The primary reason for you to pick an ATV is to enjoy those off-road rides. Honestly, it’s downright fun.
But what about the mud that clings to the surface of your beloved beast?
Unless you clean it off, chances are that the dirt and mud will gradually damage the framework of the vehicle. Besides, mud can sneak inside the interior components and impact the overall performance in the long run. So, how to clean mud off an ATV?
Not to worry! In this article, we will tell you everything you need to know about cleaning your ATV and more.
Let’s start the journey.
Bottom Line Up Front: Cleaning your ATV and removing mud off of it is an absolute necessity and should become part of your regular scheduled maintenance.
You’ll want to have a high-quality pressure washer, cleaning solution, and towels to make your life a lot easier. Rinse it off, soap it up, spray it down, and dry it really well.
Why It’s Important to Clean Your ATV
With each adventure, you keep adding a little more gunk on the machine. Slugging through messy trails and breaking free from mud holes needs some serious momentum and heavy throttling.
The heavy-duty mud tires with special lugs are great for generating the right amount of traction and overcoming the sticky terrain.
However, mud sprays from those tires don’t spare any surface that comes in their flight path. It won’t spare the interiors and the engine of the ATV either.
And it’s not just mud. The ATV tires will pull up a variety of other elements from the track and spray them over the painted surface.
The mud comes in contact with the metal surfaces in the vehicle’s frame and causes rusting. The two main elements necessary for rusting to take place are water and oxygen. In addition, mud and dirt have other components like chloride and sulfide salts that speed up the process.
And when the ambient temperature and humidity levels are high your ATV’s structure comes under a lot of stress. Research has suggested that corrosion rates in steel are highest when relative humidity levels are around 70 % to 80%. In case there are impurities present in the air, the rates can be even higher.
Note, the majority of steel used in an ATV is carbon steel which is subjected to both galvanic corrosion and natural oxidation. The exact corrosion rate depends on soil types and is difficult to predict.
What about the aluminum frames?
Aluminum doesn’t form rust like steel or iron, but it can oxidize easily. This forms an oxide layer on the metal surface. However, aluminum can corrode by reacting with chlorides, or by the process of galvanic corrosion.
The main factors that affect corrosion rates are the total moisture content, the pH level of the mud, and the amount of chloride salts present. Soils with a higher level of acidity will accelerate the process of corrosion through various chemical reactions.
But that’s not all.
At times, mud deposition can reduce oxygen supply to the metal surface. As a result, differential aeration cells are formed and the rate of surface corrosion gets accelerated. This type of galvanic corrosion can be extremely damaging to metal parts.
In some soil types, the corrosion rate can be as high as 20 microns per year. This can result in pitting corrosion of the car components and ultimately the steel can become perforated. In addition, this will also damage the paintwork.
Quite simply, corrosion is serious business.
So, unless you clean it thoroughly after each ride you are inviting corrosion to your ATV. By neglecting the cleaning, you may cause irreparable damage to the vehicle’s structure. That will not only affect the performance but also escalate the maintenance costs in the long run.
Here’s What You Need
Honestly, you’re not having the right amount of fun unless you are getting your ATV dirty.
But getting your ATV dirty is the easy part. It’s the act of cleaning up that takes some time and effort.
Here are a few things that you need to keep in mind while considering how to clean the mud off an ATV.
- Wash your ATV after each ride. Ideally, you should wash it every week even if you’re not heading off-road. This prevents the dust from settling on the structure.
- Washing with rainwater isn’t the best idea. Make sure you use some form of detergent while cleaning.
- When your ATV is covered with mud, don’t leave it under the sun. If the mud dries up, it gets harder to remove. If you aren’t washing it immediately, park it in the garage. Using a canvas cover is a good idea. Keeping the vehicle under a shade will also reduce damage from the UV rays.
- Always allow the ATVs engine and the exhaust to cool down before you start washing it. Washing a hot vehicle can be damaging for the components.
- You need to choose the right spot for washing your ATV. Since a variety of plants stick to the vehicle, washing it on your lawn can result in the growth of weeds. If you choose your driveway, make sure the dirt and grime don’t run into the street or into your neighbor’s backyard. It’s best to use a concrete floor with gutters that will help you to clean the muddy residues.
Time to take a look at the main items you will need for cleaning the ATV.
You may prefer the old-fashioned technique of using a typical hose and nozzle for cleaning the mud. But that lacks the punch needed to blast away the stubborn mud sticking to the surface.
That’s why most ATV fanatics love using a pressure washer. A light-duty device that delivers 1,000 to 1,750 psi and 1.4 to 1.6 GPM should be good enough for the task.
These devices are usually electric pressure washers. That said, the Sun Joe pressure washer offers 2030 PSI and uses 14.5-amps. I personally own this one and highly recommend it. It’s more than good enough for the job and does nice work on your siding as well.
While cold-pressure washers aren’t so effective for oily and greasy surfaces, they are great for removing mud, dirt, and sand. In case you pick a hot-water pressure washer, you get the best of both worlds.
However, they are bulky and more expensive. Also, never use boiling hot water as it can damage the components and the paintwork.
Now, high water pressure can damage some sensitive parts like the radiator fins or other plastic components in your ATV. It can also make the mud particles enter into the seals. So, make sure to low pressure in the tight areas. Cover up openings with plastic bags to prevent water entry.
For this reason, it’s best to pick a pressure washer with adjustable nozzles. This will allow you to adjust the pressure of the spray without having to change nozzles. If you don’t want to invest in a pressure washer, you may think of renting one for the purpose.
Using plain water isn’t good enough for cleaning the mud off your ATV. You need a detergent for deep cleaning of the vehicle. You can use a foamer or a foam cannon to cover the vehicle surface in a lather.
If you don’t have either of those, you can water down a solution like Slick Products Off-Road Wash and put it into the reservoir on your pressure washer.
There are specially formulated tough soaps that can remove mud and grime from vehicles. They also contain special additives that keep the surface shiny and prevent mud and dirt from sticking to it. That makes it easier to wash it the next time.
If you want your ATV to look shiny, you need to scrub it with a brush. This helps in removing the mud particles from the joints and cracks that are not easy to reach. Use a vehicle scrub brush with soft bristles that won’t damage the surface.
We always recommend using microfiber towels for cleaning an ATV. Since they are more effective in absorbing moisture it takes less time and effort to dry the car. In fact, these towels can absorb as much water as a cotton towel that’s four times the size. Microfiber can reach the deep cracks and soak up the water effectively.
They will also absorb any residual dirt or grease from the vehicle without leaving smudges on the surface. Moreover, they will not leave any scratches on the paintwork.
While they aren’t as cheap as cotton towels, microfiber has an excellent shelf life. Since microfiber doesn’t absorb water, these towels aren’t breeding grounds for bacteria either.
How to Clean Mud off an ATV
These are the steps you need to follow for the actual cleaning process.
Pre-rinsing the vehicle is important for loosening up the dry mud that’s sticking to the surface. It will make the overall cleaning process a million times easier.
To start with, you can use a plastic mud scraper or a rubber pallet to scrape or knock off some large pieces of the mud that’s clinging to your ATV. Now, spray water all over the vehicle to soak the mud properly. Ideally, you should be able to get the top layer of mud off in this step.
Once you have sprayed thoroughly, wait for a few minutes and allow the water to soak in. In case there’s a thick layer of mud, spray again to loosen it up.
2. Spray Down
Now that the mud layer is fully soaked and loose, it’s time to use water pressure to force it off the vehicle surface. This is where you will be using the pressure washer to remove as much of the mud as possible.
Before using a pressure washer, check the owner’s manual for any instructions. Some ATVs may come with pressure-sensitive components that need to be protected. It’s best not to use the highest pressure on the areas like the gas tank, air box, and the fuse box
Make sure to blast the entire surface of the ATV and also the undercarriage with the water spray. Aim the spray at the stubborn mud patches to remove as much as possible. Repeat the process to clean up the surface and make the remaining steps easier.
3. Soap Up
The next step is to use soap along with a brush or a sponge to make the ATV fully clean. For this, you can mix up some automotive detergent in a bucket of water. If you’re using a cleaning solution, follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
Use a sponge for scrubbing the seat, arms, frame, and any other plastic parts. These areas often remain unclean even after pressure washing. In case some mud sticks to the surface or the wheels use a scrubbing brush to clean it off.
4. Spray Again
Once the scrubbing is done, it’s time to rinse off the ATV and make it totally mud-free. You can use the pressure washer to do the final cleaning of the surface and remove any residual cleaning agent. Using a low water pressure will be good enough for this stage. Check the entire ATV to make sure that there are no remaining muddy spots.
Dry your ATV immediately after the cleaning is done to prevent those unsightly water spots. Proper drying is also essential to reduce any chances of rust formation.
You can use cotton towels for wiping the surface of the ATV dry. However, a lint-free towel like the ones made from microfiber is the best option. Even so, there will be some parts that are hard to reach. You can use an air compressor to remove the water droplets from these areas.
6. Polish and Wax
Once the ATV is dry, you can take a few extra steps to shine it up. There are different polishes available for the chrome and uncoated aluminum parts. You can also use plastic polish to keep the faded plastic parts shiny and free from scuffs.
Also, many parts of the ATV can be caked with an oily residue that can trap dirt and mud. Oil and grease can’t be removed by a water wash. It’s best to use a good-quality degreaser on the parts like the swing arm and chain guards to keep them oil-free. For the seat cushions, lumbar supports, and steering wheels, use a high-end upholstery cleaner.
Additional Methods to Keep Your ATV Mud-Free
Now you know how to clean mud off an ATV in a few simple steps.
OK, I know what you’re thinking.
What if you don’t have the time for it? Perhaps you want your ATV to look rugged with a coat of mud?
We always suggest cleaning your ATV after every ride. In case that’s not possible, there are a few steps you can take to prevent or minimize corrosion-related damage.
Using a Protective Film
Covering your ATV with a protective film is an effective step to keep the surface protected. Even though it’s relatively expensive, a high-quality film will last for years. This makes it a good investment for frequent ATV users.
The film will prevent the mud from sticking to the surface. In addition, it’s waterproof and will offer protection from road debris, dust, and UV rays. At the same time, it won’t affect the original look of the vehicle in any way. However, make sure to choose a top-grade product that offers the best protection.
Using Mud Protection Spray
These are aerosols that form a protective layer on the ATV surface and prevent the mud from sticking to it. Since the surface becomes more slippery after the application, it’s also easy to clean off the dust and spots from it.
These sprays can be applied on any painted surface and they will also improve the overall look of your vehicle.
One of the easiest and least expensive ways of keeping your ATV surface oil-free is by applying oil. You can apply some top-grade engine oil on a clean towel and apply it evenly over the surface before heading for an off-road tumble.
The oil will act as a protective barrier and make the process of cleaning much easier once you come back.
But there’s one small catch.
Oil can be applied only on a clean surface. If your ATV is already caked with mud like an alligator, applying oil on its surface isn’t a good idea.
Answer: To clean the ATV motor, you can use a special aluminum cleaner. Use it as per the instructions and then spray water to remove the residues. Alternatively, you can also use a mixture of 2 tablespoons of white vinegar and one quart of water for cleaning the motor. To remove any grease, use a mild detergent.
Answer: The good news is brushless motors require minimum maintenance. The first step is to remove the motor from the vehicle.
Then clean the outer surface by using a soft rag. You can also blow off the dust by using an air compressor. Next, disassemble the motors and clean the parts by using a light brush. You can pay some extra attention to the front and rear bearings while cleaning.
Answer: Here are a few products that we recommend for cleaning ATVs.
• Sun Joe SPX3000 Electric High Pressure Washer
• Chemical Guys CWS20216 Tough Mudder Foaming Soap
• Polyte Microfiber Cleaning Cloth
• SHINE ARMOR Ceramic Coating
Answer: First, remove the dirt and grime from the plastic surface. Then you can apply multiple coats of liquid wax on the surface to make it shiny. You can also use an ATV plastic restorer to make the plastic look new.
By now you should know how to clean mud off an ATV. Keeping your ATV caked in mud is bad news for it’s longevity so be sure to follow the steps in this guide.
The multi-step cleaning of your ATV can seem like a tough task. However, doing it in the right way will ensure that your mud-slinging beast will last longer and perform better.
And isn’t that what you want?