How To Get More Ground Clearance On An ATV
The ground clearance of your ATV or UTV is an essential factor in how rugged the terrain you can tackle. Once they’ve gotten used to their quad, many owners strive to increase the amount of space between the vehicle’s body and the ground, allowing for more adventurous off-roading.
You can get more ground clearance on a quad through a few methods, including replacing the tires, adjusting the gearing, using a lift kit, changing the shocks, and/or using high-clearance A-arms.
In this article, we’ll discuss some of the caveats of getting more ground clearance for an all-terrain vehicle and some of the most popular ways to push those inches up.
Things to consider before modifying your quad for ground clearance
Manufacturers build ATVs for balance, safety, and efficiency. Stock ATVs might not have the Baja-defying ground clearance you need, but the setup is generally balanced, and the ATV will be easy to ride on regular tracks.
Lift your vehicle or install new tires, and the balance of the vehicle will change. High quads can be more likely to tip, and you’ll need to spend time adjusting to the new ride. If you put on extra-large tires, you can find you’ll lose grunt at the low end.
If your vehicle is still under warranty, installing a significant modification like a lift kit will likely compromise it.
Lift kits and bigger tires put more stress on your other parts, particularly the axels and bearings. Without proper planning, larger tires can rub on body panels and suspension components. If you make big enough changes to one part of your ride, you may need to replace other parts to compensate for the additional stress.
Bigger tires are an obvious way to get an extra few centimeters of ground clearance. Most ATVs can handle a step up in tire size, and some can even take tires that are two sizes larger than the stock wheels. Vehicles over 500cc are better likely to be able to handle a more considerable tire size change.
Gear reduction kits and clutch kits
Bigger tires mean the gear ratio of your vehicle will increase, it’ll have a larger rotating mass, and it will be heavier overall. This all culminates in the engine having to strain harder at low speeds and when you’re stuck in sand or mud.
You have two options to counter this—gear reduction kits and clutch kits. A gear reduction kit will let the wheels spin faster at low speeds. A clutch kit will allow for higher revs before the engine is engaged.
Both kits will result in a lower top speed for the vehicle.
Wheel spacers or longer axle
As advised, bigger tires mean a higher center of gravity, resulting in a higher chance of roll-over. Big tires can also rub on the struts, shocks, or exhaust.
To offset this, you can make your quad wider. As long as you choose wheel spacers that match your bolt pattern, you can add anything up to three inches in width.
A better but more expensive option is to replace the axle with a wide performance model.
ATV lift kits and replacement suspensions
Lifts kits are a relatively cheap way to get a few extra inches out of your ATV’s suspension. Typical kits will add between 1 and 3 inches to your ground clearance, which can make all the difference when you’re negotiating challenging terrain.
Pairing an ATV lift kit with larger tires can be a more balanced approach than choosing just one or the other. Say you wanted 3 inches more ground clearance. This would require tires 6 inches bigger than the stock ones, severely altering the gear ratio. Instead, you can add half of the ground clearance with an ATV lift kit, allowing you to choose tires that are only 3 inches bigger.
An alternative is to replace the suspension with a longer one, such as replacing 250mm shocks with 280mm ones. This would give you an additional inch of lift. But suspension replacements are more expensive than lift kits and more troublesome to install, so we generally recommend an ATV lift kit instead unless you have a very specific build in mind.