How to Align an ATV Front End
All the rough trails, rocks, holes, and hauling people do with off-road vehicles take a serious toll on ATV front end alignment. Thankfully, this is a repair job you can do yourself. Read this post to learn how to align an ATV front end.
When You Need to Align an ATV Front End
The owner's manual will have recommended times to align the front end of your ATV.
You should also do a front-end alignment if you need to replace your tie rods.
You can tell that the front-end alignment is off at any time if:
- the front end is visibly asymmetrical
- the ATV starts pulling to the side while you're riding
- there's a shaking or wobbly feeling in the handlebars while you're riding
- the handlebars don't want to be centered
Why You Need to Align an ATV Front End
Front end alignment protects the tires from uneven wear and early replacement and protects you from poor steering that can lead to unsafe riding conditions.
How to Align an ATV Front End
What you'll need to align an ATV front end
- two wrenches
- a tape measure
- a ratchet strap
Get it level
The first thing to do is get your ATV level. It doesn't have to be exact, but the more level it is, the more accurate your work will be. If your working space isn't level, you can compensate with jacks, and jack stands for support.
Check your tire pressure. Make sure they are all filled to the optimum pressure and equal to each other. I mean, why not fill them now? If nothing else, the two front tires need to match so you can accurately judge their imbalance.
Straighten the handlebars
Climb on the ATV and get the handlebars straight. You can have someone sit on the ATV and hold the handlebars in position or tie the handlebars in place with a ratchet strap. Hook one end of the strap to each of the handlebars and run it through the grab bar. Tie it just strong enough to hold it steady. If it's too tight, it can cause damage while you're adjusting underneath.
You may choose to or the owner's manual may recommend that the ATV be weighted while you align the front end to simulate riding conditions. If someone will be sitting on it to hold the handlebars, this is already taken care of. If not, you can place something heavy on the seat.
Measure the difference between the tires
Draw a chalk line on the center of both front tires at axle height and use a tape measure to measure from one chalk line to the other.
Write that down as measurement A.
Draw a chalk line on the back of the front tires just like you did before and measure just like you did before.
Write that down as measurement B.
Subtract measurement A from measurement B. If the answer is positive, you are in a toe-in situation. If it is negative, you have a toe-out situation.
You want the wheels to be just slightly toe-in, to an exact amount: 1/4 inch.
Adjust the tie-rods
Grab your two wrenches. One to grip the flat notch to hold the tie-rods. One to turn the lock nuts.
The owner's manual may have unique specifications for your tie-rods so check that out before tackling this step to avoid wasted time and potentially breaking your tie-rods.
The outer rods have left hand threads. Be careful to turn the nut in the right direction so you don't damage the threads.
Loosen the nuts on the tie-rods to give yourself some play. Then adjust the tie-rods by turning the flat notch.
You'll have to work the rods and re-measure bit by bit until you make it so that measurement A is 1/4 inch less than measurement B. In other words, the front of the tires are just that amount turning inward.
If you leave it with too much toe-in, the ATV will be slower and twitchy in corners. If you leave it with too much toe-out, it won't turn precisely.
The tie-ins must be evenly aligned when you're done adjusting them. If not, you need to keep adjusting until they are or take the ATV to a professional.
Tighten the lock nuts on the tie-rods, and that's it. You're finished. Have fun on your aligned ATV!