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Optimize your UTV for winter use

Eric Goins Published on 31 December 2015
utility vehicle

Some utility vehicle owners choose to store their equipment during the harshest weather of the year, parking their prized workhorse vehicle in a secure, dry location while winter storms rage outside.

But out of sight shouldn’t also mean out of mind. If you plan to store your equipment, disconnect the battery and change the oil and oil filter to prevent dirt collection and corrosion of the internal components when you start it up again in the future.

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If you are the type of utility vehicle owner that is happy to take your UTV to task during the winter, despite the downpours and icy winds, there are some steps to consider so you can enjoy getting work done in the middle of nature’s elements.

Upfitting for winter work

We all know what it’s like to climb onto the cold seat at the crack of dawn, warm up the engine and wish our gloves cut the wind a little better as we take off for the day’s work. Operator comfort in the cold is key to making the best of long hours and making them more productive.

Upfitting a utility vehicle with cabs, heaters and snow tires will improve comfort immensely. A performance-matched cab should be the top priority, and if that is an investment you’re open to making, choose one that is airtight, soundproof and rattle-free.

This will keep the cold outside and reduce operational noise. If you already have a cab but no heater, a powerful and efficient one that includes a defroster and defogger would be a great addition for good visibility in cold climates.

Snow tires are imperative when it comes to working in freezing temperatures, when snow and rain can cause a treacherous film of ice to form on the roadway.

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The increased grip and control snow tires provide while traveling over this terrain is invaluable and add an extra element of safety to your vehicle. One thing to avoid when purchasing tires though, is only purchasing two.

It may be tempting to reduce your investment, but always make the full four-tire upgrade – or else the difference in tread between the new and old tires has the potential to cause steering issues and fishtailing, due to the uneven rear- and front-axle grip.

Maintenance is a must

Another investment, this one in terms of time, should never be overlooked – and that’s winter maintenance. During the winter, cold weather can worsen issues with equipment that hasn’t been properly maintained, so always keep to a regular maintenance schedule and check your owner’s manual for specifics and schedules.

In general, be sure to lubricate all grease fittings, check tire pressure and the levels of your fluids, like antifreeze. And though cleaning your UTV is fine, only wash it with warm water and mild soap, especially if the task is taking place in freezing temperatures. This will help you avoid freezing the UTV’s components.

Most of us are familiar with the effect that cold mornings can have on our cars and trucks when we go to start them up, and the engine of a utility vehicle is no different. The transmission and engine of a UTV can always be affected by cold and sub-zero temperatures, so be sure to warm up your engine per the manufacturer’s recommendations.

If you park your UTV in the cold overnight, try using an engine block heater as a way to ensure a positive start in the morning.

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And during the day, if you’re traveling through heavy drifts, check the radiator for blockages caused by packed-on snow that can at times cause overheating. It’s counter-intuitive that snow could cause too much heat, but it’s best to be vigilant when it comes to any potential blockages.

Consider adding snow tools

Snow attachments for UTVs definitely have their place in winter work, and if your outdoor winter chores include moving snow from one place to another, snow blades and blowers can be great attachments to have on hand. One helpful choice is a general-duty front straight-blade.

A snow blade is ideal for cleaning driveways and parking lots with your utility vehicle. Depending on your model, you can outfit your vehicle with a snowblower, sweeper and V-shaped plow as well.

Staying safe at all times

Finally, a word on safety, which should always be a top priority in all weather conditions. Equipment is designed and built with safety in mind, which is important when it comes to managing jobs with your utility vehicle in the winter elements.

Whether the task is a contracted snow removal job or just digging out your front yard and sidewalk, the ultimate responsibility of UTV operation lies with the operator, so always take measures to enhance operational safety.

Securely fasten your seat belt and your passenger’s seat belts, even if you’re just traveling down the street, and let others know where your work will take place and when you plan to be back.

A cellphone or two-way radio is a useful tool to have on hand just in case you get stuck, and one with GPS monitoring capabilities is even better. Finally, remember to reduce your speed when conditions are wet or icy and especially when visibility is poor.

By making safe choices, investing in the right tools and accessories and staying on top of your maintenance schedule, winter work with your utility vehicle should be smooth and reliable. Even when the weather outside is far from predictable.  PD

Eric Goins is an RTV product manager with Kubota.

PHOTO: Make your UTV more than just transportation by adding tools like snow blades to make work easier to accomplish for the whole farm. Let others know where your work will take place and when you plan to be back. A cellphone or two-way radio is a useful tool to have on hand just in case you get stuck. Photo provided by Eric Goins.

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