Wash That Rig: Mastering the Art of Cleaning Your Quad

As an avid off-roader, there is no better feeling than finding a trail to nowhere and enjoying a day off. However, with this enjoyment comes the responsibility of proper maintenance to ensure your ATV's longevity and optimal performance. The grime and dirt left behind by your latest adventure can spell disaster for your quad if not properly addressed. Regular ATV maintenance, particularly a thorough cleaning, is crucial. In this article, we'll cover an easy-to-follow cleaning regimen. Let's get started!

A Fallout style character sits on a quad with a number of cleaning supplies

Gearing Up to Clean: What You'll Need

Before you get started, gather all the necessary cleaning supplies. Having the right tools on hand will make the process smoother and more effective:

  • Water source: A garden hose is preferable, but an electric pressure washer or even a bucket of water can work. Pressure washers are great for removing stubborn dirt but use them with caution to avoid damaging sensitive parts.
  • ATV Cleaning solution: Use a product like Chemical Guys Tough Mudder soap for best results. These products are formulated to remove tough grime without damaging your ATV's surfaces.
  • ATV Tire & wheel cleaning solution: Using specific product to protect your tires and wheels such as Chemical Guys Sticky Citrus Wheel Cleaner Gel and Chemical Guys Tire Kicker Extra Glossy Tire Shinecan help prolong their life and give that one-of-a-kind shine you're after.
  • Soft sponge & brush: A scrub brush with soft bristles helps reach tight corners without scratching the surfaces.
  • Microfiber towels: Ideal for drying without leaving scratches. They are also highly absorbent and effective at cleaning.
  • ATV Degreaser: For oily spots, a degreaser may be essential. These solutions help to break down grease that regular soap cannot remove.
  • Protective gloves: Choosing the right gloves can protect your skin from harsh chemicals and to keep your hands clean.
  • Air compressor or leaf blower (optional): Helpful for drying hard-to-reach places and blowing out water from tight corners.
  • ATV Coating/Protectant: To keep your ATV looking new and to make future cleanings easier.
  • Tire Protectant: Adds shine to your tires and prevents future dirt buildup.
  • Plastic scraper: Useful for removing big chunks of mud and dirt without scratching the paint.
  • Plastic polish: To give your ATV's plastic parts a showroom shine.
  • Foam Cannon: The best way to apply cleaning product softly so as to not damage your ATV.

Preparation is Key: Getting Your ATV Ready

Preparation is a crucial step in the cleaning process. Properly prepping your ATV ensures that you avoid damage and make the cleaning process more effective.

Start by removing any electronic accessories that could be damaged by water. It's a good idea to warm up your quad for a few minutes to help loosen grime, particularly on the engine and exhaust areas. However, make sure to let it cool down enough before you start cleaning to avoid damaging hot components with cold water.

Ensure that your ATV is on a flat and stable surface to prevent it from tipping over during the cleaning process. Safety is paramount, so always wear protective gloves to protect your skin from harsh chemicals and to avoid getting too dirty.

With your ATV prepped and ready, you can move on to the next phase of cleaning.

An ATV covered in mud gets hosed down in a fallout style graphic

Pre-Soaking: Shake Away Any Loose Dirt

Pre-soaking is an essential step that helps loosen and remove the majority of the dirt and grime from your ATV. Start by hosing down your ATV with plain water from either a low power pressure washer or a plain old garbage hose. This initial rinse helps to dislodge larger clumps of dirt and mud. For thick grime, use a scrub brush to gently scrub off the dirt.

For particularly tough spots, a plastic scraper can be useful to gently remove clumped mud without scratching the paint. This step makes the actual cleaning process much easier and more effective. Let the water soak for a few minutes to ensure the mud loosens up. If you have a pressure washer, use it with caution to avoid damaging sensitive parts like the radiator fins.

Spraydown Time: Deep Cleaning Your ATV

Now that the initial layer of dirt is removed, it's time to apply the cleaning solution. Use an ATV-specific cleaner like Chemical Guys Tough Mudder soap, which is designed to tackle tough mud and grime without harming your ATV's components.

  1. Apply the cleaning solution: Use a foam cannon to cover your ATV in a thick layer of foam. This ensures that the cleaner reaches all surfaces and starts breaking down dirt immediately. They can be purchased relatively inexpensively from Amazon for either a pressure washer or garden hose.
  2. Let it sit, but not dry: Allow the cleaner to work its magic for a few minutes. Do not let it dry on the surface as this can cause streaking.
  3. Rinse thoroughly: Use a garden hose or a power washer to rinse off the cleaning solution, ensuring no soap residue is left behind. For stubborn grime or grease, apply a degreaser and rinse it off completely. Make sure to avoid using high power from your pressure washing on sensitive parts like the radiator fins, electrical and thinner plastic components.

Shine & Prevention: Protecting Your Clean ATV

With your ATV now clean, it's time to dry and protect it. Proper drying prevents rust and corrosion, and applying protectants helps maintain your ATV's appearance and makes future cleanings easier.

  1. Dry your ATV: Use microfiber towels or a lint-free towel to dry the surfaces. An air compressor or leaf blower can help blow out water from hard-to-reach places like nooks and crannies.
  2. Apply protectants: Use ATV plastic protectant on any plastic parts to give them a shine and to prevent dirt from sticking. Apply tire guard to the tires for added protection and shine.
  3. Lubricate moving parts: Refer to your quad's owner's manual and lubricate all necessary moving parts. Lubrication reduces friction and prevents premature wear and tear.

Cleaning the Wheels and Tires

Cleaning the wheels and tires is an important part of your ATV maintenance routine. Mud and dirt can quickly build up, affecting performance and appearance.

  1. Scrub the Wheels and Tires: Use a tire-specific cleaner like Chemical Guys Sticky Citrus Wheel Cleaner Gel, which lifts off-road grime and brake dust. Apply the cleaner to the wheels and tires and scrub using a soft-bristle brush. This helps reach into the crevices without scratching the surface.
  2. Rinse Thoroughly: After scrubbing, rinse the wheels and tires thoroughly with a hose or pressure washer. Make sure all cleaning product residue is removed to avoid damage​.
  3. Apply Tire Protectant: Once clean and dry, apply a silicone-based tire protectant to the tires. This not only gives them a shiny finish but also helps repel mud and dirt during future rides.
A man in a full fallout style bodysuit power washes his quad

ATV Cleaning Tips, Tricks & Summary

Here are some additional tips to help you maintain a clean and well-functioning ATV:

  • Clean your ATV after each ride: Cleaning your ATV regularly prevents the buildup of stubborn grime and caked-on dirt, making future cleanings easier.
  • Avoid using a high-pressure washer: High pressure can damage components like bearings or seals. A regular hose is usually sufficient for washing your ATV.
  • Never aim your power washer directly at electronics: If you have electrical components that can not be removed, ensure not to point your washer directly at it.
  • Follow the owner's manual: Each ATV is different, and what works for one might not work for another. Always refer to the manufacturer's recommendations for cleaning and maintenance​.
  • Invest in a muffler plug: Prevent water from entering the exhaust system during cleaning by using a muffler plug. This small tool can save you from significant damage​.
  • Consider an air box cover: Invest in an air box cover to keep water out of the carburetor or engine while cleaning.
  • Use ATV-specific cleaners: These are designed not to harm your ATV's components. Never use standard household cleaners as they can damage the surfaces.
  • Look up surface release additives: Use cleaning products with surface release additives to prevent mud and dirt from sticking to your ATV, making future cleanings easier.
  • Automotive detergent may work best: For a deep clean, using commercial automotive detergent along with your regular cleaning products may help to break down tough grime and grease.
  • Dry thoroughly: Moisture can cause rusting or corrosion on metal parts. Always ensure your ATV is completely dry before storing it.
  • Apply plastic polish: After cleaning, using polish on the ATV's plastics can give you that showroom shine.
  • Check sensitive Areas: Always inspect and clean sensitive areas like wiring and electrical components to prevent corrosion and damage.
  • Elbow grease is the best cleaning product: Sometimes, stubborn dirt and grime require a bit more effort. Don’t be afraid to use some elbow grease with a scrub brush to get those tough spots clean in stable areas.
A man cleans a side by side in a fallout style graphic

Buying an ATV, whether new or used, means keeping it clean is not just a matter of aesthetics but also of performance, durability, and maintaining value. Regular cleaning can significantly enhance your riding experience and extend the lifespan of your quad. Make these steps part of your post-ride routine, and your ATV will thank you with reliable service and unforgettable adventures.


For further reading, check out our other ATV related posts:

Frame It Right: A Complete Guide to Photographing Your Used ATV for Sale