What to keep in mind before—and after—buying

1. Maintenance

It's simple. Neglect a quad and, sooner or later, it’ll leave you stranded far from home base. Before you set out, check that all hoses are in excellent condition and that fluid levels are topped up, including the battery’s. Also check for corrosion on the battery posts and clean the radiator of bugs, mud and debris. Cables need a checkup as well, since corrosion from small rips can cause them to seize.

2. Trailering

Hauling your ATV on a trailer means paying attention to detail. Get a trailer substantial enough to pull not only the dry weight of your machine, but all the gear as well. And make sure the tires are properly inflated for all the weight. Don’t guess—measure. Also, be aware that tire pressure changes with temperature, and running on an under-inflated tire is just asking for trouble.

3. Fuel

Gasoline turns into sludge when it sits idle in the fuel system for a while, so it’s a good idea to drain it whenever you won’t be using your machine for more than a month or two. One aspect that’s often overlooked is the gasoline remaining in the carburetor. To drain it, shut off the fuel supply, then run the ATV in circles until it quits from fuel starvation.

4. Control

You need to know the power of the machine and the responsiveness of the throttle. One situation that drives this home is crossing logs that have fallen across the trail. In such cases, you need to gingerly bring the front tires up against the log, then gently work the throttle to slowly climb and traverse the obstacle; too much throttle at this time can cause the machine to lurch dangerously.

5. Responsibility

There is a lot of traffic on the trails—and plenty of potential for some nasty accidents, not to mention harm to the environment. So, how is it possible to indulge our inclination to get deep into the wilderness without doing damage to either ourselves or the land?

By riding responsibly, says the Canadian All-Terrain Vehicle Distributors Council, which recently launched its ATV SafetyWatch Program to spread that very message. Under the new program, the CATV is now offering a booklet of safety tips, an educational CD and workshops on how to properly ride an ATV. To learn more about the program, visit their website.

6. Etiquette

For the most part, trail etiquette boils down to common sense, but there are a few conventions that every operator should be aware of. First, whenever you meet another ATV on a hill, the one going downhill should pull off the trail to give the right of way to the one going up. And when you pull off for this or any other reason, whenever possible, turn to your right.