How To Start ATV In Cold Weather

Some off-roaders store their ATV for winter, but others keep right on riding and enjoy the winter scenery, ice fishing, ATV riding in snow, and more. If you want to be in the latter group, go for it! Just know that you may have a little trouble getting your engine to start. This post will tell you how to start ATVs in cold weather.

starting atv in cold weather.jpg

Why An ATV Cold Start is Harder

Cold air contains more oxygen, so the air you’re starting your vehicle in is causing a lean condition that makes ATV winter starts harder than normal. You’ll have to compensate for this by adding more fuel to the ratio.

Most ATVs need an air to fuel ratio (AFR) of 14.7:1. This means your engine needs 1 part gas for every 14.7 parts of oxygen. Carburetors and various systems in fuel injected ATVs help to control this for you, but they need more help in cold weather.

Cold Starts for Fuel Injected Systems

Your ATV has a variety of components that calculate the fuel to air ratio and determine whether your vehicle can start.

With fuel injected ATVs, you’re dealing with sensors, the fuel injector, a pump, the throttle body, and the ECU. There’s a sensor in the air intake box that you need to be particularly mindful of. The ECU can automatically add more gas to help you out.

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Cold Starts for Carburetor Systems

Carburetor ATVs need more help because everything’s manual. You might have an automatic choke on some models, but that’s it.

These ATVs can have auto chokes, lever chokes, and primers:

  • Auto chokes have a Thermo sensor and a mechanical assembly that regulate the choke.

  • Lever chokes rely on a lever to limit air in the ratio. The downside to this choke type is that you have to manually control it.

  • Primer chokes rely on a little bulb that you squeeze to tell it to inject more gas into the system.

Starting an ATV in Cold Weather

First, store your ATV indoors during the winter, if you don’t do it any other time, so you’ll have a more favorable environment to start in.

Determine if your ATV has a manual choke. It should be on the handlebars or near the gas tank. You should be able to recognize it because it will read CHOKE or have the letter N on it. It may look like a Z, depending on the angle you’re viewing it from. If you don’t see it, you probably have an auto choke. You can always check your owner’s manual too.

To start an auto choke vehicle:

  • Turn on the ignition
  • Make sure the Petcock is set to On
  • Put the vehicle in neutral
  • Set the kill switch to Run
  • Pull the clutch, if it is necessary on your ATV
  • Press start
  • Don’t apply throttle until the ATV has warmed up 1-5 minutes. (Choose the higher end for colder weather)

To start a manual choke vehicle:

  • Turn on the ignition
  • Make sure the Petcock is set to On
  • Put the vehicle in neutral
  • Pull the choke until it is in full or squeeze the primer bulb 4-5 times
  • Set the kill switch to Run
  • Pull the clutch, if it is necessary on your ATV
  • Press start
  • Don’t apply throttle until the ATV has warmed up 1-5 minutes. (Choose the higher end for colder weather)

Once your vehicle has started, set the choke back to half. Let it run that way for a minute or more, and then kill the choke. If your ATV sounds like it is hiccupping, it is still too lean, so you should apply the choke some more.

When you start riding, go easy on your vehicle for the first few minutes of riding to let it acclimate before you get too demanding with it. Then you can experience the unique joys of winter ATV riding.

Extra Measures

When it’s extremely cold, you may have to do more to get your ATV to start. Use a hair dryer, heat gun, or block heater to warm the carburetor and air intake a few minutes before trying to start it. You may need to warm the air intake as you start the vehicle and it warms up.

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