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Preparing your ATV for the Dunes

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It's just around the corner. Your first trip out to the sand dunes in probably six months. That's the last time it was cool enough to go out and shred some sand. Where has your quad been since then? Stuffed away in the garage or still sitting in the trailer where you last parked it? I'm sure some of you're still waiting to get one of the new machines that are now starting to roll onto the showroom floor of your local dealers.

If you're waiting on your new ride or if you already have one that you haven't looked at in a while, it's OK. We've taken the time to contact some of the most well-respected names in the industry and picked their brains. We wanted to know what they recommended be done when getting ready to hit the dunes.

Sit back, take notes and prepare to be educated.

Allen Knowles, Owner, CT Racing
ATVR: Allen, thanks for taking the time to go over this with us. When you hear of people prepping machines to go out to the dunes, what comes to mind?
AK: Are we talking new or old machines?

ATVR: Let's start with new quads.
AK: If someone has just purchased a new four-stroke ATV and is an experienced rider, hold off on getting paddle tires. The new four-stroke ATVs are really strong and the radial knobby tires give excellent traction in all conditions. Running the stock tires allows you to slide the quad at will and throw a monster roost. Unless you're an inexperienced rider, you should have no problem getting up anything.

ATVR: That's a good tip. How about maintenance? Is there anything that absolutely needs to be done on either new or old machines?
AK: Well, many people neglect all of the pivot points of the quads. Before you head out to the dunes, take the time to clean and lubricate all of your A-arm, swingarm and linkage components. By doing this you can find worn-out parts while improving the overall ride of your machine.

ATVR: That's a great suggestion. My guess is while you're doing that, it would be a good idea to service your shocks if they're rebuildable. How about in the engine?
AK: It doesn't hurt to check the condition of the top end of both two- and four-stroke engines. You want there to be adequate compression or else your engine will not perform to its fullest potential.

ATVR: What are your recommendations for top end service intervals?
AK: Two-stroke top ends should be serviced every 40 to 50 hours. The newer high-performance four-strokes should be on that schedule as well. The older style four-strokes such as the 400EX, Warrior and the like can typically go 70 to 80 hours between servicing.

ATVR: When you say servicing you mean
AK: Replacing the piston, piston rings and hone or bore the cylinder as necessary.

ATVR: What about the valves on four-stroke machines?
AK: The valves should be checked after 20 hours of riding, and after 40 hours I recommend to pull the head and have a valve job done. Once you let the valves get too far out of adjustment, they sacrifice horsepower and do serious damage to the head.

ATVR: As far as airflow into the engine is concerned, do you have any preference on K&N style or foam filters?
AK: If you run foam filters, you have to have a fresh filter for every day that you're going to be riding. After a day of riding, sand will definitely find its way through a foam filter and into your engine. For dune riding I like running a K&N filter with an Outerwears cover. Those keep out sand much better.

ATVR: When it comes to fuel, what do you recommend? Pump or race gas?
AK: The best fuel to run is race fuel, but the downfall is that it's very expensive. The higher octane in the fuel helps the engine run much cooler which in turn prevents the loss of power. If you're completely against paying for race fuel and will only buy pump, purchase the highest octane possible. The 87-octane fuels just aren't good for the engines that are in quads these days. I'd say to at least run a 50/50 mix of good race fuel and high-octane pump fuel.

ATVR: That's the recommendation for stock machines. How about the people who are putting high-compression pistons in their engines or milling the heads of two-strokes?
AK: The pump fuel is OK for a stock four- or two-stroke engine. Once you start milling the head of a two-stroke or go higher than 11:1 compression on a four-stroke I wouldn't run anything less than the 50/50 at the very least.

ATVR: Finally, what is the absolute most necessary thing people need to do with their quads for a long life?
AK: Changing the oil and oil filter after every weekend ride along with the air filter are the best things they can do. The Honda TRX450R is the only quad that doesn't share the transmission oil with the engine oil. Every other quad on the market has a system that allows clutch material to mix in with the oil and go through the entire engine. All of that material is very abrasive and can lead to premature engine wear, and if your air filter passes dirt, that is just as bad. If you change these on a regular basis, you'll extend the life of your engine that much longer.

ATVR: Awesome tips, Al! Thanks for taking the time to help educate our readers. I'm sure they'll all appreciate it.

Loren Duncan, Owner, Duncan Racing International
ATVR: Loren, I appreciate your taking the time out of your busy day to give our readers this great information. When customers bring their ATVs to your shop for a preseason service, what are some of the most commonly neglected items you see?
LD: Lack of air filter maintenance, changing the oil and oil filter and the drive chain adjustment.

ATVR: What does a preseason service at your shop include?
LD: This will vary from shop to shop. At DRI we check over the machine from back to front. The ATV is inspected for any obvious loose, missing, bent or broken parts. This also includes missing cotter pins that sometimes are forgotten about. We also check and adjust the chain and all control cables, check valve clearance, adjust the cam chain, change the oil and oil filter, replace spark plugs and clean the air filter. To top all of this off, we do a test ride to make sure the machine is ready to go to the desert. This is a critical part of the service to us. You can start the machine up in the shop but there's no substitute for riding it to make sure that it runs good, the clutch works well and that it shifts properly.

If the customer complains about weak performance, we will also perform a leak-down test on four-strokes and compression test on two-strokes for an additional charge. Another thing we see quite often is people leaving the fuel from last season in the tank when they store their ATV. This can cause a ton of grief because the gas can go bad or dry up causing poor-running or clogged jets. This is when the tank and carburetor need to be removed for cleaning.

ATVR: That's a good bit of advice. What recommendations do you have for the people who say, "I don't ride that hard" and put off rebuilding the top ends of their engines? There's no doubt that sand riding puts a tremendous amount of stress on them.
LD: The best thing to do is keep track of the hours put on the motor, do regular services and a yearly leakdown test to gauge engine wear. We highly recommend the use of an hourmeter on all ATVs. There's some truth to the "I don't ride that hard" theory, but it still requires maintenance. If you take care of your engine, it will last much longer than if you don't.

ATVR: What kind of fuel do you recommend running and why?
LD: On engines that have 10:1 or less compression, we think high-octane pump fuel is just fine. With ratios of 11:1 a blend of 50/50 pump and race fuel and then with 12:1 and higher should run straight race fuel. We look at your engine as an athlete. The better food you feed it, the more reliable it is. Race fuel doesn't give you more power, but it does allow your engine to run cooler, more consistently and makes tuning that much easier. We steer clear of aviation fuels because they tend to make engines run hotter and are formulated for running at high altitudes where oxygen levels are low.

ATVR: For many people, the stock power of their machine is plenty. But what do you recommend for those who want that little extra edge?
LD: I recommend putting on high-quality components: exhausts, camshafts, air filter kits, etc. More and more people are getting taken advantage of by getting cheap imitations of poorly made products that are sold without any tech support. These items usually don't fit properly, perform poorly and break down more than ever before. Find an established company with a good track record and try to do all of your performance work in one place. When you mix and match parts, it's very difficult to get quality tech support.

ATVR: These are all great tips. Finally, what are the top five absolute must-do's before taking your quad out to the dunes?
LD: First, make sure your machine starts, idles and runs well and check to make sure the brakes work. Second, make sure that all the fluids are topped off: fuel, oil, coolant, brake fluid, etc. Third, check that the tires have air and can hold air. Fourth, make sure you have your whip and current registration. Fifth, finally make sure that your head and tailights work properly.

ATVR: Thank you again, Loren. I'm sure our readers will appreciate every word of this advice.

Source: ATV Rider Magazine (Allen Knowles Interview - Dune Prep 101 - ATV Rider Magazine)
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