If you love to go off-roading, then you’re bound to come home covered in mud. Not only you but your UTV too.
You can always tell how good a time someone had on an off-roading trip by looking to see if you can still see the UTV under all the mud.
So, what’s the best way to clean your UTV?
It basically comes down to a few simple steps: Scrape off any large chunks of caked on mud, lather the vehicle with a detergent gentle enough not to corrode any of the UTV’s parts, rinse the vehicle clean; then you can polish and prepare the vehicle for the next run by spraying it with a protective coating which will keep mud and dirt from sticking to it next time you’re out off the road.
While cleaning your UTV is pretty intuitive, there are a few special considerations one should take, that you might not pay attention to if you’ve only cleaned cars and trucks in the past.
Best soap for UTVs
When choosing what soap to use to clean your UTV, you may be tempted to reach for regular dish soap, but this might be a mistake.
Regular dish soap can react to and combine with the oils in the mud to create unsightly stains and streaks.
You might be better off choosing from a wide selection of products specially designed to handle the challenges of off-roading vehicles.
We’ll explore one popular brand of off-road vehicle cleaner in this article, however, I’ll provide several DIY options throughout the article if you’d prefer them.
Whatever chemical you choose to use, be careful that it won’t damage any important parts to your UTV.
Slick is a company that focuses exclusively on cleaning products for off-roading vehicles.
Their compounds, when diluted in water, give the powerful punch required to knock off any mud, while not being corrosive to any of the vital parts of your UTV.
Their ATV/UTV cleaning kit comes with three different cleaning solutions: The Off Road Wash, a Multi-Purpose Cleaner and Degreaser, and a Multi-Surface Shine and Protectant, and will run you about $65 for the lot.
These products can be found at your local auto parts store or hardware store from a variety of companies.
This highly concentrated solution strikes a good balance between being strong enough to dissolve hard to reach mud chunks and being not too strong to corrode any of the machinery.
(An easy alternative is called Simple Green and can be found at almost any auto parts store. Be sure to follow any dilution instructions on the bottle to not damage your UTV.)
The Cleaner/ Degreaser
This solution is meant to be used on any plastics or metals on your UTV.
It’s non corrosive but will give you the deep clean you need, leaving your UTV looking polished and shiny, just like new.
(A viable DIY solution would be to combine about a tablespoon of baking soda with about 20 drops of lemon essential oils, and a cup of water.)
The Shine/ Protectant
Your UTV is looking gorgeous by the time you’ve reached this step.
But now it’s time to give it some polish, and prepare it for the next time you take it out into the mud.
Slick’s protectant gives your UTV a protective barrier, preventing mud from sticking and caking as badly next time you’re in the mud.
(But there are plenty of other brands of silicone spray that will keep mud from sticking the next time around.)
How to clean mud off UTV
Though it’s not entirely necessary, it’s recommended that you use a pressure washer to clean and rinse your UTV.
Pressure washers will make the job a faster one, simply because of the strength of the water being able to blast off any difficult chunks of mud.
However, a garden hose with a good, strong spray attachment will get the job done just fine.
Any good method of cleaning your UTV includes three to four vital steps.
Scrape and Soak
You’re probably beginning with a UTV that looks nothing like it did when you purchased it.
If it was set in front of a mud-colored backdrop, you might think it wasn’t even there.
Dried mud can be even more difficult to get off than wet mud, so it’s suggested that you rinse the UTV thoroughly with your pressure washer or hose, and go around scraping the large chunks of mud off.
There are specialized mud scrapers on the market, however, a stick might work just as well as your hands would.
An important thing to note about this step is that you’re not going for a perfect look on this first round, just shoot to get the big, obvious chunks off.
We’ll clear the rest after we loosen the thick mud up with the next step.
Now we’re ready to clear the bulk of the mud from our UTV.
Apply thoroughly whatever detergent you’ve decided to use.
If you’re using a pressure washer, it may be a good idea to use a foam gun or foam cannon attachment to ensure a nice even spray.
If you’ve decided to prepare your own DIY detergent, be careful that it’s not corrosive to any of the vital parts of the machine.
Once applied thoroughly, let it soak deep into the mud for three to five minutes. It’s tempting to wash the mud off right away, but a little bit of waiting will make the whole process much smoother.
Now comes the fun part, where you can see the fruits of all the labor so far.
Using your pressure washer or your hose, rinse away the suds, and along with them the mud. The mud should just slide right off, leaving the UTV shining like new.
A quick note while rinsing: Be careful not to blast any electronics with water for obvious reasons, and don’t let water get too deep into the intake or exhaust, as this can affect your engine’s effectiveness on startup.
If you’re using an especially powerful pressure washer, also beware of any stick on decals, as they could be blasted off by the force of the water.
It’s probably not a great idea to leave your UTV to air dry, as this can leave water spots.
You can go around with a towel and dry it as best you can, or you can speed up the process by turning on the engine and letting it heat up. This should help it dry much faster.
Another way to speed up the drying process, if you have access to one, is by using a leaf blower to blow dry your UTV.
After it’s nice and dry, go through with a towel and dry any of the hard to reach spots to prepare us for the next step.
Detailing and Protection
Now’s your chance to take your already great looking UTV, and make it even more beautiful by caring to the fine details.
You can freshen tired looking plastics on your UTV by using a product called Back-to-Black, which comes in a spray can like a spray-paint container.
Simply spray the product onto any faded or dull plastic surfaces, let sit for a moment and wipe clean for an off-the-sales-floor look.
A DIY solution for faded plastics would be to use a combination of paint thinner (60%) and linseed oil (40%) and apply thoroughly to any faded or oxidized paint, let sit for a moment and wipe off with a clean rag.
A word of caution for anyone thinking of using this method: use rubber gloves, as these chemicals can be harmful to your skin.
If you’re feeling nervous about using harmful chemicals on your UTV, try rubbing the solution on a sample spot somewhere out of the way to make sure that it will give the desired effect.
A forward-thinking next step would be to prepare your UTV for the next time it ventures deep into the mud. By doing a little bit of prep work now, it can make cleaning your UTV go even smoother next time.
There are many options when it comes to preparing your UTV for the next ride. Slick, as we mentioned above sells a silicone based protectant, but there are plenty of other options out there on the market.
You should use this to coat your tires, plastics, interior and even parts of the undercarriage if you’d like. It will keep mud from sticking as badly and will make cleaning easier the next to go around.
The Devil is in the Details
Up to now, we’ve covered the basics of cleaning your UTV.
General cleaning is a must after a particularly messy off-roading trip, but now we’re going to dive deeper into the different areas of your UTV and how to best clean them.
Cleaning your UTV’s windshield should be done with care.
Do not attempt to clean a polycarbonate windshield the way you would clean your car or truck’s windshield, the materials need to be cared for differently.
Do not attempt to use Windex or other household window cleaners, these are not designed for the polycarbonate material UTV windshields are made of and in fact, can damage them.
Start by rinsing the windshield thoroughly, letting the dust and dirt flow off of it naturally.
Then you can use some gentle soap to give it a deep clean, making sure not to use any abrasive scrub brushes that might scratch the windshield, it should be a very gentle wash.
Do not scrub circular, always wash the windshield by moving your sponge or brush side to side. Rinse the windshield and dry thoroughly with a dry cloth or shammy.
When you’re off-roading, everything gets muddy.
One of the arguably most important parts of your machine to keep clean is your radiator.
Mud can get caked between all those fine cracks and grooves and this can eventually lead to your radiator working sub-optimally.
To tackle this job we’ll need a special chemical used on air conditioners.
This coil cleaner, which you’ll be able to pick up at your local hardware store, gets deep into the cracks and the longer it stays there, the more it foams and expands, taking with it the grime and dirt that had been trapped in there for who knows how long.
Begin by rinsing thoroughly your radiator with water, and apply the coil cleaner and let it sit for about five minutes.
If you see any areas that have survived your cleaning, hit them again with the solution until you’re satisfied that all the dirt has been pushed out from those deep cracks.
Finish by thoroughly spraying the radiator down with water, being sure to clear out any sign of dirt or grime.
You should be able to see through to the other side when you position your head just right. Any blockages should be taken care of by repeating the above steps until they’re clear.
When off-roading, you expect to get a little muddy inside the cab, but no one likes to open up their UTV for a ride and see a muddy interior.
Luckily cleaning the seats is remarkably simple.
Begin, if you can, by removing the seats from the interior, this will not only ensure that you’re able to get into all the little nooks and crannies of the seat itself, but it will also ensure that you can clean under the seats, a place that’s often neglected.
Be sure not to pressure wash the seats, as this can force water past the leather or vinyl into the actual foam padding of the seat, which can then get moldy and smelly.
Clear away any chunks of mud by hand and clean the seats thoroughly with soapy water. Dry them with a clean cloth, or let them dry in the sun.
To polish, you can use any form of auto interior polish, Armor-All would do the trick, but any polish will do.
After you’ve cleaned the interior, and you’re satisfied with your newly cleaned seats, you can re-install them and move on to other detailing.
Seatbelts often go neglected when it comes to cleaning any vehicle, not just UTVs.
This can lead to some gnarly looking stains, or worse, some nasty smells.
To clean your seatbelts, you’ll need a few things: fabric cleaner (some dish or laundry detergent would work in small quantities) and a good, strong clamp.
First, pull the seat belt out as far as it goes, you’ll know it’s nearly reached its end when you hear a click and the belt stops feeding out.
Use the clamp to keep the seat belt from retracting in and apply the fabric cleaner and scrub gently on any of the problem areas. When the belt is looking clear of stains, you can leave the belt to dry.
If you’re battling any harsh smells coming from the seatbelts, a good fix is to prepare a solution of about 50% water and 50% vinegar and apply it to the problem areas.
Scrub the seatbelt making sure not to be too vigorous. If you’re too rough with the seatbelt, some small fibers might fray, weakening the integrity of the belt.
It’s clear by now that mud gets almost everywhere when you’re having fun. Even under the hood.
Your engine should be well sealed, meaning that mud can’t get into the actual engine block to disrupt the pistons, but if this is the case, I’d recommend taking it to a mechanic skilled enough to take apart an engine, clean it, and put it back together without leaving out any parts.
That being said, you are likely to open the hood and see mud, lots of mud. Thankfully you will be able to clean the engine in much the same way you cleaned the rest of your UTV.
However, pay special attention to what chemicals you’re using. If the detergent is corrosive at all, be very careful not to get it on any of the rubber belts or gaskets.
You can apply your detergent as thoroughly as needed, and wait a few minutes for the soap to do its job. Then rinse with water.
It’s probably not a great idea to hit the engine with the pressure washer directly, as you might knock something loose causing trouble down the road.
Once your engine is as clean as, well, an engine, you can dry it with a clean towel, or perhaps simply turn the UTV on and let the engine’s heat dry it for you.
The one thing that is bound to get muddy no matter how hard you’re going is your tires.
You can take some preventative measures to make sure they stay relatively clean, but the main thing that keeps the tires from getting too muddy is the tires themselves.
A good mud tire is designed to clear the mud as you’re driving.
Using the centrifugal force to disperse any mud that otherwise might get stuck in the tire’s treads.
Specific designs vary considerably from model to model, but by and large, a good mud tire is nice and wide, with treads that are 1-2 inches deep, with channels to let the mud clear itself out.
That being said, there are some products that can prevent mud from sticking to the tires. As mentioned above, there are silicone products that coat the surface of your tires.
This won’t affect your grip on the ground, but it will keep the mud from sticking too much to your tires. Simply apply the spray liberally, and wipe clean and the job is done.