This post contains affiliate links.
Repairs are a reality of owning an ATV at some point, especially if you enjoy riding frequently, and when it comes time to do those repairs, you can do two things. You can either take your ATV to the shop and have your problems handled for you or do it yourself. But which one is the better option overall?
Learning how to do repairs yourself will be more cost-effective. When taking your ATV to the shop, you are paying for the labor of someone else fixing your machine. It makes sense to at least learn how to repair simple issues at home for significant cost savings.
We will be going over the cost differences between DIY and mechanic repairs and explaining how to fix common repairs. If you would like to learn more, we encourage you to read on!
Knowing Your Machine
There is a saying that time is money, and it isn’t entirely wrong. Finding the perfect balance of cost savings while not losing too much time is something not many people think about.
Oftentimes people tip to one extreme or the other. On one side, you have the people who take their machine to a mechanic over the slightest issue while the other insists that you should know how to do everything.
There isn’t necessarily anything wrong with either side to an extent, but we think for most people incorporating a little bit of both mindsets is healthy. An ATV is a complex feat of engineering with a lot going on at once, and if one thing fails, you are likely going to end up with something non-functional, barely functional, or cause long-term damage.
Because of this, we strongly recommend that folks have an understanding of common ATV repairs or maintenance procedures rather than completely relying on a service. Of course, we aren’t saying you should never go to a mechanic, but there are certain repairs that most people can do cheaply without much time or effort as long as you have a manual and the proper tools.
Now, of course, you shouldn’t attempt something you aren’t comfortable with as that can spell trouble. It’s always worth it, in the end, to let a professional handle more intermediate/advanced repairs if that’s what you feel you need.
Two Key Repairs/Maintenance Procedures Everyone Should Know
Below we will be going over the easiest repairs for the average person to do and compare the cost of doing it yourself versus having a mechanic do it for you. Some of these are part of an overall tune-up session, so don’t be afraid to let a shop handle the ATV equivalent of a check-up if you feel that it will be too time-consuming for you.
Air Filter Change
With how often ATVs get dirty due to the environment they are in, you will need to change the air filter. This is both the least expensive and easiest ATV maintenance you’ll do besides washing it.
The air filter is a simple but crucial aspect of your ATV. It is what keeps dirt and debris from clogging up your engine, allowing it to perform at its best. Dirty air will not only hamper performance, but it will also cause wear and tear on the engine, which you absolutely do not want considering just how expensive an engine repair can be.
How often you need to clean/change the air filter will be dependent on what kind of riding you are doing. If you are getting dirt/mud all over the ATV, the chances are that the air filter is dirty and needs to be cleaned. While it is a blast to get dirty, which is one of the things great about riding, this will rapidly diminish the quad’s lifespan if neglected.
Do yourself a huge favor, ensure you are regularly inspecting and changing/cleaning your ATV’s air filter. You can buy pleated paper filters from anywhere between $10 – $25. Replacing the filter at a shop is typically part of a full-service tune-up, which can be anywhere from $100 – $400 depending on how much is being done.
Keep in mind you don’t have to swap out the filter every time you check on it. You should be able to clean it at least a few times until it becomes permanently stained and dirty. We recommend staying stocked up on air filters if you can so you are ready to go for your next ride.
So, how do you change the air filter yourself? It’s quite easy, actually!
- Lift the seat. Typically, the air filter is located below the seat, and spotting it is as simple as lifting it and checking underneath for the filter housing. Once you’ve located that, remove the bolts and lift the filter out.
- Clean the filter. You can skip this step if you need to do a replacement. There are two effective ways to clean an air filter. You can either put it in your dishwasher on the hottest setting or put it in your washing machine – also on the hottest setting. After it is cleaned, you can then put it in the dryer.
- Apply air filter oil. This will help air pass through all that dirt you’ll be kicking up. The oil clings to the filter, and the debris will stick to that oil rather than the air filter itself. You’ll want to make sure that you are spraying the entire thing thoroughly. You can buy K&N Air Filter Cleaning Kit on Amazon.
- Stick the air filter back in. After you are done, you are ready to put the filter back where you found it and secure the bolts.
As you can see, it’s quite a simple process relatively speaking and is one of the most important regular maintenance tasks you’ll be doing-especially if you love to get dirty. If you have ever wondered why your ATV isn’t kicking as it used to when you twist the throttle, a filthy air filter might be the cause.
You hear all the time that changing a vehicle’s oils is a crucial part of maintaining it, and for a good reason. If you’ve ever heard the phrase “a well-oiled machine,” that’s exactly what fresh oil does for an engine. It ensures that the motor’s moving parts are properly lubricated, allowing them to move freely without resistance.
Old oil causes what is known as engine sludge and blocks the flow of oil. An engine that isn’t properly lubricated is prone to overheating and warping, which means expensive damages down the line if it is continued to be neglected.
Changing the oil is a less complicated and messy procedure than it is with a car. Given its size, an ATV doesn’t hold as much oil as a car, which has a full gallon of dirty oil draining out when doing an oil change job. On the other hand, an ATV only holds about a quart, making the disposing situation easier, and if you do end up making a mess, it’s not nearly as bad.
For this reason, we recommend just doing it yourself if you can. The process overall should take about 20 minutes or so once you get used to it.
As far as cost goes, you can expect to pay $30 to buy a gallon of oil and $7 for an oil filter. A shop oil change is usually $50. You can do up to 4 oil changes depending on your ATV’s size for the cost of one shop oil change. Going back to the shop 4 times can cost you up to $200 – that’s quite the difference!
Here’s how you can change your ATV’s oil:
- Run the engine. The first step you’ll want to do is run the engine. This will get the oil warm/hot allowing it to flow much easier out of the engine. It should take about 10 minutes for the oil to rise in temperature.
- Remove the oil filter. ATV’s can differ, so check the manual if you aren’t sure where you can access the oil filter. In most cases, you’ll have to remove the seat, pull the latch, snap off the panel on the right side, and remove the bolts to loosen the cover. After the cover has been removed, you’ll see the dipstick and oil filter.
- Clean the dipstick and around the opening. Clearing out as much of the old oil as possible will help keep both debris and the bad oil from getting into the engine.
- Drain the oil. You’ll want to wear gloves for this part, specifically safety gloves if you have them, but rubber gloves work too. The oil will be quite warm if not hot, and you don’t want that getting on your bare skin. Consult your manual to find the drain plug, place your drain pan under it, and loosen the plug with a socket to allow the oil to fall out. Remove the oil filter when all the old oil has expelled.
- Add the new oil. Put the drain plug back where it was and tighten it enough to secure but not overly so. Next, take the new filter and add oil to the O-ring, and place and screw it in, ensuring it is tight enough with a wrench. Place the oil funnel on the new filter and pour the amount of oil that your ATV can hold – remember, consult the manual if you don’t know!
- Put everything back. Now it’s just a matter of reversing what you have done by putting the cover, panel, and seat back where they were.
Don’t forget to dispose of the oil properly. People who attempt to do an oil change for their car oftentimes have a tough time with this part, and it’s no wonder why. For one, it is straight-up illegal to dispose of used motor oil correctly because it clings to everything it touches and can contaminate water – this means pouring it down drains and tossing it into a body of water is a no-go.
Luckily, you don’t have as much oil on your hands with an ATV after the job is done, and like with used oil from a car, you can properly recycle your ATV’s oil. If you were using a drain pan, you might be able to close it to contain the oil for easy transportation – if not, you can either pour it back into the original container it came in or a suitable plastic container.
One important factor to note is that motor oil that has been mixed with other fluids is not recyclable, so ensure it is nothing but pure oil. If all is good, you can simply hand it off to your nearest AutoZone or other similar shops.
Wrapping Things Up
These, in our opinion, are the most important things for an ATV owner to know how to do themselves. Just being able to do these 2 maintenance procedures alone puts you at a significant advantage when it comes to keeping your ATV running well. In fact, just knowing that these things have to be done is great in general – there are too many examples of heavily used ATVs in bad shape due to them being poorly maintained.
If you would like to learn more about how to keep your ATV running well, keep on reading to learn more!
Should You Do a Tune-Up Yourself?
You might be wondering at what point is it a good idea to let a professional handle repairs. For starters, if you are buying a used ATV, it is probably a good idea to give it a tune-up. What does this include? Quite a bit!
- Cleaning and lubing ATV Chain
- Checking and replacing spark plugs
- Flushing cooling system
- Checking and replacing oil silencer if needed
- Checking and adjusting the valves
- Flushing braking systems
- Oil checking and replacing the old oil for new oil
- Inspecting and adjusting the cables and lubes
- Cleaning or replacing a dirty oil filter
- Inspecting the ATV to look for anything wrong
- Adjusting the optimal air-pressure for the tires
- Checking and adjusting compression levels
If you consider ATV repairs a hobby in and of itself, you’ll have a blast learning how to repair the many aspects of these wonderful machines. However, this definitely isn’t for everyone – most people want an ATV to ride and not spend hours learning everything and even more hours doing all of these things hands-on.
As we mentioned earlier, a tune-up will run you anywhere from $100 – $400, depending on how many of these steps are being done. Of course, a professional will know how to efficiently get your ATV running its best while you won’t have to lift a finger. You also have to consider that you didn’t have to buy any replacement items. Overall, there are certain things that are just best left to the pros for most people.
You could save upwards of $250 – $300 doing a full tune-up on an ATV yourself, but if you aren’t confident or don’t feel like it, there is absolutely no shame in bringing it into the shop. In fact, if you snagged yourself a used ATV at a good price, even $400 for a full tune-up to ensure it runs perfectly can be a steal.
Changing Your Tires
Like cars, ATVs need tire changes at some point, which means that tire replacement costs need to be factored in. When you have to change your tires is dependent on where you are riding, how you are riding, and what type of tires you have.
If you are riding off-road like many, if not most people do, you’ll get quite a bit of life out of your ATV’s tires. This is due to the very nature of off-road tires. Big treads mean less rubber touching the ground, and softer terrain means less wear. Riding around on the road eats tires because of that continuous contact with such a hard surface.
If you keep your ATV strictly off-road, you can expect to get anywhere between 5 -10 years when riding off-road and 1-2 years on-road.
When it is time to swap your ATV’s tires, how much will this cost, and is it worth just doing it yourself? In truth, it might be best just to take it to the shop, depending on how much they are charging. Of course, you’ll have to buy your own tires, which can be anywhere from $50 – $450 per wheel depending on exactly what kind of tire it is and the quality level. All-terrain and mud tires are the least expensive while hard, or Rock Crawler and Sand tires cost the most.
When it comes to mounting the ATV tires, your local shop can shoot you a rate anywhere from $5-$25 per tire. It’s good to call around to see if you can get a low price before deciding.
Again, whether or not you want to change the tires will depend on if you even want to do it in the first place. DIY tire repairs can be done, but they aren’t entirely risk-free, and you can be doing some damage if things don’t go well. Why is this? It’s mainly due to how ATV tires are fitted onto the wheels.
Why Is It Challenging to Change an ATV Tire?
The main challenge of changing a tire is caused by what is known as “the bead.”
Inside the rim, there is a bump; this bump is known as the “bead retainer.” On the flipside, tires have a “tire bead” that includes a steel cable that goes around the tire’s entire loop.
The purpose of these mechanics is to prevent the tire from sliding around when riding. Many people do hard riding where they are sliding around, hitting bumps, and doing jumps – mostly apparent in sport ATVs, but stability is key for off-roading in general.
This bead mechanic is great for riding, but unfortunately, it makes DIY repairs a challenge. The main hurdle separating the tire from the rim in general, otherwise known as “breaking the bead.” Tire shops have expensive tire changing machines that can efficiently swap out tires, but the average ATV owner is highly unlikely to have this in their garage, leaving them with more…brutal options.
First off, if you are doing a DIY tire change, we can only recommend using a Bead Buster for the job. It is the least likely to cause damages; unfortunately, it is not the cheapest of tools. This BeadBuster, for example, is over $100, which can potentially be a more expensive way to change your tire rather than having a shop do it for you.
It’s going to be up to you on what route you want to take. Considering tires can last a considerable amount of time and most professional tire changes aren’t too costly – we would say that the DIY option is recommended for most people.
Don’t forget you’ll also invest in a tire jack to lift the ATV up to make changing the tire possible, which can also run you over $100.
If you would like to know the step by step process of changing your ATVs tires, we will break down how it would be done.
How to Change an ATV Tire
Your biggest obstacle will be taking the old tire off of the wheel and putting the new one on. Past that, it is a relatively easy process as long as you have the proper tools on hand.
- Jack up the ATV. On level ground, use a jack to lift up the ATV, securing it with jack stands.
- Remove the wheels. With a 4-way lug wrench, separate the wheels from the ATV.
- Break the bead. This is either a painful process or an easy one depending on what tool you are using. If you are using a Bead Buster, it will break the tire bead allowing the tire to be removed with a tire iron.
- Remove the tire. Using 2 tire irons with protective plastic, wedge the first tire iron between the wheel and tire, lifting the tire over the wheel lip. Doing the same with the second tire iron, continue going around the wheel, lifting the tire over the wheel lip. You should be able to separate the tire from the wheel after this easily.
- Clean the wheel lip. Wash off any debris, dirt, sand, etc. To get a good cleaning, you can use a wire brush for any dirt that refuses to come off. If there is any rust, it’ll have to be removed with either a wire brush or a flathead screwdriver. Ensure you are getting both sides of the rim around the entire perimeter of the wheel.
- Lube the rim and new tire. This will help the tire slide onto the rim. You can use soap and water on the bead retailer but don’t use WD-40 as it can cause damage to the tire’s rubber.
- Mount the new tire on the wheel. This can also be tricky since you’ll have to ensure the tire is locked in place with the bead correctly. Ensuring the tire is in the correct orientation and the wheel is flat on the ground, place the tire on top of the wheel and push down on both sides. The tire should slip onto the first bead. You may need to use a tire iron if you can’t get it on by hand.
- Work on the second bead. Step on the tire by the valve to start moving into place and work your way around the wheel. Once everything is in place, lock it in with a tire iron.
- Inflate the tire. Use a ratchet strap around the tire’s circumference, stand the tire up, and tighten the strap until the tire touches the lip of the rim. Now that the tire is ready to be inflated connect the inflator to the tire valve and inflate until it reaches 7-8 PSI.
- Mount the wheel onto the ATV. Lastly, mount the tire back, reversing the process of what you did when you removed it.
In general, it’s not too bad of a project, although if you are doing this for the first time, you might come across frustrations and spend a lot of time ensuring everything is going well.
If you don’t want to do this, bring it to a shop, and you’ll have a new pair of tires without having to do anything. Like we stated previously, you don’t have to do something you aren’t confident about.
You are likely to save money in the long run by doing repairs and maintenance procedures yourself, and there are certain basic things that everyone should know how to do, such as changing the oil and air filter.
However, mechanics exist because not everyone is comfortable doing many of the repairs that an ATV requires and so bringing it to the shop is the best option. This is especially so if you need to do a full inspection and tune-up for a used/old ATV, there is a lot that might need to be done in this case and an inexperienced DIYer will have a lot on their hands.