A pro explains common repair and maintenance for motorcycles and ATVs that you can do yourself. Save money by replacing CV boots, cleaning and lubing chains and cables, and performing other basic tasks.
By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine
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Tire pressure matters!
Fill your tires to the ATV manufacturer’s recommended pressure (it’s printed on a label stuck to the machine and in your owner’s manual), never to the maximum pressure shown on the tire sidewall.
Many ATV owners have lost their low-pressure tire gauge and use an auto tire gauge instead. Big mistake! It won’t give you an accurate reading. And according to our pro, Josh Fischer, (the owner of Unlimited Motor Sports Repair), most customers overfill their tires, sometimes by as much as 20 to 30 lbs. That reduces traction and increases the “bounce” factor that could throw you from the machine. In 2006, ATV accidents in the United States resulted in an estimated 882 deaths and 146,600 visits to the emergency room. Don’t be the next statistic. Inflate your tires to the proper pressure. If you’re thinking about buying an ATV, check out these tips on buying a used ATV.
Replace your ATV’s CV boots and save $100
New boot and clamps
New CV boots and bands are available at dealers or online.
Photo 1: Remove the band and boot
Cut the retaining bands with side cutters and slice the old boot lengthwise with a utility knife to remove it. Clean the joint in degreaser until you can see the retaining clip. Compress or expand the C-clip (depending on the style), and pop the joint off the axle.
Photo 2: Clean and regrease
Soak the disassembled joint in degreaser, scrub the parts with a toothbrush, rinse with clean degreaser and wipe the parts dry. Slide the boot over the axle shaft and crimp the band clamp. Then fill the joint with new grease.
Photo 3: Reassemble
Slip the large end of the boot over the joint. Burp the air out of the boot and crimp the remaining band. Tighten just enough to prevent the boot from rotating.
Constant velocity (CV) boots keep the lubricating grease inside the joint and the dirt out—until they crack. Then you have to replace them—and fast! Once they’re open to the environment, the grease attracts dirt, which grinds up the metal parts in no time. Instead of replacing an $18 boot, you’ll be buying the entire joint at $125 a pop.
It’s easy to check the condition of the CV boots. Just look for fresh grease around the pleats. If you see any, the boot is toast.
Replacing a CV boot is fairly simple maintenance, but you’ll have to remove the axle shaft from the machine. To do that, you’ll have to jack up the machine and support it with jack stands (see your service manual for jacking and support locations). Then remove the wheel and the axle nut.
Next, remove the axle from the differential. Most axle styles pop out with a crowbar, but some require a special procedure, so refer to your service manual. Service manuals are worth the investment if you plan to do your own work (check the dealer or online for prices and availability).
You can buy individual CV boots, but as long as you have the axle shaft out of the machine, it’s best to replace both of them at once. You’ll also need a band installation tool. Buy one from your local dealer, or check online (search “ATV tools and parts”). Once the axle is out, follow the boot replacement procedure shown.
Clean and maintain your ATV air filter
Photo 1: Remove and clean filter
Remove the foam filter and wipe any debris from the outside. Then dunk the filter in the cleaning solution for the recommended time. Squeeze out the excess solution. Rinse the filter with water and let it dry.
Photo 2: Oil the filter
Pour fresh oil on the cleaned filter element. Then squeeze the foam to spread the oil into the pores. Reinstall it on the carburetor.
Most of you operate your ATVs in dirty conditions. That’s fine; they’re designed for that. But you have to keep the air filter clean. According to Josh, just about every machine he works on has a seriously clogged filter. A dirty filter lowers your gas mileage and causes poor engine performance. Cleaning the filter is messy, but anybody can do it.
Buy an air filter cleaning kit from your dealer. It contains a bottle of cleaning solution and a spray can of filter oil. You’ll also need a plastic cleaning tub, rags, a bucket of soapy water and chemical-resistant gloves.
Clean and lubricate your motorcycle chain
Photo 1: Clean the chain
Dunk the brush in degreaser and slide it up and down the chain. Rotate the chain and repeat until you’ve cleaned the entire chain. Rinse with clean degreaser and sponge it dry with a rag.
Use a Grunge Brush or similar tool to clean gunk off a motorcycle chain.
Photo 2: Apply lubricant
Spray the sprocket side of the chain links, not the outside. Then take the bike for a spin. Centrifugal force will spin the lube deep into the links for complete lubrication.
Cleaning and lubing your motorcycle chain takes only a few minutes and can dramatically increase the life of the chain. Many bike owners do it wrong. Lube needs to be applied to the part of the chain that meshes with the cogs. If you apply it to the outside of the chain, centrifugal force will throw it off before it can penetrate to the chain’s innards. Josh recommends the Grunge Brush (available through our affiliation with Amazon.com) to scrub the crud off the chain (see photo).
Lube clutch and brake cables
Disconnect and lube
Disconnect the stud end of the cable from the lever. Then attach the cable luber. Insert the spray straw into the opening on the luber and inject the lube under pressure to force it into the cable.
Josh replaces a lot of cables that could last much longer with periodic lubrication. And, with replacements costing $20 and up, regular lubrication is just plain smart. Lubricate the cables twice per season. It’s easy to do, but you’ll need this special lubrication tool for an effective job. Buy it (and a can of spray cable lube) at your dealer or online.
Change the differential oil in your ATV
This simple drain-and-refill procedure should be done regularly. But many owners neglect it, resulting in huge repair bills. Refer to your owner’s manual for recommended change intervals and the proper type of lube oil.
Required Tools for this Project
Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.
You’ll also need a low-pressure tire gauge, a sidecutter, a banding tool, a crowbar, rubber gloves, and a chain-cleaning brush.
Required Materials for this Project
Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here’s a list.