How To Perform an ATV Pre-Ride Inspection

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If you are new to recreational ATV riding or have had your ATV in storage for a while, it’s important to perform an ATV Pre-Ride Inspection.

In fact, the ATV Safety Institute recommends you perform a Pre-Ride Inspection before each ride because recreational ATV riding can be extremely harsh on your ATV.

The following quick steps should be performed before each ATV ride you take.

atv checklist

ATV Safety Institute’s FREE ATV E-Course

If you have never completed the ATV Safety Institute’s Free ATV E-course, you should do so. It’s a very basic introduction to ATV riding, but has some valuable information for anyone new to ATV riding or just looking to increase your knowledge and be a better and safer ATV operator.

Related Reading: How to Choose the Best ATV Helmets

ATV Pre-Ride Inspection Checklist

Because every ATV is slightly different, it is important to familiarize yourself with your specific ATV owner’s manual maintenance checklists. However, there are a few basic things to keep in mind no matter which type of ATV you have. The ATV Safety Institute offers the acronym T-CLOC to help you remember each system to check.

  • T-Tires and Wheels
  • C-Controls and Cables
  • L- Lights and Electrics
  • O-Oil and Fuel
  • C-Chain/Driveshaft and Chassis

ATV Pre-Ride Checklist- “T” is for Tires and Wheels

Check all the following when inspecting your ATV tires.

  1. Tire Air Pressure– Your ATV should have a sticker somewhere on the ATV telling your the appropriate tire pressure for your particular ATV. If you can’t locate it or have a used ATV, check the owner’s manual. Always use the size and type of tires specified for your vehicle. Most Quad ATV tires will need somewhere between 2 to 6 psi. If you have a SxS ATV, such as a Polaris RZR, your tires will likely need between 7 and 10 psi depending upon whether you have 1 or 2 riders. Be sure to consult your ATV owner’s manual.
  2. Condition- Check your tires for cuts or gouges that could cause air leakage.
  3. Wheel Nuts and Axle Nuts- Inspect and ensure your axle nuts are tight and secure and check the torque on the wheel nuts.

*Note: Use a low-pressure gauge to properly check your tires. A normal tire gauge, isn’t accurate to measure pressures below 10 psi.

Related Reading: How to Choose the Best ATV Goggles

ATV Pre-Ride Checklist- “C” is for Controls and Cable Checks

The C of T-CLOC stands for Controls and Cables.

  1. Controls– Check all your controls ensure they are fully operational and moving.
  2. Throttle and other cables– If you have a quad ATV, make sure the throttle doesn’t stick by pushing the throttle lever toward the handlebar and letting go. The lever should come back to where it was before you pushed it. If it sticks by not coming back, something is wrong or broken and you need to have it fixed before riding your ATV. If your ATV is equipped with Throttle limiter, adjust it appropriately for the age of your rider.
  3. Brakes- Check brakes and adjust according to your owner’s manual. Check brake fluid for proper levels.
  4. Foot Shifter- Check that the foot shifter is firmly attached and positioned for safe operation.

SxS ATV Controls- If you are operating a SxS ATV, check the accelerator pedals and brakes. Check all the seat belts and harness.

ATV Pre-Ride Checklist-“L” is for Lights and Electrics

L- of T-CLOCK is for the Lights and Electrics.

  1. Ignition Switch– Check the switch condition is in good operating order by switching it off and on during warm-up.
  2. Engine Stop (Kill) Switch- Test the kill switch while the ATV is running to ensure the engine stops when the switch is pulled.
  3. Headlights and Taillights- Check that all lights are in good operating order.

ATV Pre-Ride Checklist- “O” is for Oil and Fuel

O in T-CLOC is for the Oil and Fuel

  1. Always check your fuel and start each ride with a full tank of gas.
  2. Check your owner’s manual for proper procedure, but always check your Oil levels with the dipstick while the engine is off and fill to appropriate levels.
  3. Check for oil or fuel leaks.
  4. Take off the air filter and check its condition. Be sure it is clean and not torn or blocked. Replace with a new filter as needed.

ATV Pre-Ride Checklist- “C” is for Chain/Driveshaft and Chassis

Finally, the last “C” in T-CLOC stands for the chain/driveshaft and the chassis.

  1. Drive Chain– Be sure to inspect, adjust, and lubricate the chain on a regular basis. Ensure the chain slack is adjusted within the specifications listed in your owner’s manual.
  2. Drive Shaft- If your ATV has a drive shaft instead of a drive chain, be sure to check it for oil leaks. Maintain its oil supply according to your owner’s manual instructions.
  3. Nuts and Bolts– If you’ve ever ridden an ATV on a trail, you know just how rough the ride can be. All that beating and banging can shake loose the nuts and bolts on your ATV so it’s important to check for loose parts while the engine is off. Shake the handlebars, footrests, and visually inspect the ATV for any other damaged or loose components or fasteners.

Final ATV Pre-Inspection and Cleaning

Finally, do a complete visual inspection for any loose parts, debris, grass. We recommend you thoroughly clean your ATV after each ride and when preparing for storage, but even if the ATV appears to be clean, it is a good idea to give it one last look over.

Ensure there isn’t any grass, mud, or other debris lodged anywhere especially on the underside of the ATV or near the exhaust system.

ATV Trail Riding Gear

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