Why ATV Shakes or Wobbles and How to Fix It
When your ATV wobbles or shakes, it can really throw off your game. It’s distracting, you lose confidence in your ability to take on sections of the track, and it’s uncomfortable. Even worse, it means that there’s something wrong with your ATV that requires addressing before you make things worse with heavy riding.
In this article, we look at the most common reasons an ATV begins to wobble and how to address them.
Shaking and wobbling can almost always be traced to the front wheels and tires. If the wheels are out of alignment, the tires are unbalanced, or there’s an issue with your wheel hub bearings, you’ll get front-end shake.
Even if the shake is minimal, you’ll feel it in the handlebars as you ride over choppy terrain.
If the shake only happens at higher speeds, you’re most likely looking at a tire balance issue. When tires are out of balance, they shake more and more as speeds increase.
If you think that the shake also occurs at relatively low speeds, look first at the alignment of the front end. It can also feel like the steering is moving from side to side.
Check to see that the lug nuts on all your tires are tight. Not only can loose lug nuts cause wobble, but your wheels can also outright come off if you leave the nuts loose.
While you’re at it, check that there’s nothing inside the rim that’s causing the wheel to be unbalanced. If you’ve picked up a lot of debris, this can throw off the weight of the wheel.
The tie rods and A-Arm are also culprits for handlebar shake. If they become bent after an accident, there can be considerable wobble. Check for bends, kinks, and dents in the tie rods and A-Arm.
If these quick checks haven’t thrown up the obvious reason for your ATV’s shake, it’s time to check the alignment of your ATV’s front end. You should perform a front-end alignment every few months, particularly if you ride your ATV often.
Straighten the handlebars and take a look at your ATV from the front. Are both tires facing perfectly forward? If not, you’ll need to perform a front-end alignment.
How to Perform an ATV Front-End Alignment
1. Ensure your ATV is on a level surface with the right tire pressure in all wheels.
2. Secure the handlebars with a ratchet strap so they won’t move while you’re making adjustments.
3. Check your manual to see whether your ATV needs a toe-in or toe-out alignment.
4. Measure the distance between the middle point of your front tires at axle height.
5. Loosen the tie rod end nuts with two wrenches.
6. Spin the tie rod clockwise or counterclockwise until the toe-in or toe-out has been reached.
7. Tighten the tie rod end nuts, and take another measurement to ensure your front end is now aligned.
You’ll only notice unbalanced ATV tires at speeds of over 35 mph, wh ere they will wobble. Most people will get their ATV tires balanced at a shop, though it’s not too difficult to do yourself if you have the right tools, the most important being a tire balancer and wheel weights.
1. Set up your tire balancer on a flat surface, so the bubble is dead center.
2. Clean your wheels and tires thoroughly.
3. Mount the wheel on the balancer and give it a spin.
4. The bubble of the tire balancer will lean out of the circle wh ere your tire is out of balance.
5. Stick wheel weights onto the side of the wheel the bubble has leaned to.
6. Repeat the test, adding more weights when required for all wheels.
A final reason you might get wobbling is worn-out wheel hub bearings. Jack up the wheel and wiggle it by hand. If the tire moves around on the axle or there’s a lot of play, you’ll likely need to replace the wheel hub bearings. This is a more involved job that’s made easier with some specialist tools.