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5 Simple Steps for Washing Your ATV

5 Simple Steps for Washing Your ATV

One of our favorite things about ATVs is how they let us get down and dirty. However, it’s also nice to shine up your vehicle and show it off. Plus, regularly cleaning your ATV is a big part of the routine maintenance that keeps the unit running and keeps you on the trails. Luckily, scrubbing your off-road vehicle clean is a pretty straightforward process*. Here are ATV Trader’s five simple steps for washing your ATV.

*If you live in an area prone to summer droughts, do what you can to preserve water and be aware of any state or local restrictions and regulations about water use.

1. Pre-Wash Rinse

Before rinsing your ATV, protect its more sensitive parts from water damage. Use a plastic bag to cover the rear opening of the muffler, and cover the ignition switch keyhole with some tape. Now you’re free to rinse the vehicle with your garden hose or with the low setting on a pressure washer, which should remove a good amount of the dirt. Depending on how deep you’ve been mudding, you may need to go over the unit a few times, focusing on the frame, wheels, bars, and fenders.

Pro Tip: Remember to avoid rinsing and washing your ATV directly after use; spraying cold water onto a hot vehicle can warp or weaken its parts.

2. Lather & Wash

Once rinsed, you can apply some elbow grease to the dirt that’s really caked onto the ATV. The three main areas to wash are the body, wheels, and skid plates.

  • Body: Mix warm water and a mild automotive detergent to lather and scrub the vehicle, using a sponge or microfiber cloth. You might also consider using a foam cannon to really lather up the unit. After your basic cleaning, you can go around and spot-clean extra oily areas with a degreaser (spray it on, wait, then rinse it off). It’s a good idea to clean the ATV body after every ride.
  • Wheels: Use your soapy mixture to clean the ATV wheels too. If you’ve got alloy rims, check to make sure you’re using the right detergent. Use a scrub brush to really get in there and clean between the tire knobs.
  • Skid Plates: Located on the underside of your ATV, skid plates protect the vehicle from all the mud, gravel, and other debris that gets kicked up while you ride, which means they get pretty filthy. Unbolt the plate and spray it down with your hose or pressure washer; you can also use the scrub brush if necessary. With the skid plate removed, this is also a good chance to see if any mud has made its way into the machine itself via the plate’s venting or drain holes. Try to clean skid plates after every four or five rides.

3. Post-Wash Rinse

Now it’s time to rinse off all those soap suds. Ideally you should use warm water, because it would help remove any last, lingering particles. Rinsing from the top-down will help you avoid wasting water. 

4. Dry 

Next, you can dry the ATV. Air drying can help you avoid scratching the vehicle, but if you don’t want to wait, a dry microfiber cloth can also get the job done without any scratches.

5. Wax

Using wax or sealant helps protect the unit from future scratches, prevents rust, and stops dirt from clinging to the ATV in the first place. Wax one section at a time, applying an even coat with circular motions. Let it set for 1 or 2 minutes, then use a clean, dry cloth to polish and buff it out.


Follow these steps to clean your ATV, keeping it fresh for whatever adventure you go on next. And if you’re looking for a new off-road vehicle, check out the sparkling new units available for-sale nationwide at


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Ethan Smith
Ethan Smith
is the Content Manager at Trader Interactive, managing marketing content development for ATV Trader, Boatline, Commercial Truck Trader, Cycle Trader, Equipment Trader, RV Trader, and more. Ethan believes in using accessible language to elevate conversations about industry topics relevant to marketplace buyers and sellers.

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