“With EFI, you
turn the key and it starts. You can’t get that kind of winter
starting with a carburetor model.”
—DONNA BEADLE, POLARIS
All-terrian vehicles are great in the summer. They go pretty much anywhere in the back country at decent speed and can carry a reasonable load. But in winter, some of them just can’t handle snow. They can’t get traction. They hang up. And with their higher profile, you’re out there in the wind. You could get a snow machine for winter, but they aren’t really designed for utility work. And if you’ve already got $10,000 invested in a quad, maybe you don’t want to spend $10,000 on a snow machine. You want a quad that performs in winter and keeps you in reasonable comfort.
Here are five steps to improve winter performance of an ATV:
1. ELECTRONIC FUEL INJECTION
Donna Beadle, external relations specialist with Polaris puts EFI at the top of the list. “With EFI, you turn the key and it starts. You can’t get that kind of winter starting with a carburetor model.”
That way you don’t have to worry about hard starts in cold weather. “Every ATV in the country is warm blooded. You need to let them warm up before starting into hard work in the winter,” says Pat Ford, sales manager with Brandon R. V. and Leisure, a Suzuki dealer in Brandon, Man. “If you don’t let it warm, it fights the transmission as well as the weight of the load.”
2. IMPROVED TRACTION
Pat Ford says they clear snow from the parking lot at Brandon R. V. and Leisure in less than an hour with a quad and blade — and the quad just has the stock tires it came with. “The bigger the knobs, the less rubber you have on the ground, which reduces traction in snow and ice,” Ford says. “Flatter stock tires are better for winter than a mud-bogging tire.” Beadle says you can also get chains for ATVs if the tires you have aren’t up to the job.
For ultimate performance in snow, many quad-makers now offer tracks to mount in place of the wheels. Bombardier’s Can-Am ATV has its Apache track kit system that’s ready to install right out of the box. Arctic Cat and Polaris offer similar four-track systems. Beadle says you do compromise on utility when you go to tracks. For example, she says many models cannot handle a blade with the tracks on. For the price of a set of tracks — $3,000 to $4,000 — you might just want to buy a used snow mobile after all.
3. ELECTRONIC FOUR-WHEEL DRIVE
This feature kicks in all-wheel drive only when necessary. It also diverts power away from wheels that are slipping and sends more power to the wheels with traction. Why not just keep it in 4×4? Because Beadle says you get better gas mileage and a tighter turning radius in 2×4 mode.
Even if the 4×4 is always on, the limited slip feature is important. Bombardier’s Can-Am ATV, for example, has Visco-Lok differential, which transfers power from a slipping wheel to the gripping one automatically with no buttons to push or levers to pull.
4. COMFORT FROM THE COLD
The optional features list for many quads include heated seat covers, hand warmers and thumb warmers. Most models can accommodate a windshield. And if you want to take the next step, you can get a cab. Cabs can be as simple as a cloth canopy with plastic window. With some utility vehicles, you can get full poly or even steel cabs with a heater inside.
5. ADDED WEIGHT
This is the same simple standby that you use on the half ton and your tractor. The principle works for quads, too. Put a sandbag on each rack and see a big boost in traction, especially in fluffy snow.
Jay Whetter is the editor of Grainews.