Keeping Cool As Riding Season Heats Up

Published in the June 2018 Issue June 2018 Feature Rick Sosebee

The summer is coming in hot and your plans for riding the beastly off-road vehicle are also coming together. You have plans for getting into some really fun riding soon and friends are also excited to meet you there. Before you get too excited though, be sure to check a few things that might just derail your plans.

One of the most overlooked features of your ATV or side-by-side vehicle’s powerplant is the cooling system and this includes the oil inside. It is very important to keep the heart of your rig’s rumble cool and clean. This is where we hope this little guide of tips and tricks will keep you running down the trail cool as a cucumber.

Let us first examine the components that could get into trouble should you forget or simply neglect them at some point. These few components are critical to the summer survival of your ATV or side-by-side.


The radiator on your ATV or UTV contains the coolant or antifreeze for your engine. As the engine reaches operating temperature the coolant will begin to flow through the radiator and bring the heated coolant from the engine out to be cooled down via the many small passages inside the radiator. If this radiator is allowed to get clogged with dirt or mud or covered in any way, then the cooling ability is greatly diminished.

If you ride a lot of muddy trails, be sure to rinse out the radiator from time to time to remove the dirt as this stops air flow through the radiator fins and stops the cooling process. Even those who ride in grassy fields or tight woods are subject to having weeds and bugs clog the pores of the radiator, so do not forget to check it on a regular basis. A water hose can be used to remove mud or dirt (you know, dry mud) by simply spraying through the radiator. 

Radiator Cap

The radiator cap on your off-road rig is built for a specific reason. It is a cap creating a seal for the coolant system. Not hard to understand but it does function as a seal for the radiator as well as it allows the coolant to reach a higher boiling point. This component also releases coolant should the temperature reach a particular preset temp.

Making sure your radiator cap is providing a good seal and functioning properly is important. A cap that is not functioning will sometimes not allow coolant to return to the radiator once cooled and can also cause the coolant to boil at a much lower temperature such as during idle or low speed use. You may notice the radiator hoses becoming flat which is a sign there might be an issue. Always check the radiator cap for functionality and some manufacturers recommend it being changed every five years or so.


Think of coolant as the most level-headed person in your riding group. It takes all of the heat out of the problem area (engine) and transforms it into nothing but yesterday’s news. Coolant can, however, become dirty and lose its cooling ability. That ends up being kind of like that guy you keep daring into “watch this” moments. Most coolant is going to be colored. If your coolant is green or orange and it begins to change from that color, you can guess pretty close that there could be an issue. If your coolant starts to have a muddy look or there are small particles floating in it, you might have a bigger issue. Be sure at least to look at the coolant and if you feel so inclined, test the coolant. Coolant testers are very inexpensive and tell you just how well the coolant will perform.

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