How to Start an ATV After it Has Been Sitting for Winter? 

An ATV that won’t start after sitting all winter can be a real pain. You might get it to turn over, only to have it die seconds later. Before you throw in the towel, there may still be hope for your ATV to start again. Using a checklist of common problems related to your ATV sitting all winter should help you to fix your ATV and get it running again. 

How to start an ATV after it has been sitting for winter? Starting an ATV after it has been sitting all winter may require some standard tune-up maintenance including:

  • Engine fluids flush and replace;
  • Battery charge or change; and
  • Air filter replacement.

If you think that your ATV is not severely damaged and may have been sitting too long, this article will give you the details about cleaning, replacing, and fixing the critical components needed to get your ATV running again. Read on to find out the most common fixes for an ATV that won’t start after sitting for winter.

Starting an ATV After it Has Been Sitting for Winter

ATV’s and UTV’s usually sit idle and unused during the winter months. Proper storage of an ATV can help to keep all of the engine components clean and working. However, if the ATV has been sitting for a long time in poor conditions, improper storage, or just for an extended time during a long winter, several things could cause it not to start or run correctly.

Let’s check out the three most common fixes for an ATV that has been sitting for winter in more detail. 

Flushing and Replacing Engine Fluids in your ATV

Within the engine of your ATV, several critical fluid types may have fouled if there is improper storage in poor weather conditions. Fouled fluids in the engine are especially common if the ATV was sitting somewhere below freezing or in excessive heat (not a winter problem, but good to know). Essential fluids to flush or replace are:

  • Fuel tank
  • Engine Oil
  • Differential fluid

How to drain bad fuel from your ATV

The best way to check if the fuel in your ATV tank has gone bad is by the smell and color. Bad gas has a sour scent and darker color.  Even the consistency will look and feel gummy, which means the gas has begun to deteriorate and is less combustible. This usually only happens after about six months of gas sitting without being used, but it can happen sooner than that.  

The steps that need to be taken to flush and replace fuel tank fluids are:

  1. Drain the fuel tank completely: Start by turning the fuel intake valve to off. Take off the hose from the cutoff valve and then replace the small clamp onto the tube again. Put another hose onto the cutoff valve, turn it on and let the fuel drain into a bucket.
  2. Check the fuel lines and filter: The gummy consistency of the old fuel can clog up the fuel hose line and the screen. Check both of these and clean out the hose and possibly replace the fuel filter.
  3. Check the on/off valve: If the valve does not open freely on its own or is sticky, you may need to clean or replace it.
  4. Replace with clean fuel: Clean and fresh fuel can now be placed into the fuel tank. You may want to try to run the ATV, drain it again, and then fill it again. 

How to drain and replace an ATV’s engine oil

Changing out old engine oil is an essential maintenance procedure that should be done on your ATV yearly. This is especially true if the ATV was run for long periods and many miles the year before and stored in extremely cold or hot temperatures.

The steps that need to be taken to drain and replace the engine oil on your ATV are

  1. Find the oil drain plug: The oil drain plug is usually a bolt on the engine. You may have to remove the ATV’s seat and use the pull tabs to gain access to the drain plug. Using a socket wrench, loosen the bolt and let the oil drain for fifteen minutes or so into a bucket. 
  2. Remove the oil filter: During your oil change, you will want to replace the oil filter on your ATV. You can remove the oil filter after the oil in the engine has completely drained. 
  3. Make sure you have the right oil: Most ATV’s should use synthetic 4-stroke engine oil, but check out this article if you have questions. Some popular types of engine oil for your ATV that we like are listed below: 

Charging or Changing your ATV Battery after Winter

If you have an older ATV with an old battery, you may either charge the battery back up to powerful enough to start the engine or completely replace the battery. Batteries tend to lose power as they sit in the cold, so if your ATV was stored all winter in the cold, you might need to charge it back up or replace it.

How to Charge your ATV Battery

If you don’t feel you need to change the battery completely, you can use a battery charger or follow these easy instructions to charge your battery:

  1. Get access to the battery: You can reach your battery by lifting the ATV seat and pulling some tabs to remove a wall plate.
  2. Attach the battery to a charged battery on a running ATV: Using an ATV that is currently running and jumper cables set to connect the wires to the connector terminals of the working ATV’s battery and the terminals of the dead ATV’s battery.
  3. Rev the engine of the running ATV: to get more power and juice into the dead ATV, rev the RPMs of the moving ATV while their batteries are connected.
  4. Start dead ATV: As you rev the running ATV, try to start up the dead ATV. The battery should charge for a few minutes before attempting to try this. 

How to Change your ATV Battery

If you try to recharge it and can’t get it to take or keep the charge, follow these easy instructions to replace your ATV battery: 

  1. Get access to battery: Most vital engine parts can be accessed by lifting the ATV seat and pulling some tabs to remove a wall plate.
  2. Remove wire bolts: If bolts are holding down the battery and wires, you will need to remove them. The battery is connected to the motor with cables, and these cables can be loosened from the body of the ATV with a socket wrench. The battery clamp can be relaxed and removed with a screwdriver.
  3. Loosen wire connections from battery terminals: The battery has two terminals connected to wires. By using a socket wrench or screwdriver, you can loosen and remove these connectors.
  4. Remove the battery and replace it with a new one: Once you have removed the old battery, set it to the side and find a place where you can recycle it. Replace the new battery in the position of the old one and attach the wires to the connectors. Bolt down the cables and replace the covering and seat for the ATV.

If you have questions about what battery to put in your ATV, head over to this article to figure it out.

How to Clean the Air Filter in your ATV

Another common problem that an ATV which has been sitting may experience is not getting enough air into the fuel mixture. If the fuel is not getting oxygen, the engine’s combustion will be inconsistent and could cause the engine to stall or not start. The most obvious culprit for oxygen/fuel mix problems is a bad or clogged air filter.

Unlike car air filters, ATV air filters are made to be cleaned several times until dirt and debris build-up. Follow these easy instructions to clean the air filter on your ATV: 

  1. Gain access to filter: The filter is usually under the seat of the ATV and in a filter housing. Lift the seat and remove the filter housing. The filter is often mesh or foam.
  2. Brush and wash filter: Using a brush, wipe off debris from the filter. You may want to vacuum the filter as well. If the filter still looks dirty, you can rinse it under cold water. You can even put the filter in a dishwasher or washing machine. You may want to consider this if the filter is green in color with mold spores.
  3. Dry and apply air filter oil: Air dry the filter for up to twenty-four hours. Once dry, use air filter oil and spray it into the filter. Allow the oil to dry. 
  4. Replace the filter: Replace the filter and the filter housing. Then close up the ATV seat securely. 


ATV’s have many components and systems that may need to be cleaned or replaced if they have been sitting in extreme weather conditions or are stored all winter long. By following one or all of these guidelines in this list, you can adequately care for your ATV and get it running again for the spring and summer months.

Brent Huntley

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

Recent Posts