When first starting out with an ATV, you may not know what tire pressure to inflate your tires to. This post acts as a simple guide to help you decide what tire pressure works best for you.
I spent a while searching around the internet, and found out there are different tire pressures recommended for different scenarios. I found that most recommended tire pressures are anywhere between 3 psi up to 12 psi.
The most common tire pressure for an average rider on average terrain is going to be around 5-6 psi. If you are carrying extra weight, riding in sand, or want to customize your tire pressure for your needs specifically, then keep reading.
There are a lot of reasons to adjust your tire pressure to get the most out of your ATV while riding. Having the right tire pressure is safer and can prevent unnecessary slipping and helps your tires last longer. It is recommended to check your tire pressure before each ride and adjust according to how you plan to ride for that trip.
Considerations Affecting Tire Pressure:
- Type of ATV
- Type of tire
- Size of ATV
- Weight of riders
- Terrain you’re riding on
- Riders preference
On the side wall of your tire there should be printed the specific tire pressure that is recommended for your tire. The maximum recommended pressure is provided by the manufacture. Do not exceed the maximum recommended tire pressure. If you do, you could cause damage to the tire and risk a tire erupting, which can cause injury.
Higher Tire Pressure
Just changing your tire pressure one psi can make a big difference in how your ATV handles. A higher tire pressure is better if you plan on riding with multiple people on one ATV or if you are carrying extra load. Such as, hunting gear or camping gear.
You could also add a little air to the tire if you plan on riding on mostly hardened terrain. Sometimes through really muddy terrain, an increased tire pressure can help you gain traction on the bottom of the mud pit and will help you get out a little easier. If there is no bottom for the tires to grip, less tire pressure will help with gaining traction in the mud itself.
Having a higher tire pressure can also help protect the rims on the ATV. Inflating the tire too much can make it easier for a sharp rock or log to puncture the tire, so be careful.
If you’re riding at higher speeds, carrying extra weight, or the terrain is hard packed, I recommend 7-8 psi.
Benefits of higher tire pressure:
- Higher speeds
- Protects tire and rim from impacts
- Great for heavier riders or carrying extra weight
- Good for packed down trails
Lower Tire Pressure
A lower tire pressure is extra useful for places you need extra traction. Such as, sandy areas or areas with loose dirt or gravel. If you’re going to be riding through a lot of muddy terrain, a lower tire pressure might be something to consider as well.
With a lower tire pressure the tire is able to grab on to the terrain better, giving you more traction in places you need it. When riding in the snow, a lower tire pressure is also extremely helpful. More of the tire is in contact with the ground, limiting the amount your tire will slip.
If you’re riding in rocky, sandy, muddy, snowy, or other loose terrain, I recommend 3-4 psi.
Benefits of a lower tire pressure:
- Better traction
- Great for cleared trails (no smashing into boulders or tree roots)
- Good for light weight riders
- Great for loose terrain
Tire Pressure Gauge And Pump
I found it hard to use the tire pressure gauge I used on my truck tires because the scale was not accurate enough. I couldn’t tell if it was set to 5 or 6 psi. It makes sense because the tire pressure on my truck it so much higher and one psi off doesn’t make a difference. I found it so much easier to just get a gauge made for ATV tires.
I recommend the Jaco Elite Tire Pressure Gauge I found here on Amazon. It goes up to 15 psi (I’ve never had to go above 10 psi for my ATV tires) and it works great. It will show the psi down to a tenth of a pound, which is exactly what I needed and way more accurate than the gauge I use for my vehicles.
To actually inflate the tires you could use an air compressor with the proper attachments or even just a bike tire pump. I used to use a simple bike pump, but I got sick of inflating a little, checking the pressure, inflating a little, and checking the pressure again, back and forth.
I ended up just getting a tire pump with compressor made by Slime. The gauge is accurate down to one psi and all comes compact in a nice little container. It will also work on cars and trucks, so I leave it in my truck now for emergencies, and it has come in handy a couple of times on the trails. I use the Slime Direct Drive Tire Inflator found here on Amazon.
I usually fill the tires with the compressor, and make any little changes with, the more accurate, Jaco gauge.
Setting Tires to Different Pressures
The tire pressure should be the same per axle. If your owners manual suggests a certain pressure for your back tire, that goes for both left and right back tires. This is also the case for the front tires. Make sure both tires of an axle are set to the same psi. This is especially important for the front tires because any difference in tire pressure could change the way the ATV handles.
Some riders like to have the back tires set to a slightly lower psi. This improves traction of the rear tires but keeps the handling nice in the front tires. Allowing you to still steer well, while increasing grip on the track. Also when racing, the back tires tend to heat up a little more which adds to the tire pressure. Setting the back tire pressure a little lower can help compensate for how the tire acts once its warmed up a bit.
Setting your tire pressure properly can help prevent unnecessary puncture when riding. Nothing’s worse than getting a flat miles from where you need to be. Usually, having a higher tire pressure in your tires will help prevent punctures. When a tire is inflated to a higher pressure, the air in the tire compresses less and it’s more likely to bounce off of whatever you hit.
On the other hand, having too high of a tire pressure can cause punctures because the air has no where to go putting more strain on the tire at the point of impact.
There are a few options available to help prevent getting a flat on your ATV. You could upgrade to 8-ply or even 12-ply tires. Most ATV’s come stock with a set of 4 or 6-ply tires. If you go with 12-ply you will have virtually indestructible tires. Even if you do get a puncture, the tires should hold up long enough for you to get back off the trail.
Some other options include:
- Tire Balls
- Flat Tire Defenders
- Tire Blocks
How To Tell What Tire Pressure You Need
There are a few things you could watch out for while your riding to help you gauge if your tires are low or overfilled. If you notice your ATV does not corner tightly or you feel a wobble at medium speeds, then your tire pressure is too low. If you tire is under inflated, your tire will roll slightly when cornering. If you feel your rims are hitting roots or rocks on the trail, or you notice them getting dinged up, it is possible your tires are under inflated.
If your tires are over inflated you will notice a loss of grip on loose terrain. This happens because your tires aren’t getting enough contact with the trail, and your tires will spin more than they should.
Something else to watch out for is the psi change due to altitude and temperature. If you want to see if this affects you, check your tire pressure at the start of a ride, and then again after about 30 minutes of riding. If the pressure is too high for your liking, just set them a little lower at the beginning of your ride next time.
When To Replace Your Tires
When you notice the knobbies on the sides of the tire start to split or break off, that’s a good indication it’s time for new tires. Tires wear away over time, and as they lose thickness they are more prone to punctures and going flat.
As your tires wear away you will get less traction, which will affect cornering and acceleration. It is always recommended to keep your tires in good condition and replace them when necessary.