. It will also demand higher insurance and several hundreds of dollars for dealer service annually. Just keep in mind, with an average weight of over 650 pounds, you’re not moving it out of a mud hole alone.
For 4-wheel drive, the minimal options are going to cost you in the low to mid $5,000 range. However, if you can go light with a two-wheel drive, you can get into a few highly functional machines that will last decades for around $4,000. If you consider the two-wheel route, invest in an exceptional set of upgraded rear tires.
Here are some 2-wheel values:
The Honda FourTrax Recon/ $3,949
The Arctic Cat 300 Recreation/ $4,199.00 (Made in the USA)
Yamaha Grizzly 300 Auto $4199.00 (Assembled in the USA)
Make Sure Your ATV Starts
Dave Krompacky owner of Alaska Mountain Magic has seen every possible problem with an ATV in the Alaskan Bush. He and his family run an ATV dealership on the Parks Highway in Talkeetna, half way between Denali National Park and Anchorage. He is the only ATV repair facility north of mile marker 98 for more than 150 miles. Simply put, he’ll tell you that the most common downfall of an operating ATV is bad gas.
It often starts with lack of use. “Sitting can just kill a machine. Depending on conditions, as little as 40 days can create irritating problems with the fuel system and battery,” says Krompacky.
However, it’s water inside the fuel tank that’s the root cause of most repairs.
“Moisture and ethanol create the most issues and they’re the number one problem we see. It comes from where you buy your gas. In wet environments, the tank can produce far more moisture than you may realize,” he said.
Krompapacky recommends fuel additives like Sta-Bil or Heet, but it’s the use a portable fuel filter funnelhttp://shurhold.com/fuel-filter-funnels that will have the most impact. The cost is around $20, and it will save hundreds of dollars in repairs, not to mention safe trail passage.
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