Whether your looking for yourself or possibly your child’ first atv to learn on purchasing a used atv/utv can be a good option opposed to a brand new purchase. Knowing what possible problems to look first will speed things up in your searching process, sorting out the good from the bad.
I will normally look at the easy things first.
Gas- If the gas smells rancid or seems to be milky, that’s a sign of sitting to long without running and could be a sign of carburetor or fuel injection problems.
Look at the air filter. Take the cover off and check the air intake to see if there is any dirt and debri around or in the area. If you do see any than its more than likely inside the engine as well. Not good!
Check the oil and filter, if the filter seems fairly new or if it looks like its been some time since its been replaced. Look at the oil to see if its black or has any contaminates in it or if the oil smells burnt. This means its ran hot and may have other engine problems.
If the oil viscosity is good, smells just like plain oil and has, what looks to be a fairly recent oil filter, than chances are your good to go in this department.
Look at the coolant and see if that’s whats in it and not just water. It should be greenish, yellow or orange’ish and not have any particals in it. Its best not to run an ATV/UTV with just water in it, it can cause a reaction to other internal parts and start to create damaging particles in the water. Look for any engine fluid leaks. This can be a sign of damage or over spill, over spill may not be bad but shows sloppy maintenance and may reflect on how well the rest of the atv/utv has been maintained.
Everyone will tell you to look at the frame so lets just get that out the way now, but yes this is definitely something you should always check out when looking at a used ATV/UTV to purchase. Look for rust and cracks everywhere you can on the frame. If the frame is made from steel then it will have been painted or powder coated of some sort so look for chipped areas for rust or possibly worse damage in those areas.
Look at all the welded joints for rust, cracks or splitting. A lot of frames these days are aluminum so rust may not be an issue, but cracks and splits in the welds can still be an issue. Cracks in any of the welds will appear as darker veins running along the beginning of the weld.
Checking the suspension;
Look around the CV boots for cracks in the rubber and any grease leaking out. If there is then look to see if there’s dirt inside or hardly any grease. You’ll definitely be able to tell if its bad if or when you test drive it, listen for it to click when you turn the wheel sharply.
The ball joints can be checked by grabbing the wheel with both hands an shaking them. You want to listen for any rattles, clinking or any noises that doesn’t sound right.They should feel secure and not make much noise at all.
When checking the shocks, your looking for oil running down the sides or pooled up under the boot on top of the piston casing. If you see this, its busted.
Check the brake pads to see how worn they are and the cable connections for any frays, cracks or breaks in the lines. Also feel how tight they are and how they react when you apply them.
Time for the test ride. Start’em up, it should start right up first crank. First thing right off is to see if it blows smoke out of the exhaust.
on your test ride check the steering by turning the wheels all the way to the left and right while slowly moving forward and listen for any clicking in the CV joints (may need replaced) or any jumping of the front tires (for wheel alignment). Also make sure there is no play in the steering.
While riding give her some gas and make sure it has the power that the size motor should have and be sure to run it through its steps to see if there is any slippage in the CVT belt and in the clutch, clutch repair in automatic transmissions can be costly.
Starting and stopping. Starting out should be strong and steady acceleration and breaking should feel the same only stopping, you should feel confident in its breaking capability.
You should feel that you have total control. The steering should feel tight when turning and without pulling to the left or right when going in a straight line. If not then there could be a problem in the steering or suspension.