Even though you may have the coolest quad riding helmets out there, an ATV’s lifespan and functionality are thoroughly increased by how its owner takes care of it. Permanently checking the air pressure in the tires is a very important thing that every rider needs to know how to do.
Which Tires Are Best?
Checking your air pressure is so important that whether your ATV has been in use all year long or you’re just taking it out of the garage for a quick stroll around your property, it’s still probably a good idea to look at your tires. However, choosing the best possible tires for your vehicle and maintaining the right pressure also requires a bit of knowledge about them.
The optimal tires for your all-terrain vehicle really depend on what you’re planning to do with it. For instance, a pair of all-terrain or all-purpose tires will do exactly what the name says they do. You’ll do fine with them while driving on grass, mud, sand, and pavement but they will not shine on any of those surfaces.
Mud tires are the ones structured to get you out of dirty situations. They come with deeper aggressive treads to better dig through mud and get a good grip. These qualities also mean that they won’t perform great on soft sand or pavement.
Off-road tires come as the peacemaker between all-purpose and mud tires. They are more aggressive than all-terrain ones without being as deep as the mud tires. All things considered, they’re a balanced item to have.
Turf-saver tires are made for the other side of the spectrum, offering the best traction on pavement and other hard surfaces. Then you have sand tires for, you guessed it, soft sand and another array of tires like rear sand ones or flat ribs which come in handy in very specific situations. Of course, you can also have snow tires for your wintery needs.
Optimal ATV Tire Pressure
If the best tires are chosen judging by the activity you need to undertake, the right pressure, on the other hand, is based on the manufacturer’s recommendations, terrain and load. Starting from the recommendations from both the ATV and the tire manufacturers which will generally range from 5 to 15 psi (pound-force per square inch), you should take the following criteria into consideration:
If you’re riding on hard surfaces such as pavement, dirt, trails, and hard snow it’s best if you stick with the suggested pressures to ensure the best traction and ride comfort. On soft surfaces such as gravel, mud or soft snow you can choose to reduce tire pressure to as low as 2.5 PSI or 3 PSI since this will really improve traction and flotation.
However, if you reduce it, you have to pay a lot of attention as anything lower than 2.5 PSI is generally considered too low and you risk popping the tire off the bead.
If your ATV is sporting a single rider and no load it’s always better to stick with manufacturer recommendations which, again, pretty much always ensure the best results, making appropriate adjustments for the terrain. If you’re doing any kind of activity which requires extra load carefully increase the tire pressure to compensate, but never more than what’s listed on the sidewall.
How To Check The Pressure
You’ve chosen the required tires, you are armed with the proper information about them and now it’s time to simply, you know, actually check the pressure.
The first and the most important thing is to get a tire pressure gauge specifically made for ATVs because most of the ones made for cars and trucks measure PSI starting at 5.0 so they will be famously inaccurate for lower values. Gauges made for ATVs, however, usually start at 0 and can go up until 5.8 PSI. Try to get one with a non-slip rubber handle and a nice display.
You have to look in the owner’s manual to find the standard cold tire inflation pressure. Since tires are best checked cold, that number is the lowest PSI suggested by the manufacturer. Also, don’t forget that the front and back tires may require different pressures, so pay attention.
The next step is to unscrew the valve stem cap from the valve stem on the tire. This usually looks like a black or even silver pencil-sized extension near the hubcap, typically about 1’’ long.
Go ahead and press the air pressure gauge evenly onto the valve stem and record the reading given using the machine’s (hopefully digital) display. If you hear any hissing sounds it means the gauge is not tight or even enough to be able to get an accurate reading so you may need to adjust its angle.
Furthermore, if you are using a digital model, you may need to press a button in order for the machine to start reading the pressure. If you went full-traditional, the metered stick should automatically start doing its job, which is somewhat ironic.
Replace the valve stem cap to finish the job. The cap does not hold air in but what it does is it keeps things like dirt and moisture in check from reaching the valve mechanism in the valve stem, which does indeed hold the air inside the tire.
Tips And Performance Considerations
As we said, always remember that the manufacturer’s PSI recommendations are exactly what they are named to be so you should be careful enough to adapt the optimum tire pressure to your specific situation.
Furthermore, a non-required increase in PSI can also lead to uneven tire wear, longer braking distances, and even reduced handling so you really have to make sure you don’t over-inflate the tires.
Another thing we want to add is the need to understand the popular myth about the max pressure value in the owner’s manual. Sooner or later, somebody from the community will inform you of this misconception that the max pressure suggested by the manufacturer is actually all the pressure the tire can handle before it pops out or gets damaged.
In all fairness, the max pressure is simply the pressure at which the tires will still carry the maximum amount of weight before they fail in doing so due to overuse. This is why that limit is so important because once you go past it, you should be prepared for the possibility of malfunction and a bumpy ride where every pothole can spell disaster for you and your ATV.
Just like we said before, if you’re going to carry a heavier load it’s always good to increase the pressure to make up for the added weight. However, once you unload it, it’s imperative that you remember to release the pressure from the tires back to the standard specifications or else we’ll be back to square one.
You never want to test Mother Nature so make sure to always check the air pressure of your tires as the seasons change. Cold weather will always reduce it while warm weather will naturally increase the air pressure.
Since tire pressure has a direct impact on your safety, it should theoretically be checked before each ride. It’s up to you to judge how often you need to do this but keep in mind it only takes about a minute to get it done.
Last but not least, don’t get lazy and rely on the eyeball method to gauge air pressure in tires! Unless you’ve got a microscopically-detailed vision, it’s very hard to tell the difference between a tire with 10 PSI and one with 20 PSI. Besides, tires usually show a bit of bulge on the sidewall of radial tires. If you’ve inflated them and that bulge is gone, know that you overdid it.