What Type of Gas and Oil to put in an ATV?

It seems like a stupid question, but I felt like a complete idiot the first time I drove up to a gas station to fill up an ATV and realized I had no idea what type of gasoline to put into it.  Prior to that point I had always driven ATVs that were full of gas and I was never the person in charge of buying the gas or adding oil.  So if you are reading this article, don’t feel like a complete newbie, we have all been there before!

Luckily, the answer here is pretty simple…mostly.  For most four-stroke ATVs, you can use regular gasoline, grade 87 or above, from your local gas station.  If you don’t know the recommendation for your ATV, opt for 89 grade unless the 87 grade is ethanol free.  For oil, simply use 10w40 and change it a couple times a year.  If you have a two-stroke ATV, the answer is a little more complicated.  On a two-stroke ATV, you will need to mix gasoline with oil specifically designed for two-stroke engines and then use that gasoline-oil blend in your ATV.  While the answer seems mostly simple, there are a lot more considerations with putting gasoline into an ATV than with filling up your average car.  With those considerations, there are also some different and strongly-contested opinions.  While I will do my best to address all the key points, you should consult your owner’s manual or a mechanic if you have concerns about your specific ATV.


Read Your Owner’s Manual

To be sure you are putting the right kind of gasoline in your ATV, the easiest thing to do is consult your owner’s manual.  Of course, I would recommend reading your owner’s manual first thing with a new ATV regardless so that you can be confidant with how everything works on your specific ATV.  If you are lucky, your ATV might also have a sticker on the actual body of the ATV that tells you the minimum grade gasoline to use.  That comes in handy, especially when you are not riding your own ATV or when you buy a used ATV without an owner’s manual.  It is worth noting, however, that you will probably be able to find the owner’s manual online for most any ATV our there so if you buy a used ATV or are really worried about putting the right gasoline in a borrowed ATV, that is a resource you can use.  Most manuals I have seen recommend 87 grade or higher so you can be pretty confident with that unless you are riding a high-performance ATV or UTV.  It should be noted, however, that many of the ATV manuals will only recommend 87-grade gasoline if there is no ethanol in it, but actually recommend 89 or 91 grade gasoline if it has ethanol.  If you have an added performance kit with your ATV, it should tell you if a higher grade gasoline is needed.

4 Stroke Versus 2 Stroke

As discussed above, the big difference when it comes to gasoline and oil depends on whether you have a 4-stroke or 2-stroke ATV.  The 4 stroke is going to be much easier to maintain and is probably the right choice for ninety percent of ATV riders.  With the  4-stroke ATV, there is a lubricating oil pan, typically located at the bottom of the engine, that makes it so that you can use straight gasoline from your local gas station and  only need to change the oil a couple times a year.

The 2-stroke ATV is much more needy.  Because the 2-stroke engine does not have an oil reservoir to lubricate moving parts, they require oil to be added to the burning gasoline so that the internal parts are coated with oil during combustion.  While this requires more work, it does not have to be a huge burden as you can mix the oil and gas in a gas can ahead of time to ensure you have an even mixture and to save time when you need to refuel the ATV.

As I said above, the 4-stroke ATV is going to be desirable for most ATV riders that want to keep it simple to operate with lower maintenance and cheaper cost.  They also tend to have a higher top speed and can generate more power for towing heavy loads or carrying more weight.  That being  said, there are some very good reasons why some ATV riders prefer owning a 2-stroke ATV. A 2-stroke engine will rev quicker, causing it to accelerate faster because it takes fewer rotations of the crank to complete a cycle.  Because of this, 2-stroke ATVs are often favored by those that race ATVs.

Preference for Higher Grade, Non-Ethanol Gasoline

This a pretty heated debate among ATV enthusiasts.  Many claim 87 grade gasoline, with or without ethanol, is all you need and buying anything more is just a waste of money.  Some will even claim 87 grade is better for your ATV because it does not burn as hot, thereby posing less risk of burning through your piston.  Nevertheless, even those that believe higher octane gasoline is not necessary usually recognize that the higher-grade gasoline is a good cure for an engine experiencing a case of the knocks.

On the other side, there are many ATV enthusiasts that preach non-ethanol gasoline and generally prefer at least 91 grade gasoline for most ATVs. Many claim that there are many little engine issues that can stem from using lower grade gasoline with ethanol.  There are also claims that the ethanol in the gasoline will rob your engine of both power and fuel economy.  Another thing to be aware of is that a carbureted engine is more likely to be affected by low-grade gasoline than is a fuel-injected engine.


I generally come down in the middle somewhere.  I don’t mind shelling out a few extra dollars for better gas, but I also won’t insist on it for most normal ATVs where 87-grade gasoline is recommended by the manufacturer.  That being said, there are high-performance ATVs and UTVs out there that really do require higher-grade gasoline.  In the end, I say just go with what your manufacturer recommends and you will probably be safe.

If you decide non-ethanol gasoline is your preference, Pure Gas is a dang helpful website that lists gas stations around the country that offer non-ethanol gasoline.

A Few Points on Oil

For most 4-stroke ATVs, 10w40 oil is going to work just fine, but, once again, you are going to want to check your owner’s manual.  As addressed above, oil in a 2-stroke ATV is a different ball game.  With a 2-stroke ATV, you need to make sure you are using gasoline specifically made for 2-stroke engines.  Another thing you need to be aware of if you have a high-performance or racing ATV is that the ATV may have a wet clutch.  If it does have a wet clutch, special wet-clutch compatible oil is required.


While not very common, there are diesel ATVs and UTVs available. A diesel engine is going to be available more with UTVs than ATVs, but with a diesel engine, you are obviously going to want to put diesel gasoline in it.  Diesel engines can be desirable to some because diesel engines produce more torque, and thus more power, for towing and hauling. Additionally, diesel engines typically get higher fuel mileage, which makes them great for camping and or longer trail riding.

Gasoline Additives

Gasoline additives are very popular with ATV riders, especially fuel cleaning additives when using gasoline with ethanol.  Running gasoline additives in every tank is said to counteract the negatives of the ethanol.  This is because the additives act as a fuel stabilizer and help clean the carburetor and combustion chamber.  While many ATV owners use the additive in every tank, others only think it is necessary if your engine is acting up or experiencing the dreading knock.

Seafoam is probably the most popular gasoline additive used by ATV enthusiasts.  It is going to be easy to find  at your local store and most ATV owners swear by it, but there are some who prefer other brands such as Restore Fuel System Restorer.  Some signs that you probably want to use a fuel cleaner:

  • The ATV is hard to start, meaning the engine takes more time to get started than it used to.
  • The engine only runs with the choke fully pulled out. This could also be a sign that the carburator needs to be cleaned, but it is worth it to try fuel cleaners to see if it solves the problem.
  • The engine does not rev up as quickly or powerful as it used to.
  • The engine does not idle smoothly or just shuts off when in idle.

STA-BIL is another additive you should know about.  STA-BIL is designed to keep gas fresh as long as possible. Because of this, STA-BIL is great for those that don’t get to ride their ATVs very often.  So, if you plan on leaving gasoline in your ATV for more than a month between rides, or if you store spare gasoline in cans, it is helpful to add some STA-BIL to the gasoline to keep it fresh.

A warning about engine additives.  You do want to avoid using too much octane booster in your ATVs as they cause added heat that can actually burn a hole in the top of the piston.



It seems like a stupid question, but I felt like a complete idiot the first time I drove up to a gas station to fill up an ATV and realized I had no idea what type of gasoline to put into it.  Prior to that point I had always driven ATVs that were full of gas and I was never the person in charge of buying the gas or adding oil.  So if you are reading this article, don’t feel like a complete newbie, we have all been there before!

Brent Huntley

Brent Huntley is the owner of ATV Man and is responsible for almost all the material on the website. He also runs photographyandtravel.com and loves to travel and ride ATVs with his family. When he isn't playing, his day job consists of owning Huntley Law.

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