If your ATVs front end alignment is off, you may notice the ATV pulling to the side while riding, or a shaking and wobbling feeling in the handle bars while on the trail.
That’s not the only effect you’ll notice either, your tires will wear unevenly and need to be replaced sooner if you’re out of alignment. Not to worry, a front end alignment is a pretty easy task you can do yourself at home with some basic hand tools.
When you buy a brand new quad, the manufacturer recommends you do a front end alignment after the first 30 days. Then, every 3 months after that. To me, that seems a bit extreme. I do mine once a year with my yearly maintenance before I take it out for the season.
You will also want to do an alignment any time you swap out your tie rods, or do any work on the machine involving those parts. Here are the steps you take to do an alignment, I go into more detail on each of these steps below.
To Align The Front End Of Your ATV Or UTV, Follow These Simple Steps:
- Level The ATV/UTV
- Secure Handle Bars
- Adjust Camber
- Find Your Toe-In Toe-Out Measurements
- Loosen Tie Rod End Nuts
- Adjust Tie Rods To Measurement
- Tighten Tie Rod Nuts
Level The ATV/UTV
First you want to make sure your quad is on a level surface. You don’t need to spend a ton of time on this getting it perfect. But try to get the machine as level as possible, it makes the whole job easier.
If you have a flat spot in a garage or drive way, that would work best. But you could always jack up one side of the machine if you’re on a really uneven area. The quad won’t need to move for you to do the alignment.
As part of this step, make sure your tire pressure is set to spec or to what you normally ride with it set to. The most important factor is that the tire pressure is the same from side to side. Front and back doesn’t need to match, and usually shouldn’t. But make sure the left front tire matches the right front tire at least.
Secure Handle Bars
This step isn’t absolutely necessary, but it sure makes everything a lot easier knowing the handle bars aren’t able to move and mess with any of your measurements. If you have someone that won’t mind sitting there holding the handle bars straight that would work.
In fact, having someone sitting on the machine is better because the measurements will more closely match the conditions you have when someone is riding the machine. But if it’s just you doing this job, you’ll have to find another way to secure the handle bars.
I usually just get a ratchet strap and wrap the two hooks on each side of the handle bars and through the grab bar on the back to keep the handle bars from moving at all. It’s really a simple step that will save you some headache later on. Don’t strap it down to tight or you could cause other damage, just enough to hold her steady.
The camber of your front tires is often overlooked. But since we’re doing an alignment, this is the best time check the camber is on point. You’ll want to take a level and place it against the side of the tire vertically. Try to be as close to center near the axle as you can.
Rest the level against the bottom of the tire on the outside of the tire and get the bubble into the center of the level. Now measure the gap between the top of the level and the top part of the tire. You should get somewhere between 0.2 and 0.8 inches distance.
Not all ATVs and UTVs are rated to have the same camber. Check your service manual for the exact measurements, but about 1/8 inch to 3/4 inch is a pretty common standard to go by. If you’re not within those measurements, you should adjust your camber.
To adjust your camber, take the cotter pin out of the castle nut of your ball joint where it connects to the upper A-Arm and loosen the castle nut. Now with the correct size wrench, adjust the ball joint by screwing it in or out to get your camber within the recommended range.
Some A-Arm assemblies require that remove the ball joint from the spindle it sits in order to adjust. Once you’re done with the adjustment tighten back up the castle nut and put back the cotter pin.
Find Your Toe-In Toe-Out Measurements
If you want to think of the camber as the vertical alignment, then think of the toe as your horizontal alignment. First determine weather your machine calls for a toe-in or toe-out alignment by checking your service manual. Most quads require a 1/4 inch toe-in alignment.
There are two popular methods for actually getting the toe-in toe-out measurements. I prefer method two because it’s easier to see if only one tire is out of alignment or if both are.
Method 1 is quicker and a pretty straight forward way to get your measurements. You’ll simply measure the distance between the middle point on both your front tires, front and back at axle height.
The distance measurement between the center of the front of the tires will be measurement A and the distance between the center of the back of the tires will be measurement B. You will take your measurements and subtract measurement A from measurement B to find your toe-in. If the measurement is negative, you have a toe-out situation.
I found it easiest to measure the front of the tires, then put a piece of tape or something to mark where you measured. Then rotate the tires 180 degrees by rolling the quad to get the back side measurements.
To find out which wheel is out of alignment, maybe both are, maybe just one is. Take a long 2×4 or something long and straight that won’t bend. And hold it flush with rear tires and along-side the front tires.
Measure the distance the from the 2×4 to the front tires. The distance should be the same from right tire to left tire. If it’s off then you will want to get the adjustments done to the tie rods to get these to match.
For a toe-in alignment you will want the front of the tires measurement away from the 2×4 to be higher than the back of the front tire by about 1/8 inch. Remember that the standard toe-in measurement is about 1/4 inch? Well, that’s both front tires combined.
Loosen Tie Rod End Nuts
If you find that you need to make adjustments to your toe, that is all done with the tie rods. Start by loosening the lock nut on the tie rod ends. You will want to use two wrenches to do this part.
One wrench to hold the tie rod in place and the other to loosen the tie rod end lock nut. If you don’t use two wrenches you could cause damage to your machine.
Adjust Tie Rods To Measurement
Once the tie rod ends lock nut is loosened up, you will be able to adjust the tie rods. Make the adjustments to the tie rod by spinning clockwise or counter clockwise to get your correct toe measurement.
You will most likely need to adjust the tie rod, and take another measurement, repeating until the toe is where you need it to be.
Tighten Tie Rod Nuts
After you’ve got your toe-in or toe-out where you want it, you can tighten the tie rod end nuts back up and you’re good to go. It’s a good idea to take another measurement after you’ve tightened them up just in case it shifted a little bit when tightening.
There you have it, an ATV front end alignment. If you’re alignment is still off after doing this, you may have a bent tie rod or A-Arm. If you notice, the handle bars still wobble or shake, you may just need to Balance The Tires or maybe even Replace The Wheel Hub Bearings.