To paraphrase an old saying: there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad tires. There’s a reason they’re called all-terrain vehicles, and there’s a strong case for calling them all-season vehicles. Designed for all types of terrain, from mud to sand and rocks, ATVs and side-by-side vehicles (SxS) are also conquerers of everything winter can throw at them. With a little preparation, your off-road vehicle can become a master of deep snow and severe winter conditions and can even help keep you warm during those cold days on the trail.
In this article, we’ll remind you why your ATV or SxS is an indispensable tool for plowing and other winter tasks, as well as a super fun cold weather recreational vehicle.
Whether it's weekend trail adventures with the family, hunting trips with friends, or hard work on the farm, your ATV or SxS gives you a ton of fun and utility. So why not take advantage of your vehicle all year round and enjoy it just as much in the winter? Your vehicle takes on all sorts of deep sand and mud, and snow is no different. An off-road vehicle can be extremely useful in winter to easily remove snow in your driveway, and once neighbours see what you’re up to, you might even become the most popular person in your neighbourhood. Work quickly turns to fun when the job’s done since snow-covered trails make for some pretty epic days. The key is preparing your vehicle well and having the right equipment that’ll help you enjoy winter. Think of the extra time you get to spend on your favourite ATV or SxS instead of letting it hibernate in your garage.
Shovelling and clearing snow isn’t exactly everyone’s favourite pastime. But when you’ve go the right tools, it can certainly become much easier. It’s also a bit of a secret in the off-road vehicle world that it can actually get downright fun. We can’t promise anything, but you might start getting neighbours knocking at your door, presenting gifts or promising favours in return for a hand with their snow clearing.
Attaching a plow to your ATV or SxS makes clearing large volumes of snow much quicker and easier than other methods, and the nimble manoeuverability of these vehicles enables them to get into tight spots where larger plowing vehicles could never fit. With terrific traction and ample power, clearing even the deepest snow gets much easier. In fact, many people who live in places where winters are more severe purchase these vehicles expressly for this purpose.
Let’s take a look at some of the features and accessories that’ll make plowing snow easy with your off-road vehicle:
Arguably the most important feature. Obviously, snow and ice are slippery and affect traction, making it trickier to manoeuvre. There’s nothing more frustrating than spinning your tires in half a foot of sticky snow because of traction issues, but with 4WD that’s not an issue. Basically, the deeper the snow gets where you live, the more important four-wheel drive is and it’s a game-changer in terms of winter traction.
It’s especially important to have an ATV or SxS with ample torque if you are going to be plowing significant amounts of snow. The general rule is the more engine power the better, but that doesn’t mean a smaller, less powerful engine can’t cope. In fact, they can handle big plowing jobs, but it’ll take more time and they’ll just need several passes to get a clean surface.
It’s cold out there and plowing can often mean throwing on all manner of coats, boots, gloves, etc. But what if you could make it a little bit more toasty? Off-road vehicles have loads of cold weather options like a closed cab with heating and defrosted windows in the case of side-by-side vehicles like the Can-Am Defender PRO, and some ATVs have heated grips to keep your hands warm. Doesn’t that sound comfy?
Snow is heavy and plowing can really test a machine’s limits. Many off-road vehicles have an increased risk of failure if plowing snow for extended amounts of time, so you should be looking for utility models that can really withstand many hours of plowing without giving up. Fortunately, Can-Am vehicles are robustly designed with the best possible materials and have a proven ability cope to with any task, and are depended on worldwide in tough day-to-day work situations.
If your ATV or side-by-side vehicle contains these four elements, you'll be ready to tackle winter and plow snow free from trouble!
Ok, so you know what to look for in a hardworking winter machine, but how should you prepare before doing any plowing?
Nobody wants to be fixing their vehicle in the howling wind and snow. Before setting foot outside, or before the temperatures dip, make sure your vehicle is tuned up and in optimal running condition. Change the oil, check electrical wiring, and ensure all elements are debris-free and working properly on your ATV or SxS. Double check your tire pressure and inspect the tread for excessive wear. If your machine is liquid-cooled, it’s super important to inspect your cooling fluid levels since plowing snow is demanding on an engine and can cause it to heat up fast.
It’s vital to set the plow depth deep enough to clear the snow, but high enough to avoid scraping the surface underneath. Scraping can not only damage paved surfaces, but creates more work for your vehicle, potentially overloading its capabilities. Plow depth can vary for different surfaces and with varying depths of snow, so it should be something you do before every job. The proper angle of the plow depends on the driveway, surface that is being plowed, and where you want the snow to end up. Getting the angle set right will mean fewer passes and will make the plowing effort much easier and cleaner.
It’s important to clean all of the dirt and snow off your ATV or side-by-side vehicle and plow blade after plowing. Failing to remove the snow, ice and dirt clumps while they’re fresh can mean a frozen, rock-hard mess later. A clean plow blade sheds snow easier and is necessary for a good job. Not to mention salt, which can wreak havoc on the plow and vehicle surfaces very quickly. Avoid corrosion and clean your plow and vehicle after every use.
Remember that clearing snow is a big job not only for you, but for your vehicle as well. It can be one of the most demanding things you ask of your ATV or SxS, and that’s why preparing it and taking the time to clean it is going to minimize the impact and extend the life of your vehicle.
It’s time to stop thinking about your ATV or SxS as a purely fair-weather fun machine. Winter presents all sorts of recreational opportunities when you’ve got an off-road vehicle that’s ready for cold weather challenges. Besides being super floaty and fun, snow makes everything seem new and fresh—even those old trails you’ve been down countless times. Winter is also the perfect opportunity to improve your off-road skills with slipperier conditions that can be perfect for learning drifting, loose surface climbing, and more. Winter offers a unique trail riding experience that shouldn’t be missed and, as long as you do it safely, can provide some pretty epic moments.
But you need to prepare your ATV and SxS for winter, and certain terrains can be a challenge if your vehicle isn’t equipped with the right gear. A snow track system for your vehicle is a massive upgrade, turning it essentially into a completely new kind of ride and provides it the traction and flotation your vehicle needs to perform.
As we saw above, your vehicle is likely already pretty well equipped to handle winter, and some upgrades can make it better and more comfy in the cold months. But some off road vehicles are born with winter DNA, like the Can-Am Outlander North Edition, which comes with a windshield, heated grips and visor outlet, factory-installed winch, and extra-low gearing ideal for plowing.
Before stepping out into the cold, you obviously need to bundle up with warm clothing and protective gear, but what else should you do to get your vehicle ready for winter riding? Aside from your routine maintenance, here are some things to consider:
Moisture in the tank or fuel lines is bad news for your vehicle. This is a common issue in the cold because as temperatures swing, water in the form of condensation can form inside the tank. Water or moisture in your fuel will prevent the engine from starting, and water can freeze in your fuel lines and prevent gas from getting to the engine, causing your vehicle’s engine to struggle or not even start at all. Fuel stabilizer will prevent this from happening and keep your gas fresh and your engine running smoothly.
Fresh spark plugs keep your engine running and idling smoothly, and make cold engines snap to life in the winter. While you don’t need to change them every year, winter can be a good time to do it, especially since you don’t want any surprises when the temperature drops.
After months of dusty summer riding, it’s normal for your air filter to be clogged with debris. When the snow’s flying on the trail and gets sucked into the engine, it’ll turn into water, and water plus dust equals — you guessed it — mud. A mud-clogged filter will suffocate your engine from the air flow it needs to stay running smoothly. Prior to winter, a quick blow out of the filter is all it takes and will save you a huge headache later. Just like spark plugs, this can also be a good time to swap out your filter for a new one if you haven’t done that in a while.
Oil keeps your vehicle running smoothly, and rough starts, and a drop in power usually is a sign that your oil needs a topping up or a change. If you already do regular oil changes, then you’re probably fine as long as you make sure the oil level is good, and you’ve been changing the oil filter regularly. Again, if you need a reminder to do it, make it part of a yearly maintenance ritual along with your plugs and air filter.
Now that your ATV or SxS/UTV is prepared to face the cold, remove the cover from your vehicle and get ready to ride.
Winter riding requires a little more gear and accessories than other seasons to keep you safe and warm while out plowing or hitting the trail. It’s vital you and your vehicle are protected in case of anything that can go wrong, so being well prepared is the key.
Here are some essential accessories for you and your ATV or side-by-side vehicle so you can be sure to get the most out of epic winter rides.
As we said before, a track kit can transform your ATV or SxS into a completely new vehicle. These kits replace your tires with a track system resembling those found on snowmobiles and offer incredible performance in deep snow and rough terrain. They’ll outperform pretty much any tire in those conditions and can make the impossible possible. Normally with tires, you’d avoid snow deeper than your vehicle’s ground clearance since digging in will leave you stuck, but tracks give you the ability to float on deeper snow and make winter conditions a breeze. The improved traction also makes towing and plowing jobs much easier, and tracks can make hauling in slippery conditions easy, even up steep hills.
It can be tough to find compatible track systems for your vehicle and installation can be a big job. But thankfully, the Apache Track Kits designed especially for Can-Ams are matched to your model’s engine output, chassis setup, speedometer, and work with DPS power steering for perfect control. Learn more about Can-Am ATV & SxS Apache track kits.
If you’re interested in using your off-road vehicle for snow removal, a plow is an obvious must. There are seemingly endless options on the market with some using the existing winch mechanism to lift the plow blade. Taking the time to find the compatible system is important, and Can-Am makes it easy with their ProMount plow system. It’s the fastest and easiest way to start plowing and you’ll be certain it’s compatible with your vehicle. Learn more about Can-Am ATV & SxS ProMount plows.
Staying warm and comfortable is obviously one of the biggest keys to off-road winter fun. Choosing water- and wind-proof clothing is essential, but there are some accessories that can make your vehicle a warm and toasty shelter from the cold. A cab enclosure for your SxS/UTV is a terrific way to shield you and your passengers from the elements, and can make it possible to spend entire days out on the trail in even the coldest months. Some Can-Am models like the Defender Limited and the Defender PRO Limited have a temperature control system included, which allows heating in the vehicle.
Other accessories can also be very useful if you are looking for more comfort in cold weather. Some ATV and SxS models offer heated seats, which can be your best friends on long cold rides. If it's your hands that need some love, then Can-Am offers the possibility of adding a Heated Steering Wheel to your side-by-side or Heated Grips to your ATV. These accessories are just as amazing as they sound and you might thank yourself each and every time you switch them on.
They are true day extenders, and most heated grips and seats are relatively simple to install, fit a a variety of models and come with wire harnesses that make them essentially a one-step install. If you’re out in freezing temperatures, these can help keep your fingers from losing dexterity and give you a more safe and comfortable ride.
If you’ve never experienced winter off-roading, then some preparation and accessories can turn your summer trails into a winter wonderland and your snow clearing chores into a secretly fun task. There’s a world of track kits, plows, and accessories that’ll transform your off-road vehicle into an all-season, do-it-all machine. Perhaps you’ll make hibernating a thing of the past.