Cold Weather Tips for Off-Road Vehicles
Winter weather is hard on vehicles. It puts an extra strain on engines and batteries. Here are some tips to improve the performance of your Off-Road Vehicle in cold weather environments.
Use the Right Fuel
The No. 1 cause of poor starting is fuel quality. Make sure your vehicle has a tank full of the fuel specified for your vehicle. When selecting fuel, be sure to watch the ethanol content and purchase from a high-volume gas station. Fuel with a higher-than-recommended octane content can negatively impact the fuel system, emissions output and engine performance. Using fresh fuel from a high-volume gas station ensures you’re getting fuel mixed for winter driving.
A winter fuel mix has a higher Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP), which increases evaporation and eases starting in cold temperatures. Summer fuel mixes have lower RVPs, making the fuel less likely to evaporate in warm weather riding and preventing vapor lock issues. After filling your tank with fresh gasoline, run the engine for 10 to 15 minutes to fill the fuel system with the fresh winter blend. Winter fuel mixes are available from Sept. 15 to June 1. More information on seasonal fuel mixes is available from the Environmental Protection Agency.
Spark Plug Maintenance
Check your spark plug gap and condition. A fouled spark plug lacks the voltage required to ignite fuel.
A normal spark plug insulator tip is gray, tan or light brown. There will be few combustion deposits. The electrodes are not burned or eroded. This indicates the proper type and heat range for the engine and the service.
A wet fouled insulator tip is black. A damp oil film covers the firing end. There may be a carbon layer over the entire nose. Generally, the electrodes are not worn. General causes of fouling are excessive oil, use of non-recommended oil, improper use of the choke, or incorrect carburetion adjustments.
A spark plug tip should not be white. A white insulator tip indicates overheating, caused by use of an improper spark plug or incorrect carburetion adjustments.
Take Care of Your Engine
Make sure you’re giving your engine time to warm up after starting it in cold weather. For a period of time after start-up, the engine is in fuel enrichment mode in cold weather. This improves starting by adjusting the fuel mixture.
It's also important to let the engine run after it warms up. In cold temperatures, starting an engine can take up to twice as much power. On a short trip, the engine is unable to recharge the battery enough to make up for the power lost starting the engine. That quick trip to the mailbox and back can be harmful in the winter when more power is required to start the engine, so be sure to add extra travel to your short trips. You should run your vehicle long enough to reach full operating RPMs (3,000 RPMs) and temperature. It is also important to run the vehicle long enough to complete a full fan cycle.
Check Fluid Levels and Tire Pressure
Always make sure fluids are full and tires are inflated to specification. Make sure suspension and pivot points are well-greased to keep water and debris out and to keep cold parts moving freely.
Drive with Caution
Be sure to drive carefully in snow if you are unfamiliar with the terrain. Rocks and tree stumps hidden under the snow can cause damage to your vehicle if they are hit at high speeds.
Take Care of Your Battery
As noted above, avoid short trips in cold weather. Low temperatures are especially hard on batteries. At 32 degrees Fahrenheit, a battery can lose 35 percent of its strength. At 0 degrees F, it can lose 60 percent of its strength. Short trips place extra stress on your Off-Road Vehicle's battery and can cause premature replacement of your battery.
Also, keep an eye on corrosion buildup on your battery. Check for battery corrosion periodically. This becomes a bigger problem in the winter because a poor connection limits the available power flow. If you find battery corrosion on your battery terminal, disconnect the battery cables (always disconnect the black negative cable first). Then, make a paste of water and baking soda and apply it to the terminals. This paste will neutralize the corrosion and allow it to be cleaned off the battery more easily.
Note: The provided information is a general guideline. Information specific to your vehicle can be found in your Owner's Manual. Polaris owners can access Owner’s Manuals by logging in to their RideReady account.
RideReady provides mobile, transport or drop-off service options for off-road vehicles. To learn more about the RideReady program, access our frequently asked questions.