ATVs were made to tear it up in the mud, so who cares if they get a little messy, right? But the problem isn’t that mud will cake on their exterior, it’s that mud gets absolutely everywhere, the radiator notwithstanding.
The front guards on ATVs aren’t exactly Fort Knox. Their grills often have wide holes that let particulate matter mosey on in and make themselves at home. In fact, in some cases, it only takes a single trail for your radiator to totally clog up with earth.
When our radiators are backed up like this, air can’t reach the liquid coolant and dissipate heat from the engine, and an overheating engine only leads to bad things, folks. We’re talking cracked engine blocks, we’re talking warped cylinder heads, we’re talking oil leaks — the stuff of very expensive nightmares.
Of course, a radiator needs cleaning and maintenance every now and again regardless, but it would be nice if we didn’t have to give it a deep clean after every ride. So, let’s discuss some neat ways to keep the mud on our chassis and out of our radiators.
After-Market Front Guards
This is a fairly drastic solution, but it may help to look for a fresh custom front guard for your ATV - one with smaller intake vents. It won’t completely prevent dirt from entering your ATV, but it will cut down the amount that reaches your radiator and eliminate the need to clean it every dang day.
Build or Buy a Mud-Guard
A much more affordable and effective option is to build or buy a radiator mud-guard. This is essentially a thin screen that you can fit in front of your radiator grill to take the muddy bullet, so to speak.
They’re perforated to ensure cool air can still reach your radiator and dissipate heat from the engine, they’re easy to fit and remove, and they’re easy to clean — perfect right?
They won’t stop absolutely everything from reaching your internals, but they’ll keep most debris at bay, giving you the green light to enjoy some full-throttle mid slingin’.
The only problem is professionally made screens are few and far between, especially if you need something model-specific. That said, you could approach a custom builder to whisk something together. It won’t cost too much because it’s a simple enough project requiring minimal materials.
Alternatively, you could just have a go at crafting one yourself. It might be tricky getting the shaping and measurements right, but it stands to be a pretty enjoyable and highly rewarding project. However, it’s not as simple as fitting a fine grill in place over your radiator.
You can make a static screen if you like, but once it’s clogged with mud, it’s going to block airflow to the radiator all the same. For better results, you’ll need a shaker screen that sheds mud as it catches it. This is achieved by giving the screen a rocking function, meaning it’s not completely fixed down in place.
First, you’ll need to craft a frame shaped to fit your radiator. It needs to have motion stops at the bottom. Next, you can cut the screen down to size and mount it on the frame at the top. Once that’s in place, you’re ready to install it on your radiator.
The screen will catch most of the mud as you fly around the trail, but instead of clogging like a static design, it knocks against the stoppers on the lower frame, shaking the dirt loose.
If you’re not so hot on your DIY, it can be a pretty tricky project, but as long as you plan it all out sufficiently, it shouldn’t be a problem. If you lack the tools to get the job done, I highly recommend giving a professional craftsperson a call.
Here we have the most affordable and most popular option for keeping those radiators squeaky clean. It’s achieved by taking a pair of pantyhose and stretching them over your radiator. The fine mesh material allows the passage of air but denies any mud that flies in through your front guard.
Granted, this sounds a bit silly, but pantyhose actually offer the most mud protection of any other option I’m discussing here today, so it’s no joke.
After you’ve given your radiator a thorough cleaning and reassembled it, all you have to do is stretch a pair of pantyhose over the whole grill, hooking them over the plastic fins, and that’s that — instant protection.
If you’re going on a particularly bumpy ride, you may even consider fitting some small screws around your radiator's frame, pointing forward. You can then use them to snag the pantyhose on, so there’s no chance they’ll slip off mid-race.
Of course, the pantyhose method has no shedding ability, so once they’re clogged, you’ll need to address the issue efficiently. However, the great thing about this budget mudguard is that you can throw them in the washing machine and reuse them.
If you’re looking for a more permanent solution, I’m afraid your only option may be a full-blown radiator relocation. Simply put, this procedure involves rerouting your radiator system as a top mount. As it’s no longer low, front, and center, it’s not at risk of collecting all of that goop when you go mud snorkeling.
It sounds like a professional job, and you can pay to get this done if you like, but you can buy some pretty user-friendly relocation kits online if you fancy having a crack at it yourself. Check this Can-Am New OEM ATV Outlander L, MAX Radiator Relocation Kit out for example.
It’s a pretty drastic move, but not only will a radiator relocation protect it from debris, it will actually allow your ATV to run cooler in general. That means increased performance all-round and a healthier engine whether you’re going mud diving or not — pretty awesome, right?
Just make sure you find one that’s fully compatible with your ride. The last thing you need is to waste money, time, and effort making a bunch of returns. Best of luck, mud-slinger!