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Driving an XTV in Winter Weather

Driving an XTV in Winter Weather
An XTV is a great alternative to snowmobiles, able to operate on snow, ice, water and bare ground. However, making use these abilities also puts you at greater risk of injury. Taking precautions ahead of time and knowing what do to when disaster strikes can ensure your safety.

“Safer” Doesn’t Mean “Safe”

Your XTV is designed to operate in temperatures as low as -40ºF, but you can be in danger well above that temperature. Wind chill below -20ºF can result in frostbite in 10 minutes. That’s equivalent to driving your XTV at 15 mph when it’s 10ºF. If you plan on regularly operating your vehicle in cold weather, consider adding an enclosure or even just a windshield. This can significantly decrease exposure to the elements. With or without this protection, you should always wear clothing that minimizes exposed skin.

XTVs are used by search and rescue operations on ice, but there’s a big difference between being a well-trained, well-equipped paramedic and a weekend warrior doing some ice fishing. An XTV should float on the water if the ice breaks beneath it, but just one wrong move can flood the passenger compartment or let a passenger fall out of the vehicle.

Operating in Snow, Ice, and Extreme Cold

You wouldn’t drive in winter weather without some extra preparation, and the same goes for operating your XTV in winter conditions. Plan on having the same equipment you’d carry if you were going on a long trip, even if you plan on being out for only a couple of hours. This includes extra clothing, food, water, a first aid kit and plenty of fuel. Make sure someone knows where you’re going, and carry a communications device that will work in the areas you’ll be driving.

Snow and ice accumulation should be removed before using the vehicle. This precipitation can melt when the vehicle is warm, then refreeze around drive components including the chains. This can keep the vehicle from moving.

Adding a set of rubber tracks will improve your XTV’s snow performance by spreading out the load over a wider area. In effect, this acts like having a vehicle with snowshoes, driving over light powder instead of sinking into it. Adding an ice cleat kit to these tracks will help them bite into ice for better winter performance.

Preparing for Travel on Frozen Bodies of Water

Although the ground pressure of an XTV is significantly lower than a UTV, these vehicles still put a lot of weight on a small area of ice. Follow the same guidelines you would use with a similar size vehicle: clear ice should be at least 5 inches thick and white “snow” ice should be at least 10 inches thick.

Take the same precautions you would when planning to operate in water. Inspect the hull for tears or other damage that could let water in, make sure the axles are watertight and have the drain plugs fastened to the hull. Everyone on board should wear a life jacket, and you should have a paddle and bailing bucket on board.

What to Do if You Break Through the Ice

Balance the vehicle so it’s level. The exhaust and air intake must stay above the water line for the engine to run.

Keep the bilge pump on. Even if the interior is dry, it won’t take much for cold water to enter the cab.

Use a paddle to break up thin ice, giving the XTV a solid surface to drive onto.

If you have a winch, use it to pull the vehicle out of the water. If you don’t have a winch or ready access to an anchor point, back the vehicle out of the water. The lower weight of the rear end lets it float higher for a better angle of approach.

When getting the vehicle out, make sure both the left and right side tires are on the ice at the same time. Driving one side onto the ice while the other side is still in the water can cause the vehicle to tilt, letting water into the cab. Likewise, turning while driving onto the ice could cause the vehicle to tip into the water.

If there’s no easy way to drive out of the water, your best bet is to wait for rescue. Getting out of the vehicle and attempting to walk on thin ice can be more dangerous than staying put.

Prepare for Winter with Help from Shank’s Argo

If you’re looking to add a heater, windshield or other equipment to your XTV, visit Shank’s Argo. We’re a major Argo dealer with decades of experience selling and servicing outdoor equipment. Visit our shop, located at 4900 Molly Pitcher Highway in Chambersburg, PA.

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