5 Tips to Bring an Old Vehicle Back to Life

An old quad or motorcycle that hasn't run in ages doesn't necessarily have to get scrapped. 

Before you give up on it, follow these 5 tips to get your old vehicle up and running again.

#1 - Change the Engine Oil and Filter

Old oil doesn't do an engine any favors. In fact, the contaminants in old oil can corrode and damage the engine, so the first thing to do to revive an old dirt bike or other off-road vehicle is pull the drain plug and get rid of the oil.

Restore an old offroad vehicle oil change

Dark oil with tiny metallic particles indicates the oil and its filter haven't been changed in a long time. If the machine has a magnetic drain plug, there will likely be metal filings stuck to it that will need to be removed. Replacing the oil filter and filling the motor with new, quality engine oil specified by the manufacturer is the first step to breathing new life back into an old quad or motorcycle.

If the old oil appears milky when you drain it, it's an indication that water has mixed with the oil, probably due to a leaking gasket. Finding and replacing a worn gasket requires a bit of work, but the low cost of a gasket and a few hours of tinkering in your garage will be worth it when it produces a vehicle that runs like new again.

Partzilla parts search gaskets

Oil, Oil Filters and Replacement Gaskets: We carry thousands of OEM gaskets for all makes of ATV, UTV and motorcycles. Use the filter options on our website to quickly find the gasket(s) you need for the exact brand, model and year of your machine. We also carry plenty of oils and lubricants to keep engines, transmissions and all other moving parts in peak condition.  

#2 - Clean the Fuel System

Modern gasoline contains ethanol, which has a short shelf life. As such, the fuel in an old ATV, side-by-side or motorcycle that hasn't run in forever will more than likely have gone stale.

Restore an old ATV fuel system

Remove the gas tank cap and smell the fuel. If it has that fresh gas station smell, then all is well. However, if the fuel has a sour, almost turpentine smell, then it's stale and broken down. Old gasoline can leave resinous deposits in the carburetor or fuel injectors, which will need to be removed before the machine runs again.

Stagnant methanol fuel also absorbs water, which corrodes the inside of the carburetors, fuel injectors and any metal fuel connectors if left sitting in the fuel system too long.

Restore an old vehicle fuel injector cleaning

To clean the fuel system, drain the old gasoline and then either strip and clean the carburetor, or service the fuel injector(s), depending on the type of fuel system in your vehicle. 

Cleaning Carburetors and Fuel Injectors: Partzilla carries OEM and aftermarket carburetor kits, so you can easily rebuild a clogged carb. We also stock fuel injector cleaner kits that make cleaning fuel injectors something you can do yourself without having to pay a local shop.

#3 - Service the Electrical System

Use a digital multimeter to test anything that's part of the electrical system and diagnose no-starts, batteries that won't charge, wiring circuits and other individual parts.

Restore an old vehicle electrical system check

Do a visual inspection of the electrical system on an old ATV, UTV or motorcycle that's been in storage for some time and look at the wiring harness for signs of damage. Rodents love to chew on wiring, so look for any signs of damage to the cables, wires and hoses. It's almost a given too that you'll need to install a new battery into an old motorcycle, side-by-side or quad to fully restore it.

Lang Tools CAT 3 digital multimeter

Electrical Equipment and Parts: Our exploded parts-diagrams make sourcing replacement OEM electrical components quick and easy. We also stock hundreds of OEM and  aftermarket batteries, as well as professional multimeters and other electrical tools and equipment.

#4 - Check the Frame and Suspension

A bent frame is bad for an ATV or UTV, and even worse for a motorcycle. Inspect the frame for paint chips, which are a tell-tale sign that it has taken a hefty hit.

Photo credit: atvconnection.com

Thoroughly check all areas of the chassis. A good way to know for sure if it's bent is to take measurements diagonally from the front wheel hub to the rear wheel hub. A small amount of chassis deflection is okay in a quad or side-by-side, but anything more will require the frame to be straightened or replaced. A twisted motorcycle frame is much more dangerous, and you should have a dealer inspect it and declare it safe to ride before going any further.

With ATVs and UTVs, check over the suspension components such as the control arms (A-arms), steering knuckles, steering arms and shock absorbers. These parts are prone to damage, so check for dents, cracks or signs of fatigue. 

Motorcycle restoration suspension and frame

Test the steering to see if there's any play and make sure it's centered. Check that the direction of the front wheels and the handlebar align. If anything feels off when the vehicle is stationary, it could be extremely dangerous when the vehicle is moving fast. Replace any damaged suspension components before attempting to ride an old ATV or UTV again.

Check the front forks and rear shocks on motorcycles. Nothing should feel loose, and there shouldn't be any signs of fork oil leaking from the seals

The suspension should feel fluid and smooth overall as it compresses and rebounds. The handling of a motorcycle is crucial to the safety of the rider, so replace any worn or damaged suspension components when bringing an old bike back to life.

Frames and Suspension Components: Because the amount of work and expense required to replace a bent frame is often prohibitive, many manufacturers don't offer replacement frames. However, Partzilla carries the frames that are available as part of our massive inventory of OEM and aftermarket suspension parts for all major makes and models.

#5 - Check the Wheels and Tires

Lift your machine up enough to rock the wheels in and out and side to side. Any play in the wheels indicates the wheel bearings or ball joints need replacing.

ATV restoration tips wheel and tire inspection

Check the condition of the tires to see how much tread they have, and inspect the inner and outer sidewalls for splits or cracking. These are telltale signs the tires are old, the rubber is breaking down and they could blow out. It should go without saying that bald tires or tires with decaying sidewalls need to be replaced before the vehicle can hit the road or trail again. 

PRO TIP: Motorcycle tires have a manufacturing date stamped into the sidewall that makes it easy to tell exactly how old they are.

Replacement Wheels and Tires: Partzilla has all your wheel and tire needs covered. Check out our huge wheels and tires catalog to find everything from OEM wheel assemblies to aftermarket hubs, rims and accessories.

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