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How To Tell If An ATV Is 2 Stroke Or 4 Stroke

How To Tell If An ATV Is 2 Stroke Or 4 Stroke

If you’re considering buying an ATV, it’s essential to know the engine type as it can significantly impact the ATV’s performance, maintenance needs, and fuel requirements. So, how do you tell whether the ATV is a 2-stroke or 4-stroke?

Here is the short answer! 

You can easily determine whether your ATV has a two-stroke or four-stroke engine using a couple of simple methods. First, run your finger inside the exhaust. If it comes out sticky and oily, you have a two-stroke engine. If it comes out dry and sooty, your ATV is a four-stroke. 

Additionally, you can look at the number of exhaust pipes or mufflers. A two-stroke engine typically has a single exhaust pipe or muffler, while a four-stroke engine usually has two. This visual clue can quickly help you identify the engine type of your ATV.

However, to truly understand the differences and benefits of each engine type, let’s explore them in more detail. Keep reading!

How To Tell If An ATV Is Two-Stroke or Four-Stroke

As stated above, there are several easy ways to tell if your ATV is a two-stroke or four-stroke engine. 

If you run your finger inside the exhaust and it comes out sticky and oily, you have a two-stroke: if it comes out dry and sooty, your ATV is a four-stroke. You need to mix gasoline with oil for a two-stroke engine and the oil is usually colored either blue or red to show the difference. You should be able to see the coloration if you take a look in the tank as the dye lets you know if two-stroke has been used in the can. You can also take a look at the shape of the exhaust pipe as a four-stroke will be the same width right the way along but a two-stroke will get wider.

Only four-stroke engines have a separate oil reservoir with a dip-stick, oil pump, and oil filter. If your quad doesn’t have these parts, it will be a two-stroke. Sometimes, there will be a sticker or a label near the fuel cap. 

Another way to tell is if you can press the primer bulb: if you can smell gas it will be a four-stroke as four-strokes let fuel through the primer bulb to help the engine start when it’s cold.

By taking a look at the engine, you should find the fuel inlet. Some quads have a carburetor while others use a fuel injection system. Either way, a two-stroke will inject fuel into the cylinder block while a four-stroke will have the fuel going into the cylinder head.

Pros Of A Two-Stroke ATV Engine

Two-strokes sound louder and meatier, which may be either a pro or a con depending on where you use it and how you like your quad to sound. Two-stroke engines are usually smaller and they tend to run a little hotter which is worth remembering.

They produce more power for their size than a four-stroke and they can even run upside down, which could be handy if you end up on a tricky gradient! They are pretty simple engines which means you can probably do a lot of the work yourself.

They can also be more reliable as there is less that can go wrong. The best thing about a two-stroke is probably their authenticity: they sound and smell like a mechanical powerhouse and give a thrilling ride.

Cons Of A Two-Stroke ATV Engine

Some of the disadvantages of two-stroke engines come from having to mix the oil and gas. You need to get the proportions right and it adds an extra headache to getting ready to ride your quad, instead of just firing up and heading off.

The oil can be pretty expensive too. Environmentalists aren’t usually too keen on two-strokes either, as the emissions are pretty high. You get a strong smell and smoke from the exhaust when you fire up the oil in the engine on first starting.

The main disadvantage with a two-stroke engine is that they just don’t last very well: there is no separate lubricant system as the oil is mixed in with the gas so the parts tend to suffer wear and tear more quickly. They also use more fuel so a four-stroke might be more economical if you need the ATV for long-term work instead of just riding trails for fun.

Pros Of A Four-Stroke ATV Engine

Four-stroke engines last longer than two-stroke and don’t need their parts replacing as often. That said, there is a lot more to the engine and the whole thing is more complicated, so there could be more to go wrong. Not having to mix the oil and gas yourself is a bonus: you simply add oil to the reservoir tank and put straight gasoline in the fuel tank.

Engine oil for a four-stroke is different from a two-stroke: it usually costs much less but you need to make sure you get the right weighting for your machine. There should be a sticker somewhere to tell you what you need, or you could check the manufacturer’s guidance. Four-stroke engines are quieter than two-strokes and use their fuel much more economically so you get more miles for your money.

Four-strokes produce more power at lower RPMs than a two-strokes, so could get you out of a sticky situation with less work. Four-strokes are sensible machines, more grown-up than a frivolous two-stroke and ready for serious work.

Cons Of A Four-Stroke ATV Engine

Most people prefer a four-stroke to a two-stroke but they do have disadvantages as well. Beginners can find them tough to work on as the whole thing is more complicated and the engine itself is much heavier so young riders might struggle with the overall weight of the machine, especially when it comes to making tight turns.

A lighter two-stroke engine can also be better for racing as it can hit higher speeds more quickly and the overall weight of the four-stroke will slow it down. While a four-stroke should last longer than a two-stroke, parts may be more expensive and you may have to shell out for professionals to do the work for you as the engine is a lot more specialized.

Which Is Best, 2 Stroke Or 4 Stroke?


It seems the two-stroke engine is dying out as most new machines are four-stroke, probably due to their lower impact on emissions and pollution. There are still plenty of die-hard fans of the two-stroke and some of the older vehicles are very much sought after. Which is best depends very much on what you want to do with your quad.

If it is used every day for work on a yard or farm, or if you come into contact with the public very often then a quieter four-stroke that costs less to run will be your first choice. If you are just starting and want to be able to work on your engine yourself, a two-stroke can be more satisfying; its primal grunts and powerful fumes are pretty rewarding to a gas monkey.

If you’re looking for power, the instant kick of a two-stroke is far more exciting and can give you an adrenaline rush like no other.

Four-strokes are easier to come by, as manufacturers tend not to make two-strokes anymore due to the emissions debate. You can still come by some new two-stroke dirt bikes. Some governments have started to look towards banning two-strokes in line with environmental policies.

Fortunately, there are still plenty of two-stroke ATVs around on the second-hand market and, as long as parts are still available, they should be around for a long time to come.

Key Points!

  • Understanding the differences between two-stroke and four-stroke ATVs empowers you as a buyer to make informed decisions based on your specific needs and preferences. 
  • By running your finger inside the exhaust, you can determine the type of engine based on the texture of the residue.
  • Visual cues such as the number of exhaust pipes or mufflers can provide further clues.
  • Two-stroke engines offer advantages such as compact size, higher power-to-size ratio, and easy maintenance, but come with drawbacks like the need to mix oil and gas and higher emissions. 
  • Four-stroke engines are known for their durability, fuel efficiency, and quieter operation, but can be heavier and more complex to work on. 
  • Ultimately, the best choice depends on factors such as noise considerations, maintenance preferences, power requirements, and environmental concerns.

As always stay safe on the trails, to see some great safety gear check out the Recommended Gear section of this site.

Thanks so much for reading to the end!

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