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ATV: Best Tire Pressure

Optimize your ATV riding experience through one simple tweak: tire pressure. Midwest Traction explains how to get the right pressure for your off-road vehicle. 


Many of the tools for motorcycles also work on the ATV. Grab a low-pressure tire gauge (these read up to about 20 psi) and an air compressor. Some gauges are digital, others analog, and the simple pencil style is still available. They all work well; choose which suits you best. 

Small, 12-volt air compressors are handy to have in your kit (they plug it into cigarette lighters). Regular air compressors provide a speedier fill, but if you're traveling, the small one saves weight and space. If a compressor or an electrical source is not available, a hand pump will work. 

Which Pressure?

I have talked to my friends with ATVs and done some reading to figure out what pressure to set the four wheeler tires at.  I keep coming up with numbers from 4-10 psi. It mostly depends on what type of terrain is being ridden. 

A higher pressure creates a firmer tire surface that allows the knobs to dig into softer, sandier trails.But keep in mind that a higher tire pressure will cause a rougher ride and the smaller contact surface will allow the tires to slide around more easily. 

When riding on hard terrain like hard-packed mud or rocks (which is common in Colorado) one would want to run a lower ATV tire pressure.  As my friend Dave said to me last week, a lower psi on the tire will act somewhat as a shock absorber, contributing to a smoother ride on this type of surface.Because of the places where we generally ride, we will be keeping our tires in the lower range. Dave said his are usually around 4-5 psi. Remember, the low end of recommended psi is 4; anything lower than this will increase the chances of the tire bead coming off the rim.

The best thing to do when arriving in a new riding area is to take a test ride and adjust your psi accordingly.

After some research and talking to my riding buddies, it seems tire pressure is mostly a matter of personal preference. The trick is just to do some experimenting to come up with your ideal pressures.The one thing to keep in mind is to stay in a range of 4-10 psi. Having the pressure lower than 4 can cause the tire bead to come off the rim; a higher tire pressure will give the tires less grip. The psi is a matter of experimentation by each rider; and you will eventually find the sweet spot that you like.

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