ATV owners have a lot of options when it comes to choosing the right tires and wheels for their 4-wheeler.
ATV wheels and especially tires probably not only get upgraded more than any other part but the first of the stock options to get replaced by aftermarket product. The actual changing of your ATV's wheels and tires is not all that complex but rather it's choosing the right ones that tends to give some riders a headache.
How to Know When You Need New ATV Tires
Unless you're looking to replace those stock tires, when exactly is it time to replace the ones you've been ripping up the trails with? First off, you may just feel it. The cornering that gripped so well last month may be sliding out from underneath your 4-wheeler sending you and your ride into a slight tail-spin...or worse!
Before and after every ride you should perform routine maintenance checks which includes the tires. If you see rounded down knobs or the tire rubber is dry, discolored and/or cracked you'll need to invest in new tires. Check tire pressure before every ride as this can greatly affect the way your ATV handles and wear down tires quicker.
Well-used tires look weathered and just plain old. Tires should look fresh with a rich dark black color. Fading occurs over time and from direct sunlight. The shelf life of ATV tires is about four to five years after the manufacturer date.
The first step to choosing the right ATV tire is knowing the type of terrain you'll be blazing across in your ATV. If you're dune riding then you'll want a different tire than what's used on a motocross track. Essentially, there are five types of tires for your ATV:
All-Purpose ATV Tires
All-Purpose or All-Terrain riding is exactly that. Riding most non-extreme conditions all year round.
All-Purpose Tire Design/Pattern
All-Purpose tires provide all-around, intermediate grip ideal for general riding on multiple terrains without extremes.
Sand ATV Tires
Riding the sand dunes is a completely different experience you must try. It's just about impossible to ride on sand dunes whether your in the desert or at the beach on regular all-terrain or motocross AT tires. You need sand or paddle tires otherwise you'll just spin your wheels all day.
Sand Tire Design/Pattern
Perhaps the most recognizable ATV tire. The rears look like paddles and the fronts are nearly slick except for a rib down the middle or sides for steering.
Mud ATV Tires
The "luggiest" of all ATV tires. Deep, thick lugs provide traction in the harshest mud conditions where other all-terrain tires simply cannot respond. Be prepared when riding in the mud - you'll be unrecognizable after five minutes. So will your ATV.
Mud Tire Design/Pattern
ATV Mud tires bring serious grip. The large, high knobs act almost like shovels to keep you moving in the most extreme conditions. Mud tires often make a good snow tire.
Motocross ATV Tires
ATV Motocross events take place on closed course dirt race tracks featuring jumps and other man-made dexterity testing obstacles. Grip is just as important as speed. A combination of both strong lugs without grabbing hold of the track is the ideal tire for racing around tracks.
Motocross Tire Design/Pattern:
Motocross ATV tires use tread design ideal for loose track conditions common in MX racing. Stiffened knobs provide consistent cornering and a wide-spaced tread pattern give bite and better clean-out.
Off-Road ATV Tires
Off-road trail riding varies from tight single track trails in the mountains, down to high speed wide open desert riding and everything in between.
Off-Road Tire Design/Pattern:
The ATV Off-Road tire is close to the All-Purpose tire but with stronger tread and extra durability to tackle varying hard pack surfaces and soft, loamy dirt commonly found on trails and other off-roading surfaces.
What Do All Those Numbers Mean?
Along the rim of an ATV tires lies a bunch of numbers similar to what's on a regular car tire. Knowing what the numbers mean is crucial to optimum performance and finding the right set of wheels which we'll get into for the next section.
Without a good set of wheels, those ATV tires won't help you all that much. Skimping one to go big on the other doesn't really work when it comes to tires and wheels. Inferior tires can of course ruin a day's ride but also affect the longevity of the wheels. Same goes with subpar wheels. Cracked or broken wheels won't do much good either and may even slice a hole in your tires. It's best to consider the ATV wheel and tire as one.
Manufacturers use several materials to construct wheels. Depending on how hard you ride and whether or not you enjoy cruising along trails verses racing makes a difference in the type of rim to buy.
Steel wheels are the most cost effective but they are heavy. Aluminum alloy is a popular alternative to steel because of the price and the wheel is much lighter. Magnesium alloy is about 30 percent lighter than aluminum and just as durable on the track or trail but can rust.
DWT Racing took to "labeling" their wheels to make it easy on consumers. The Label series of wheels are made of aircraft grade aluminum in varying thickness.
The Sport Blue Label is the lightest in their Sport series and is recommended for recreational dune riding. The Sport Red Label is the strongest line intended for moderate riding. The Sport Black Label is strong and lightweight designed for light to moderate riding.
Read on to learn more about wheel offset, bolt pattern and wheel sizing.
If your ATV handles stiff or perhaps too loose and you want to change how your 4-wheeler handles then Offset comes into play. Offset allows you to change the width of the front and/or rear end to make the AT handle to your liking. Check out the diagram for reading ATV wheel offsets.
Measuring Wheel Bolt Pattern
ATV wheels come in three lug patterns: 3-Lug, 4-Lug and 5-Lug. Knowing your wheels lug pattern isn't all that important because wheels are set-up for specific ATVs. So, when you look for new wheels your decision is narrowed down by the make and model of your ATV. However, if you have an existing set of wheels and unsure what ATV the lug pattern fits then you can measure the bolt pattern and find out. Use the following graphic to help you measure your wheels bolt pattern.
How to Read Wheel Sizing
Like ATV tires, wheels offer a bunch of numbers imprinted on the rim to help you find the right size. Larger wheels offer more power, smaller wheels give more speed. Depending on your ATV you may be limited in what size wheel is usable but you should be able to go larger or smaller depending on need. Of course, we'll mention what does not need mentioning but just in case - you'll need the same size tire as your wheel.
Now you're all set to upgrade or replace the tires and wheels on your ATV. Check out all of our ATV wheels and be sure to use our Tire and Wheel Kit Builder to find the right tires and wheels for your ATV.
Written By: AndrewT