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How to Winterize Your UTV/Side-by-Side (10 Tips)

Since winter is here, UTV owners must prepare their vehicles for storage or cold-weather riding. This process, called ‘winterizing,’ ensures a machine’s longevity and performance and enhances its safety during snowy trail rides. In this guide, let us explore essential tips for effectively carrying out this process — covering everything from upkeep to storage preparations.

Here are the ten tips on how to winterize your side-by-side:

  1. Safeguard the battery
  2. Keep the fuel system moisture-free
  3. Replace fluids
  4. Grease moving parts
  5. Opt for winter-grade tires
  6. Pay mind to the air filter and airbox
  7. Inspect belts, brakes, and hoses
  8. Check the lights
  9. Wash and wax the exterior
  10. Upgrade your machine

Considering specific winter riding conditions such as snow, ice, and cold temperatures and equipping your UTV or SxS with appropriate accessories like snow tires, tire chains, and heated grips can enhance safety and performance and are integral to winterizing. So, without further ado, let us get started!

UTV With Tracks in Powder Snow

Tips on How to Winterize a UTV 

1. Safeguard the Battery

Ensure the battery is charged, and consider removing it for storage indoors (if possible) to prevent freezing. Investing in a trickle charger like NOCO GENIUS10 (view on Amazon) would be wise to keep the UTV’s battery from discharging and dying. Either that or use a battery tender or maintainer to keep the power source charged and in proper cycling condition.

2. Keep the Fuel System Moisture-Free

Whether equipped with a carburetor or EFI, your fuel system must be safeguarded against moisture buildup and rust, especially during extended storage periods (winter storage included). There are several ways to achieve this:

  • Draining the fuel system
  • Filling it
  • Applying a protective coating of heavy oil to the tank’s interior

Choosing any of the three is a matter of preference, although the second option is ideal.

Experienced riders know too well that condensation can still occur in an empty tank regardless of the season. This is because temperature fluctuations can cause moisture to accumulate inside the tank. Winter is no exception. However, this outcome becomes especially apparent during swift shifts between warm and cold temperatures.

3. Replace Fluids

In addition to taking care of your four-wheeler’s fuel system, you would want fresh fluids in your machine before prolonged storage. Although changing fluids should be contingent on when they were last replaced, it is best to have fresh ones in your machine if it is used seldomly and for load-bearing applications.

When a UTV/side-by-side is used regularly, the fluids circulate more frequently, helping prevent contaminant buildup and maintaining effectiveness. Conversely, oil, coolant, and brake fluids may degrade more rapidly if the machine is unused for extended periods. Fluid degradation is exacerbated by moisture accumulation, temperature fluctuations, and chemical reactions with contaminants.

4. Grease Moving Parts

Once you finish refreshing fluids, lubricate all moving parts, such as joints, bearings, and suspension components, to prevent rust and corrosion. Depending on your preference, however, greasing friction-prone parts may come before or after flushing old fluids out of the different reservoirs. It also does more than just prevent corrosion.

In freezing temperatures, moisture can penetrate moving parts and cause them to seize up. Greasing these parts creates a protective barrier that helps prevent moisture ingress, reducing the risk of seizing and ensuring that your UTV/side-by-side remains operational when needed.

5. Opt for Winter-Grade Tires

Person Leaning on UTV in Heavy Snowfall

Installing snow tires or tire chains is one of the best ways to winterize your UTV or side-by-side and get immediate results. Yes, winter-grade tires are usually adequate. However, accessorizing your knobbies accordingly enhances handling and traction in snowy conditions. Such add-ons improve rider safety and give your wheeler a more aggressive look.

6. Pay Mind to the Air Filter and Airbox

Whether between adventures or before storage, I recommend getting your air filter and airbox serviced or replaced. They are, after all, the lungs of your machine. A worn filter will do your UTV/side-by-side no good, as it will only cause the machine to breathe heavily the next time you ride it.

To prevent this, clean the air filter and airbox to ensure optimal engine performance during winter use. If you intend to let your machine rest during the off-season, however, make sure to block all airbox inlet ports before storing it. Doing so will deter critters from nesting inside the vehicle. Just remember to unblock the ports before use.

7. Inspect Belts, Brakes, and Hoses

Checking these components for wear or damage is crucial to prevent breakdowns, especially in cold weather conditions where components may be more prone to failure. Similar to #7, this step is not exclusive to snowy weather. Nor is it merely a means to winterize your UTV or SxS.

If anything, thorough inspection is part and parcel of proper upkeep for any motorized vehicle. Doing so ensures that the vehicle in question is in tip-top shape and capable of providing optimal performance. This also guarantees reliable braking by ensuring that brake pads, calipers, and brake lines are free from wear and damage and that stopping distances are not compromised.

8. Check the Lights

During the winter, daylight hours are often shorter, and weather conditions such as snow, fog, and rain can reduce visibility. To combat this and ensure rider safety, ascertain that all lights — headlights, taillights, and brake lights — work correctly for the rider, passenger, and other enthusiasts.

Outside visibility issues, you would also want to do this as part of preventive maintenance and compliance with regulations. Ensuring that your lights are in good working order helps you reduce the risk of unexpected breakdowns or malfunctions and avoid potential fines or penalties.

9. Wash and Wax the Exterior

Cleaning and polishing the exterior of your four-wheeler protects its body paint and surfaces from snow, salt, and road grime. Although the last two are not exclusive to snowy weather, they tend to be more destructive during winter.

Insufficient polish on the surfaces of a UTV/side-by-side, coupled with regular exposure to salt and grime, can lead to negative consequences like paint damage, dulling, fading, and corrosion. Again, these adverse effects may occur at any time. However, the combination of snow, salt, grime, and inadequate wax protection makes the machine more susceptible to these outcomes.

10. Upgrade Your Machine

Lastly, make the most of the off-season by outfitting your ORV with essential upgrades. Making necessary upgrades during winter and before an extended storage period gives you ample time to test the new additions. It prepares your UTV for the next riding season without wasting valuable trail time. Moreover, this step allows you to enhance performance, reliability, or comfort ahead of time, guaranteeing unforgettable experiences when the riding season resumes.

Conclusion — How to Winterize Your UTV/Side-by-Side

Proper winterization is vital to preserving the condition and performance of your UTV or side-by-side during the colder months. By following these steps, you can ensure your four-wheeler is ready to tackle winter conditions effectively anytime.