How To Tell If ATV Motor Is Locked Up

The all-terrain vehicles are dedicatedly off-road riding vehicles and thus are made more versatile and durable. The modern ATVs come with high performance and extraordinary features. The engines present in the high and moderate-quality ATVs are made efficient and can go through lots of rough experiences. The engine getting locked up or being seized is one of the worrying things that makes the rider get into trouble and arises a lot of confusion because of the lack of atv engine’s knowledge.

You need to be able to diagnose the engine symptoms and properly analyze the engine problem scenarios. When the motor gets locked and the atv refuses to have any kind of movement you need to take the situation with patience. The starter present would still keep trying to crank up the engine if the key is turned again after turning it off. If you attempt to turn the key again and again the electric wires can give off smoke due to overheating. The smoke will be a sign of a locked up or seized engine.

If you suspect that your ATV’s engine has been seized or got locked up then you can run an easy test to verify it. First, you need to let the cylinders fill up with engine oil and let it stay like that for a certain amount of time. Then after an hour try starting up the engine again. Use a breaker bar if you need to for turning the engine over. You might be successful in unlocking the engine and getting it running again.

An opened up engine of an atv.
An opened up engine of an atv.

The sounds which you get in such a probable motor locked up situation is also important to check. When the engine makes a distinct sound of knocking or periodic clunking noises then it will be a sign for a locked up or seized motor. Most of the time the electronics components like the radio still works even when the engine doesn’t turn over. Figuring out a locked up engine in the middle of a trail or barren terrain is quite a difficult and overwhelming situation. Try to calm your mind and take deep breaths to handle the situation much better.

 

Signs to check for a locked up or seized motor

Signs in an ill motor of atv

For inspecting for deteriorations in the atv motor you need to take off the cover on the cylinder first. Then after analyzing the surface of the cylinder for finding any decays or damages if present. The pistons present within the cylinders of the ATV do tremendous movements and sometimes produce a huge amount of heat. This heat sometimes exceeds the balanced amount and gets fused with the cylinder walls and then as the heat wears off the piston gets jammed in its position.

You can analyze and check if the pistons are jammed up or not. There might be severe piston damage incidents but that is very rare. In this kind of scenario, the connecting rod gets detached from the piston. The piston gets bumped up with the head of the cylinder. The block of the engine might even end up with a hole if the piston collides with the connecting rod.

There might also be issues with the timing chain which indirectly might cause the engine to get locked up or seized. The valves can get damaged by the piston function if the timing belt is corrupted due to some reason. Not only the valves but the crankshaft and connection rods can get highly damaged too.

Unsuitable oil use and oil leaks

Oil is the prime component in keeping the piston and the cylinder walls in smooth contact. The oil also helps in scooping out some of the heat dissipated from the engine or motor. When the motor has been leaking oil then the desired amount of oil is not present for keeping the combustion chamber walls smooth and fine for the piston to function. This will lead to damages to the whole piston area along with the crankshaft.

On the other hand, if you are using an unsuitable oil for your atv then it might cause a lot of damage to the vehicle as well. The use of low-quality oil or other purpose oil makes the piston movements slow and constricted. This kind of practice causes serious damage to the engine and shortens your ATV’s life span. Using ideal and recommended atv oil keeps the piston and other essential components of your engine working fine as they are meant to.

The gears area of a vehicle oiled up.
The gears area of a vehicle oiled up.

Timing chain issues and damaged valve of the thermostat

The timing chain is the most critical component in the connection between the crankshaft and the camshaft. The gears get turned by these crankshaft rotations. If any of the components in this timing belt section gets disturbed then the oil and air valve synchronization can get distorted making the atv get locked up or seized in many cases. If the whole engine system timing is disoriented then the piston can hit up the closed valve and damage not only itself but the cylinder and the connection rods too.

The thermostat valve can be considered the most important component for maintaining an optimum temperature in the engine or motor. The thermostat valve opens up whenever the engine reaches a certain heat and temperature to pass the cooling material through the engine for reducing the heat of the atv motor. The thermostat needs to be closed the rest of the time for system stability.

The engine would get overheat if the thermostat doesn’t work properly and this might lead to the motor getting locked up or seized. If the ATV is operating in very cold conditions then the thermostat also helps in keeping up the required heat in the engine failing which gets the motor locked up. Extra fuel also gets burned up if the thermostat valve doesn’t function right.

Water auto-lock and other debris problems

Some riders have a habit of driving their all-terrain in extreme muddy and waterlogged tracks. There always remains a slight chance of the atv getting deep into the soil and some water and mud can seep into the vehicle engine area. This leads to a hydrostatic lock in the atv motor which is like a defence mechanism of the vehicle against the water and mud.

If the water gets into the combustion engine the piston and connection rods can get highly damaged due to severe pressure with the oil and water. In some cases, the piston force might force the water to go out by breaking through the cylinder walls. This kind of damage would cost you a lot for repair and will also make the atv non-functioning until repair. The locked up atv motor would be very difficult to fix even by a professional atv mechanic.

As the atvs are meant to be driven in rough trails of sandstone, rocks, woods and even dunes, this makes the atv deal with a lot of debris of several kinds. Sometimes it happens that the debris gets in through the atv in the engine space and then the combustion chamber. If debris gets in the small gaps between the cylinder walls and the piston then the piston can get jammed and hence stop the engine function by locking up the motor. The surface of the piston can be damaged too by corrupting the ring stripes on it.

A woman relaxing on her atv in the middle of a trail.
A woman relaxing on her atv in the middle of a trail.

Precautions to take for not having a locked up atv

The prime component that needs to be at ease so that any kind of locking up of the motor doesn’t occur is the pistons. The atv motor seizing or locking up should be avoided if possible by taking necessary precautions and taking care of your atv.

The expenditure you need to make for getting an atv motor fixed is very high and even gets you in a lot of trouble if the locking up scenario happens in the middle of a trail. Sometimes the atv motor gets so much damaged that it becomes much less costly to get a new engine for your atv. The precautions you can take are as follows:

  • If somehow you notice that water has got into the engine do not attempt to restart the vehicle immediately. First, open the hood and try to dry out the components and get the water out which might be stuck inside the vehicle anywhere. Leave your atv under the sun for some time and also use a towel like cloth to make the atv components clean.
  • Keeping a routine check on components like the thermostat valve and the coolant is very important. Sometimes the valve faces difficulty in opening and closing at the right time and it might cause problems. The coolant leaking issues are also not very rare with atvs so keeping the check on the vital components of your atv can save your atv motor from being locked up.
  • According to experts the engine oil present requires to be changed for every three thousand miles achieved by the atv. The miles value is much less than a car or bike because of the features and the purpose the atvs have. All atvs are specifically made to be driven on difficult off-road trails and tracks and hence has a high rpm too. This is the reason why the engine oil in atv deteriorates quicker than other vehicles and requires to be changed in time.
  • Keep a check on the timing chain of the atv after every two rides. The timing chain is very crucial in keeping the crankshaft operational and maintaining synchronized working of the pistons too. Change the timing belt on your own with the help of the manual that you got with the purchase of atv if you find lots of wear and tear on it.
  • The engine always makes noises when it gets in trouble. So look out for the cranking or squeaking noises that will be uncommon to you. Whenever you hear these types of noises repeatedly get an expert to check if you can’t analyze them well.
The rear portion of an atv after being cleaned up for engine checking.
The rear portion of an atv after being cleaned up for engine checking.

 

Piston release and we 40 use

For releasing the piston which gets stuck first you need to take off the cover and put the cylinder in an upright position. Use a penetrating oil like kroil to fill the top portion of the piston. Replace the cover on the top of the piston or use a different layer to avoid any kind of evaporation of the oil. Leave the piston like that for a couple of hours so that the atv motor soaks the oil well enough.

As the penetrative oil application, the most popular one is the wd 40. But experts suggest that for the atv motor products like Kroil and liquid wrench work the best. The kroil has been proven to get into the micro gaps of the piston and get it loosened and back to functioning. As the kroil and liquid wrench is quite expensive most people prefer the wd 40 over others. If you see the piston doesn’t move even the slightest then keep the penetrative oil soaking up to ten hours for a proper release.

Conclusion

If you learn how to check and analyze the symptoms of atv motor locking up then determining becomes much easier. There are various signs which can tell if the atv motor is locked up and what could be the possible reason for such a scenario. Often the issue is with the piston in the cylindrical walls. If you can get the piston running again with care then you can get it to ride again. If you know the reasons why the atv gets locked up it becomes much easier to prevent it by being cautious beforehand.

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