In this article I will go over the most common reasons an ATV will feel shaky or wobbly while you’re riding. You may feel a shaking in the handle bars but it most likely has something to do with your tires or alignment.
The most common reasons an ATV will shake or wobble while you ride all originate with your front tires. You will either need to do a front end alignment, balance your tires, or replace your wheel hub bearings to fix the tire wobble.
Lets figure out which of these things you should focus on first, based on what your feeling when you ride and the symptoms your quad is showing. All of the fixes can be done yourself at home, but some may require special tools which I’ll explain later.
Why Does My ATV Shake When Riding?
There are a few reasons you will feel a shaking in the handle bars when riding. But at what speed the shake starts to happen can be an indicator of what the problem is. First lets get the obvious out of the way.
Are your lug nuts tight? A wheel will wobble if the lug nuts aren’t tightened down all the way, and the tire will eventually fall right off while you’re riding. Check for big clumps of mud stuck on the inside of the rim, that could throw you off balance and cause a wobble.
Inspect your A-Arm and tie rods, if one of these are bent, it will cause your ATV to wobble and the handle bars to shake quite a bit while riding. Just visually look over these parts, both sides of the machine should match how they look, and there shouldn’t be any dents or kinks in the A-Arm or tie rod.
Also, check your axle. If you notice a popping or snapping sound, your front axle could be bent out of shape. Just visually inspect the axle for any bends or cracks that look like they shouldn’t be there. If you do need to replace your ATV axle, check out my step by step guide on How To Remove And Install An ATV Axle.
Now, onto the more common reasons at ATV shakes when riding.
If everything seems tightened down and cleaned out nice but you still get a wobble, it’s time to figure out where it’s coming from. If the shake only happens at higher speeds, it’s most likely an alignment or tire balance issue.
If the tires are out of balance, they will wobble more at higher speeds causing the handle bars to shake more and more the faster you go. If your front end is out of alignment, you will notice a similar feeling, but may be able to feel it at lower speeds as well. You may also feel like the steering is going back and forth on you at higher speeds if you have an alignment problem.
If you don’t think those symptoms define what is happening to your quad, try listening to the wheels while your riding. If you hear and feel a grinding when riding, it could be your wheel hub bearings have gone bad.
If the machine pulls to one side when braking, that’s also a sign of bad wheel hub bearings. Hopefully by now, you’ve pin pointed what your problem may be, or at least know where you want to start. If you still don’t know, I would start by checking the front end alignment.
ATV Front End Alignment
Front end alignments are often an overlooked maintenance step with ATVs. Typically when you buy a new quad, the manufacturer recommends a front end alignment be done before the first 100 miles, and then every few months after that. I do one every year when I get my ATV ready for the riding season.
A quick way to tell if you need an alignment, is to straighten the handle bars and then take a look at your quad from the front. Both tires should be pointing straight forward, or close to it. If you notice one of your tires pointing out to the side or inwards, your alignment is probably off.
This can easily happen with the rough terrains ATVs are taken through on a regular basis. If the nuts on your tie rod ends got loosened up, your tie rods could have moved and your alignment could be all out of whack.
If you’ve determined you want to do an alignment, check out my How To Do A Front End Alignment On An ATV Or UTV article. I go through step by step how to do an alignment yourself at home with basic hand tools.
Balance ATV Tires
A lot of people don’t bother balancing their ATV tires, it’s just not something you hear a lot about. You’ll only really notice if your tires aren’t balanced at speed above 35-40 mph anyways.
So if you’re a slow rider, mostly riding through rocky rough terrain, or muddy trails, you probably don’t need to balance your ATV tires. But if you like to get up to speed on straight-aways or flat trails and notice a wobbly feeling or shaky handle bars at high speeds, then you probably need to balance the tires.
There’s a couple ways to go about balancing your ATV tires, which I go over in much more detail in my How To Balance ATV/UTV Tires article. You will need to buy a special bubble balance tool or get yourself some balance beads depending on which method you go with, but with a shop charging 25 bucks a tire, it’s well worth it to do yourself. In fact, some shops won’t even do a tire balance.
I prefer the balance beads method myself. It’s just so much easier and the balance beads dynamically balance your tire as you ride. Meaning, as your tire wears and shifts, or as you change speeds, the balance beads shift around to keep your tire balanced at all times.
ATV Wheel Hub Bearings
ATV wheel hub bearings go bad over time. The bearings just wear out and the lubricating grease dries out and goes bad. This will definitely affect the handling of the machine and you will feel a wobble and shaking in the handle bars if it gets bad enough.
This fix while require a lot more work on your part than doing an alignment or balancing the tires, but there’s a pretty easy way to check if you need new bearings. Simply, jack up the wheel in question, and try wiggling the tire by hand. If there is a lot of play and the tire moves around a lot on the axle, you probably need to replace the bearings.
If you think you need to replace the bearings check out my How To Replace The Wheel Hub Bearings On An ATV article. I walk through step by step how to replace the bearings and bearing seals on your own with no special tools. A wheel bearing puller tool is nice to have for this job, but you can do it with basic hand tools just fine.