Do You Need an ATV Spark Arrestor and How to Fix One
You hear a lot about spark arrestors, particularly when it comes to where you can ride your ATV. But what is it and why is it so important? This post will explain if you need an ATV spark arrestor and how to fix and maintain yours.
Common Reasons for Having a Spark Arrestor on Your ATV
The purpose for having a spark arrestor on an ATV is to prevent wildfires and other unwanted combustion by keeping sparks from exiting the exhaust system.
How to Know if Your Vehicle is Fitted with a Spark Arrestor
You'll need to know if your ATV has a spark arrestor to be sure you comply with local laws and rules for trails you want to ride.
Many mufflers have a written notification on them stating whether or not there is an arrestor installed. If you don't see a notification, or this is a used ATV and someone may have removed the arrestor, you'll have to check for an arrestor yourself.
Grab a flashlight and look inside the muffler. You should see a fine steel mesh across the inside of the muffler. It may look like a flat screen or a tube. You'll have more difficulty seeing the tube. You can take a screwdriver and gently poke to feel the screen. Some arrestors look like a set of discs at the end of the muffler and will be much easier to see.
If you bought a used ATV with some age on it, your muffler might have a centrifugal spark arrestor. If so, these are built into the muffler and can't be removed should you wish to.
How Does a Spark Arrestor Work?
A spark arrestor acts as a filter, allowing exhaust to flow out while trapping sparks. They can have different ratings, so you'll want to determine which one you need or want if you are purchasing a spark arrestor.
Do You Really Need a Spark Arrestor in Your ATV: Pros and Cons
That depends. It is not required for the ATV to function and has little to do with performance, but it may not be legal for you to ride your ATV without one or you may not be able to ride your favorite trail.
Sparks can come from the engine itself or from the carbon deposits inside the exhaust. The ones produced in the engine grow less likely all the time as technology improves, but you can still have some that form farther along in the exhaust system.
You can sometimes see for yourself that sparks fly out of your exhaust, particularly at night. These sparks can cause a fire anywhere the conditions are right.
It is possible for a spark arrestor to have a slight impact on performance because there is a screen in the path of the air flow. If you don't clean your spark arrestor regularly, there could be a significant performance reduction.
Most of the time, any potential difference is slight enough that most people consider there to be no difference.
If any impact is unacceptable to you, you could buy an aftermarket exhaust system designed for increase performance and remap your engine. You'll still have a spark arrestor, but any potential decrease is compensated for.
A spark arrestor can reduce the sound of your exhaust by a couple of decibels. There are many reasons we may not be able to have exhaust as loud as we'd like, so that con has little impact on most of us.
Spark arrestors are not designed for aesthetic purposes and some ATV owners think they mar the look of their machine. It's not super noticeable.
Do you need a spark arrestor?
It is generally considered that the importance of using a spark arrestor is greater than the downsides.
How to Clean a Spark Arrestor
Since they are a filter, spark arrestors need to routinely be cleaned to allow the exhaust to flow through as it should.
Your ATV owner's manual or the manual that came with your aftermarket exhaust will state how often you need to clean the arrestor.
They are designed to either to be easily removed or to be easily accessed via a cleanout plug.
The main method for cleaning any style of arrestor is to get some fuel and a copper wire brush to scrub them. You can take a blow torch and burn the carbon away from screen arrestors, but you need to be very careful.
How to Remove a Spark Arrestor
The exact method to remove a spark arrestor depends on the arrestor itself. You'll have to read the manual that came with it for specifics.
It usually consists of simply removing the bolts holding it in place, but you may have to drill.
It is possible that running an ATV without a spark arrestor will make it run leaner because there may be a slight increase the airflow. If you discover that to be the case with your machine, you may need to rejet the ATV to compensate.