Here’s your checklist when buying a used ATV
As with any used vehicle, it is possible for an ATV to have issues due to heavy use or insufficient maintenance, so before you buy, it’s important to go through a used ATV checklist to make sure you don’t end up with a lemon. Here are some tips on how to spot potential issues:
ATV tires can be very expensive to replace and are key to ensuring safe driving. Check that the tread is not overly worn down and that there are no cracks or chunks missing from the rubber.
Bearings and ball joints
Jack up the ATV on one side, grip the tire and try to wiggle it in and out and up and down. Listen and feel for any rattles, grinding or knocking sounds or movement that indicate worn bearings or ball joints. Repeat this process on the other side.
Look around the top area of the shocks to see if there is any oil leaking. If there is, this indicates a worn shock that will need to be replaced soon to ensure stability while driving.
Check the pleated rubber CV joint boots on the driveline. These keep grease in the wheel joint in order to lubricate moving parts. Look between the pleats to ensure that no grease has leaked out, there are no cracks, and that the boots are in good condition.
Engine and undercarriage
Take a look at the engine and undercarriage for visible damage, dents or cracks. ATVs are usually treated with rust-resistant coatings, so rust is often a sign of stress cracks that will require welding to repair. Use a rag to wipe around the head gasket and valve cover gasket to ensure that there is no oil leaking out. Check that the chain sprocket is not too worn or unevenly worn. Look over the brake cables for cracks and wear. Check that the air filter is not overly dirty.
Pull out the oil dipstick and check the oil for contamination, looking for metallic flecks or overly dark coloring. Check that there is sufficient coolant and other fluids that would indicate that it has been well maintained.
Finally, check the lights, mileage and starter. Take it for a test drive to ensure that it’s a comfortable fit for you and that the engine sounds healthy and everything works.
The lifespan of an ATV can vary greatly, as they can be driven in all kinds of conditions. Well-maintained vehicles driven on trails can last 15-20 years, while others pushed to perform over treacherous terrain will wear out at a much lower mileage. By checking the condition, you should be able to estimate whether the vehicle still has plenty of life in it, but it’s always good to ask the seller questions about its use and history. It’s also a good idea to check the VIN number on the Canadian Police Information Center website to make sure that it was never reported as stolen. Ask if the owner has any paperwork on maintenance or repairs that can help to show the history of the vehicle. Finally, when you find the one that’s right for you, make sure the Bill of Sale is filled out properly, listing the VIN number of the ATV, and check if your province has a registration program for ATVs.