Getting your utility ATV to maximize its functionality and usefulness is extremely important, but what’s even better is you can get upgrades to make your ATV extremely functional and look like the most desirable ATV in town.
From top to bottom and front to back, there is something you can add to make your utility ATV more useful when you are either putting it to work on your farm, maintaining a large plot of land, or using it to hunt.
1) The Tires
In general, this is a great upgrade for your utility ATV since it can make your ride safer, more enjoyable and effective, depending on what your intent is. If you’ve been doing some serious riding lately then it might be time to replace your tires. You’d know because either the tread is very worn down or you can feel that the gripping of the tires to the ground is not as snug as it once was. Maybe you haven’t been riding a lot lately but instead, you haven’t replaced the tires in a few years and you realize that now is the time you should get a new set. Either way, there are several styles of tires that you need to consider, and based on the terrain you’ll be riding on, you’ll want to purchase accordingly.
Mud Tires – used to ride through more viscous liquids like mud and dirt but can also be used to ride through streams and rivers. The tread of mud tires are much more spaced out when compared to other utility ATV tires and their tread goes much deeper, often as deep as 1 to 2 inches. The tread somewhat simulates flippers that assist in getting the ATV through the mud or stream.
You’ll want to make sure that if you get mud tires, you’ll actually be going through that type of terrain frequently because they are generally made of a stiffer rubber and traction to flat terrain isn’t as solid. Depending on the strength of the tire, you can get them anywhere from 4-ply to 8-ply, with 6-ply being the most common. I’ve only purchased a couple of mud tires, but when I did my research, the ITP Mud Lite Tire was the way to go. You can read more on Amazon but I’ve been extremely happy with this purchase.
Sand Tires – these tires are very visually distinctive because of the tread pattern on them that typically look like sand waves. Similar to a snake that winds it’s way through the desert sand, the sand tire creates a scooping motion that allows it to propel it’s way forward. There is usually little tread to a sand tire because any more and the functionality would severely go down. In fact, front sand tires usually have very little tread to them, sometimes coming completely bald allowing it to float on the sand because there is more of the tire’s surface area to make contact with the sand. The contact is what prevents the utility ATV from sinking as opposed to other tires. These tires are usually very light weight and have lower ply rating to them since puncturing a tire is not a concern when riding on the sand.
All Terrain Tires – are a perfect set of tires for those looking for great performance and handling when riding on most kinds of terrain. Stock tires are usually all terrain because they offer the best ride quality, a longer life span and great traction in all directions through nearly any terrain, though they are mostly used for trail riding, intermediate mud, and soft dirt riding. An ideal all terrain tire would be very durable yet light weight with great tread on it. My new favorite all terrain tire is the Warthog tire by Tusk because of its extremely durable 8-ply construction and it’s excellent tread design, not to mention it’s an extremely quiet tire and performs very well it wet, rainy, muddy conditions. Definitely check it out!
Racing Tires – are a specific set of tires that are usually very light weight to allow for more flexibility but are not as durable and need to be replaced more frequently. Their tread is characterized as more “knob-like” designed for maximum traction yet supple enough to give the rider a great sense of control.
The tread on these tires are smaller and usually come in a staggered pattern to prevent the collection of dirt and mud. Although you can find some racing tires with larger knob-like tread, for better traction, it usually reduces the flexibility of the tire.
Since these tires need to be light weight for maximum acceleration and speed, they are constructed of a lower ply rating of typically 2-4, though they do come at a rating of 6 as well.
Snow Tires – as soon as snow hits the ground and collects, that’s the time you’ll want to take advantage of your ATV’s snow tires. Fresh snow and mud tend to react the same when it comes to your tires. You’ll want to look for snow tires with wide and deep enough tread to disperse the snow.
Remember, once snow has been on the ground for several days it generally compacts and depending on where in the states you are, it may either be melting and slushy or it may be frozen solid. If that’s the case, then your quad’s reaction to snow may be unpredictable – even with great snow tires on. If this is the case and you’re looking to get more traction then you may want to outfit your ATV with tire chains which are very effective at gripping onto snow and ice at low velocities.
2) The Tail End (exhaust)
The exhaust is a big deal for nearly any type of ATV/UTV riding you do, wether you’re into sport riding and want the louder, more grumbling effect or you’re a hunter and need a silencing effect, getting an aftermarket exhaust is an upgrade that provides functionality and purpose.
For the hunters, getting a silencer can drastically reduce the decibel rating by up to 50%. I think it’s especially noticeable when the throttle is up as opposed to when your 4 wheeler is idling but the ultimate test is out in the woods. There are many brands to choose from and a simple Google search can yield you many options.
For the sport riders that want the gurgling effect, not to mention more power output, there are several exhaust options you can pick from. The more popular route is to go with a slip on exhaust, but to be honest, it’s real impact on horsepower will be minimal. If you want to have as large of an affect on horsepower as possible, completely replacing the exhaust (including header and muffler) is definitely the way to go. You’ll also want to increase the air intake to mix with more fuel, but it’s something that you’ll want to do at the same time you replace the exhaust to get the best return for your money. Completely overhauling these two systems will not only give you the look and feel you’re after, but it’ll also add another 15+ horses under your seat.
Adding a nice light kit onto your ATV will probably give you the best ROI in terms of how long you can ride your ATV for. Mounting one onto your ATV not only gives you a longer period of time for you to ride, but it also makes it much safer at night since you can more clearly see what’s right in front of you. Not only that, but others will definitely be able to see you better as well. The truth of the matter is that a light bar will allow you to see further in front of you with more definition, which is why they are growing rapidly in popularity.
Most often you will see light LED kits being sold as light bars and though it’s not absolutely necessary that you purchase a bar, it’s probably the easiest and most effective. The question then becomes, how big of a bar do you want to get (personal preference)?
These light kits are not standard lights with light bulbs, they are diodes that illuminate as electrical current is passed through them. Some diodes light up much brighter as more electricity is introduced, making them more powerful (and typically more expensive).
Light bars have come a very long way over the last few years, and just like everything technology related, produce more with less energy. So what should you consider when adding a light kit to your ATV?
Reflector – determines the direction the light will travel. Do you want more light traveling directly in front of you or will you need light emitted to your sides as well? If you need more peripheral lighting then you’ll want to consider a bar that has reflectors projecting outward, not all of them do. A good kit has a combination of flood and spot lighting.
The size – they come in different lengths ranging from 4″ bars to 30″ bars. Obviously, where you will be mounting the lights will have an impact on how big of a light bar you can purchase. You’ll also want to account for how many other pieces of equipment you’ll have running at the same time – if you have too many resources looking for energy from the same source, you may not have enough energy to go around.
The Housing – make sure it is corrosion proof since there is an extremely high chance you’ll be riding through streams and mud. You’ll also need one with cooling fins in the back because these light kits produce a lot of heat and they need a way to let the energy escape and not build up.
Lumens/wattage – both are important factors when ultimately deciding which one to go with. Lumens is a rating of how much illumination is given off by the diode and Watts is a measurement of how much electricity is flowing through the circuit. Both measures have to be taken into consideration because having a high lumen factor with low wattage rating won’t give you the result you’re after, nor vice versa.
Pricing – as with anything this can completely vary depending on the manufacturer, specs, size and quality you choose to go with but in general you can expect to see prices from as low as $89 for a 4 bulb kit all the way up to several hundred dollars for a 30″ higher end light kit. The choice is yours.
There are few items than rack bags that make your ATV look beefier and more rugged than this modification. It’s a relatively inexpensive way to get your quad looking serious and whether you’re using your quad for exploration, for work, or for hunting, you’ll want to make sure you have a place to store your food, gear and weapons.
Front and Rear bags and trunks – these usually come in a couple of different styles including a waterproof bag or a hard trunk made of a durable plastic. Both are excellent storage options but like anything else, they each have their pros and cons. A front or rear rack bag has great versatility and can withstand the nastiest of weather conditions. They have plenty of compartments in them to separate out your food from your gear and some even come with coolers and cup compartments. For the most part, these are going to easily strap onto your quad and when you’re ready to take them off they can be removed with relative ease.
As mentioned before, the hard trunks are made of a durable molded plastic and will provide much more protection than a bag would. The hard plastic can prevent heavy objects from crushing valuable contents inside and they also come equipped with a key to securely lock your gear inside. Depending on the type of trunk you are looking for, they can include an extra seat that provides a comfortable, smooth ride. It’s honestly hard to go wrong with a hard trunk.
When it comes to front storage, I personally enjoy the Ogio ATV Front Honcho Bag because it’s large enough to hold anything I need quick access to. It’s large compartments make it extremely easy to store and find things easily and it even has removable compartments for water. It’s sealed so well that water, mud and dirt don’t get inside of my bag, even under the toughest weather conditions and I really like the zipperless main compartment – especially in the wintertime when I don’t want to be removing my gloves. The fastener straps make it extremely easy to mount onto my quad and it’s always tied on nice and snug that I never see it bouncing out of its place. You can check out the Ogio Honcho bag on Amazon for the most up to date pricing.
On the rear side of my ATV, the Kolpin rear storage helmet box serves me very well. It has over 3 cubic feet of space to comfortably carry 2 helmets as well as the space to carry additional items on the sides. It took me only about 15 minutes to install the unit using U bolts and doesn’t get shaken for anything. Its extremely sturdy and resistant to weather since you can tell that it was designed to have the door close into a perfectly designed groove. The door also latches shut with the option of locking it down with keys. What might be the best part of the storage container is that it also doubles as a very safe and secure seat with side arm rests. This makes it easy to have others sit behind you without them feeling like they can slide off, and since the seat is very tightly fastened to the quad, it feels very reassuring to sit on at high speeds and when crossing rugged terrain. You can find the Kolpin Rear Helmet Box on Amazon as well.
Winches are an uber useful and cool looking upgrade for your ATV and you never know when they’ll come in handy, whether it’s for you or a riding buddy. You never know what kind of riding conditions nasty weather can bring and I always feel it’s better to ride safe than sorry, expanding on that is probably a post for another time.
There’s not a lot to consider when purchasing a winch, really it boils down to towing capacity and that is primarily driven by the size of your ATV. The more popular brand of winches si WARN and that’s what you’ll end up seeing a lot of. In terms of selecting the right size winch, they usually come in ratings of 1,500 lbs. of pulling weight all the way up to 4,500 lbs., again depending on the weight and cc of your ATV, you can buy accordingly. I’m a fan of buying one size up, especially when you factor in the conditions of you being “stuck”.
If you’re stuck in mud, it has a larger coefficient of friction to it. It reacts like a suction cup and pulls back against your ATV creating more strain on the winch. During those times you’ll need more strength to pull your ATV out. It also helps to know different winching techniques to get yourself out.
Modifying an ATV to look, act and ride the way you want it to is partially what makes the sport/hobby as great as it is. Your ability to customize the joy and experience you get from your quad is completely up to you, but i’ve just provided you with 5 things that have changed the way I ride. Of course there are dozens of other mods you can make, some could be more useful or meaningful to you, but I like mine to look just as cool to me as it performs.
Let me know your thoughts along with other mods you’d make!