Not all riders like to stay on flat smooth trails every time they take their quad out. If you often ride in rocky or muddy terrain, or areas with large roots and ruts. You may have noticed your machine will bottom out if it doesn’t have the ground clearance to get over these obstacles.
Not to worry, there are a few things you can do to increase your ground clearance to avoid causing any damage to your quad. The most popular option to increase ATV ground clearance is to get bigger ATV tires. Other popular options to consider are getting longer shocks, or an ATV lift kit to increase ground clearance.
You could also look into high clearance A arms and getting a full body skid plate. I will talk more about these later on, just keep in mind a strong skid plate will do a lot to keep your machine protected. And high clearance A arms will be a bit more work than changing tires out, but will help increase ground clearance.
Bigger ATV Tires
Getting larger ATV tires is one of the most popular ways to increase ground clearance because of how easy it is. And if your ATV needs new tires anyway, it’s a no brainer right? There are some things to keep in mind when going with a larger tire size though.
When you change your stock tire size out for a larger tire, you’re messing with gearing and low end torque. The larger the tires are, the higher your gear ratio will be. If this is going to bother you, you can offset this gearing difference you could do what’s called a gear reduction. I will explain the gearing in more detail later on in this article.
The size of the tire will determine how much ground clearance you gain. For every 2 inches of tire increase, you will gain 1 inch of ground clearance. For example, if you currently run 21″ tall tires now, and jump up to 25″ tires, you’ll gain 2 inches of ground clearance. That is ground clearance calculated at the rear sprocket and skid plate.
Your bigger tires will have a larger rotating mass as well, which will affect your low end torque. Basically, accelerating from a stand still will not be as fast when you put larger tires on. But I’m guessing if you want to increase your ground clearance it’s because your riding through rough terrain rather than racing at a track.
The last thing to consider is how your handling will be affected. Your quad will have a higher center of gravity with larger tires. This could increase your chance of a roll-over when taking corners. You can offset this risk by getting wheel spacers or making your ATV wider, I go into more detail later on about how to do that. Or you could just take it easy around corners.
If you need help figuring out what size rim and type of tire you should be looking for. Check out this ATV Tires Type And Size Tips Before You Buy article. The import thing to remember is that you need to get the right tire size for your rims. You can find that information by looking at the outer wall of your current tires.
Adjust The Gearing
A lot of riders that bump up their tires size will adjust the front sprocket to keep the gearing as close to the same as they can. Most of the time you can just drop the front sprocket by one tooth depending on how big of a tire difference you’re going with.
I wouldn’t go with more than 3 inches bigger tire myself, but a lot of people go more without any problems. You should remember though, it can put more strain on the engine than it is designed to handle long term.
If you decide to get bigger tires, and leave your sprockets alone. You will be essentially gearing down your ATV. To learn more about ATV gearing and what that means, check out my Complete Gear Ratio Guide.
Now to drop a tooth off the front sprocket does not mean you can just go in and file one of the sprocket teeth away. You need to get your current sprocket, count how many teeth it has, then buy one with one or two less teeth on it to replace your current. You can find pretty good ATV Front Sprocket Kits on Amazon for a good price. Just make sure you get the right one to fit your ATV.
If you do decide to change out your sprocket, I made a step by step guide to help, How To Change The Chain And Sprockets On An ATV.
Longer ATV Suspension
Another popular option is to put longer suspension onto the ATV to increase the ground clearance.
Although, a good lift kit will do the same thing for cheaper and less work involved. But if it’s about time you need to change your shocks out anyway, you could just go with longer option shocks.
An example would be if your current shocks are 250mm, then try installing 280mm to give you a little over an inch more lift. Another option would be to stiffen the suspension you currently have. You won’t gain much, but it’s free and might be enough for what you need.
I would prefer a combination of a lift kit with bigger tires myself, but swapping for a longer suspension is a very popular option to get some better ground clearance out of your quad.
ATV Lift Kit
ATV lift kits are a nice easy way to get a couple more inches clearance out of your suspension. A lift kit is typically cheaper than buying larger size tires too. the kit usually comes with everything you need to get anywhere from 1.5 – 3 inches lift depending on the kit you get.
I recommend you check out this BlackPath 2″ Lift Kit For ATVs on Amazon to get an idea of what a full kit should have in it. That particular lift kit is for a Polaris Sportsman, but you’ll get an idea of what you should be looking for.
Typically you’ll want to have a spacer for the front spring and lifter brackets for the front and rear of the quad. Make sure you get one made of quality materials, and check that it will fit your machine before you buy.
The biggest benefit to getting a lift kit for increased ATV ground clearance, is that you don’t need to get such large tires to make up a couple inches lift. Say you wanted to lift the quad 3 inches total.
You could get a two inch lift kit and two inch larger tires. Without the lift kit, you would’ve needed six inch larger tires and the effect that would have on the gear ratio would’ve been too much in my opinion. Combining a lift kit with bigger tires might be your best bet.
Full Belly Skid Plate
This is more something to consider if you’re not really sure you need a lift kit, you just want to protect the underside components and parts of your ATV. Most ATVs come with some sort of skid plate from the factory. But adding a full body skid plate will protect your machine from almost anything.
They are pretty expensive, and do wear out if your constantly hitting them with large rocks. You can find a decent full body skid plate costing up to $500 in some cases. It just depends, because a lot of the time it needs to be custom made for your machine.
I haven’t used a full body skid plate before but I have installed and used a full chassis skid plate. These are usually better for sport quads and are a lot cheaper too, usually under a 100 bucks. Here’s an example of a Full Chassis Aluminum Frame Skid Plate for a Honda TRX400EX.
High Clearance A Arms
Getting your quad some high clearance A arms is a popular add-on for people who lifted their ATVs. The stock A arms usually stick out of the wheel assembly in a way that they are the only part of the quad exposed to rocks after you add a lift kit.
The high clearance A arms are shaped so that they give you the most effective ground clearance under the ATV. Notice in the picture how the A arms immediately swing upwards after clearing the side of the wheel.
In my opinion, the high clearance A arms are a pretty cool add-on but finding a set for your machine can be tough, and sometimes they can be too expensive for my taste.
Go Wider For Handling
A good rule of thumb to follow, if you go higher, go wider too. The more you lift your ATV, either through tires, lift kits, or suspension, the more you increase your chance of a roll-over. You could either buy a new, longer, axle or get some wheel spacers.
Going wider may even be necessary depending on how big you go with the tires, you may need the space to keep your tires from rubbing on the shocks, struts, or exhaust.
I would recommend going with the new longer axle if you plan on racing or you really need the performance use of the quad. But generally, the new axle will cost you around 400 bucks. I’d say most people will be ok using wheel spacers and they’re usually found between 50 – 100 bucks.
They make wheel spacers anywhere from 1/2 inch out to 3 inches. The important thing with wheels spacers is that you make sure you get one that will fit your bolt pattern, some models even require you check that your threads will match the spacer.
Here’s a link to a decent option to check out, the Freedom Country ATV Wheel Spacer on Amazon. Have a look around though, this one is a one inch spacer, you might notice as you go up in spacing the price goes up too.