If you love your all-terrain vehicle or UTV and don’t really feel inspired to walk the mile or five to the hunting areas on your property, then I highly recommend you show your main ride some love, care and maintenance.

My steady hunting camp ride is a 2000 model Honda 450 with electric shift. It has been a stalwart mechanical wonder ever since I bought it.

However, this past season or two it has begun to show signs of getting tired, like me. On cold days it is hard to crank and takes longer to warm up. It makes a clanging sound like the piston is coming off the connecting rod or the crankshaft is about to seize up. After it warms up, then it goes great all day.

Still these symptoms are cause for concern.

Regular maintenance a must

In the case of my machine, it is most often only ridden during the deer season — three to four months of the year, at best — and then only on weekends or a few extra times during the holiday break.

I used to take it in for an annual oil change, and check up, but the dealer said that wasn’t necessary since I rode it so few miles. I think that was a mistake.

So, after last season’s deer hunting was over, I took the Honda in to a retired factory mechanic with a shop at his rural home in Hinds County. I told him to inspect it from one end to the other. I ordered an oil change, a new filter, air filter cleaning, a new spark plug, carburetor inspection, brake check, throttle/choke adjustment and a look at the front wheel boots and drive shafts.

That put my machine back in good stead for another year.

For any ATV or UTV, these are just some basic annual maintenance procedures that should be conducted. A close inspection of every moving part is paramount to ensure critical parts are not wearing out prematurely or about to fail.

You don’t hear about ATVs breaking down in the field very often, but when they do it always seems to be a problem that could have been prevented. Front drive shafts and brakes are high on that list. Of course, an engine failing to start or run properly is common, as is a battery going dead all of a sudden.

All of these critical aspects of an ATV should be looked at each year. Farmers or ranchers using their machines on a daily basis ought to address these issues much more often.

Fuel contamination

"When they first started putting ethanol additives in regular unleaded gasoline, I don’t think many people paid much attention to it," said John Mark of North Brandon. "Then after a while all sorts of problems started to pop up.

"Engines would not start, they ran rough or hardly at all, and fuel system issues were chronic. Friends started talking about rubber fuel lines starting to deteriorate and literally dissolve. Those flecks of trash began to contaminate the whole system. It messes up carburetors really bad.

"As soon as I heard this, I started adding fuel system cleaners to my gas tank to counteract the destructive properties of the ethanol. Just like with a boat motor, now we have to watch the fuel we put in all small engine equipment and our ATVs. Hopefully this helps."

ATV owner’s manuals may suggest the use of high-test or high-octane fuel for an ATV. Even so, check at the pump for the ethanol sticker to see if the gas you are buying contains this corn derivative fuel supplement. If so, proceed accordingly to put in your own fuel additive to protect the system.

Pre-season double check

Hunting season is just around the corner. Hunters are going to want to ride their ATV/UTVs to the dove fields, and then later around deer camp for pre-season scouting and camp work.

Be sure your machine is in top notch condition and ready to roll.

Before you load it up, double check the tires and the recommended air pressure in each one. This is often neglected. Put a charger on the battery a couple of days before to be certain there is plenty of electrical juice to crank up.

Inspect headlights, taillights and dash lights. Check brake lights if your unit has them. Likewise do a rolling stop in a safe area to see if the front and rear brakes are functioning correctly. Is the steering OK? Tighten rack bolts, or other fasteners that might have vibrated loose from last season.

Inspect and clean out storage boxes on the units. Add items like a flashlight with fresh batteries, an extra pair of gloves, a knife, tow rope or strap, a roll of tape, toilet paper, a limb saw and maybe a roll-up rain jacket.

Get things ready now for hunting season and maybe you can prevent a breakdown in the woods later on.