Do You Have To Change Oil Filter Every Time On ATV?

Keeping the oil in your ATV clean is an important part of ATV maintenance. As the engine wears in, small pieces of metal burr and other particles can dislodge and find their way into the engine and the oil where the oil filter traps them.

To keep your ATV engine in tip-top condition, you will need to change your oil filter, but not necessarily after every time that you ride it. When the ATV is new, the oil change intervals are shorter for breaking the engine in. These intervals get longer afterward.

Let’s look at the right intervals to change your ATV oil filter so you get a lifetime of great off-road performance!

When To Change The Oil Filter On A New ATV

Getting a brand new ATV is always exciting! It’s like the ‘kid-on-Christmas-day’ experience when you CAN’T WAIT to unbox it and ride it for the first time. It would be best to remember that a new engine needs to be broken in before riding.

Any new engine needs to be ‘run-in’ to slowly seat the various engine components and not to put the new engine under high-performance stress.

While there are several ways to do this process properly, the oil and oil filter changes are necessary to ensure that any little bits of steel or other particles that come loose during the ‘breaking-in’ are safely removed. Hence, as not affect the engine operation in any way in the future.

As a rule and regardless of which ‘break-in’ method you use, you should change your oil and oil filter on your ATV at least twice during the breaking-in process. It’s recommended to use two full tanks of fuel to break in an ATV properly.

Letting your ATV run-up to operating temperature, then switch it off and allow it to cool down completely, then repeating this process two or three times before riding it is a great way to break your new engine in slowly.

Once this stage is completed, you can then take it out for a ride being careful not to exceed the 50% throttle level on this ride.

Check for any leaking fluids once the fuel tank is empty and then change the oil and oil filter.

Now you can add more load to the ATV engine. Refuel the tank and take it out again, and this time you can run it to a MAXIMUM of 75% of throttle capacity.

Don’t hold your throttle at the same level for more than a few seconds with each of these break-in rides. Make sure you shift up and down on the throttle to allow the engine to experience various levels of load.

Once this fuel tank is empty, check again for any leaking fluids and change the oil and oil filter again.

For a NEW ATV or new ATV engine, you would be changing your oil and oil filter at least twice during the break-in process.

After that, your oil filter and oil changes will depend on how often you ride and how many miles you put in!

How Often Should You Change The Oil Filter On Normal Operation?

There is a difference between the intervals for changing the oil and changing the oil filter in terms of hours ridden or miles, and this will also depend on the riding you are doing.

You would change the oil more often than you would change the oil filter

If you are racing, this interval would probably be a lot less than if you are riding recreationally, as the frequency of use would be higher with weekly racing than riding every second or third weekend.

For racing, the consensus is to change your oil and oil filter every two to three races or for every 3 hours of racing.

Changing Your Oil Filter Based On Mileage

To offer both sides of the coin, as some ATV riders don’t measure their riding time in hours but rather in miles, let’s look at when you’d need to change your oil and oil filter relative to mileage.

With most ATVs, you don’t need to change your oil filter or oil after every ride. While you can never really change your oil and filter too many times, this oil and oil filter change frequency is not required.

For the most part and after the break-in, you can change your oil every 100 hours, six months, or 1000 miles, whichever comes first. This would be an average suggested oil/oil filter change period based on average riding and load.

While most manufacturers recommend normal service intervals like this, there are some signs and indications you can check for that will tell you it’s time for an oil change on your ATV.

Change Your Oil And Oil Filter More Often With Severe Use

The service intervals above are based on average riding and load. However, there are circumstances when these services should be done more often.

You should check and change your oil more often if :

  1. Your ATV is frequently immersed in sand, water, or mud
  2. Your ATV is exposed to a high dust environment for a prolonged period.
  3. If you often operate at low speed with heavy loads
  4. You engage in High RPM usage like racing
  5. Your ATV is left to idle for long periods
  6. You do short trips in very cold weather

One of the tell-tale signs that your ATV may need an oil change is if you see rising oil levels. This is often a sign that contaminants and other particles have built up in the sump or crankcase. If you consistently see this occurring, it’s time for an oil change!

Should you continue to see the oil level rise, then you’d need to stop using the ATV and get this checked and sorted out ASAP.

Five Signs That You Need To Change Oil Filter And Oil

There are always signs and indications that the oil and filter need to be changed with any motor. A bit like a crying baby, but maybe not as noisy!

Here are five tell-tale signs that you need to change your oil and oil filter.

1. If your Oil Is Stil Golden!

While this may seem counterintuitive, your oil in the ATV should darken over time. This darkening shows that the oil in the engine is doing its job by trapping dirt and grime that gets into the engine. 

If your oil is still golden after a few months, it means that the grime and dirt are not being trapped by the oil but are trapped in the filter. Time to change it!

2. Your engine becomes noisier!

Oil allows the engine parts to move smoothly and quietly during operation. The oil lubricates the engine and results in efficient, mostly noiseless functioning. When the engine starts to make knocking sounds, the engine parts are knocking together due to thin or dirty oil.

The ATV engine is quite noisy anyway, it may be difficult to hear at first, but if you know your engine sound well, you will hear this quite quickly.

3. The oil feels gritty

Just because the oil is darker doesn’t always mean it’s dirty and needs to be changed. If the oil feels gritty, it needs to be changed as this means that there is a growing concentration of dust and grime in the oil and filter.

When you check the ATV’s oil, rub it between your fingers, and if it does habe that slightly gritty feel, then change the oil and filter.

4. The Oil levels fall frequently

If you see this happening, there is usually a small oil leak somewhere, possibly around the air filter O-ring or the drain plug. If this happens, change the oil immediately. If this continues to happen, then your ATV needs to be properly checked and serviced.

5. Ticking noise on starting up the ATV

When you start the ATV, oil circulates the engine. Low oil levels mean that the valves need to work a bit harder to move the oil, and this causes the ticking sound. If you hear this, it’s probably time for an oil change.


It is not necessary to change your oil and oil filter after every time you use the ATV. To keep your ATV engine running properly and efficiently, there are times that the oil filter and oil must be changed.

Knowing the signs and paying attention to when your oil filter and oil need replacing will keep you on the road and enjoying your ATV for years to come.


Louis Pretorius

As an amateur off-road enthusiast, I have always been drawn to outdoor adventure. I have decided to share all of my learning experiences with you as I dig a little deeper into my new-found passion and wonderful world of off-roading. My mission is to create the Ultimate Off-roading space on the internet in the process. Stay safe and happy Off-Roading!

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