3 Must-Have Upgrades for Improved ATV Off-roading Performance

Image1Are you ready for the ultimate adrenaline rush? Quad bikes have been providing thrills and spills for kids of all ages for decades, promising outlandish speeds, addictive off-roading ability and vehicles that dare to go where others can’t. The only temptation is to modify your rig for the best possible performance.

Rarely is there an ATV that hasn’t been modified one way or another If you’re into mudbogging, you’ve already fitted a lift kit, cummins nox sensor and bigger mud tires for the added clearance. And long-travel suspension is what gets you through ruts and over boulders faster when the races start. For all the benefits these mods deliver, they’re not exactly forgiving on the stock ATV setup. Both additions put a lot of stress on the ATV axles, and it’s the axles and the CV joints that you’ll soon be replacing. There are plenty of choices, but any aftermarket axle is way better than what you got with the quad when it was new.

Along with the peace of mind that comes with axles that won’t burn up, bind, snap or rip off the ATV, you can also spend a few dollars for improved traction and more stability. Tires and wheel combos in different sizes and treads bring the grip to get you almost anywhere, and wheel spacers let you fit tire chains without ripping off brake lines or the plastics when riding through loose ground or snow. These three upgrades add the most value off-road while still putting that grin on your face.

Why Upgrade Your Factory Axles?

The axles on your ATV are designed for multitasking. They support the weight of the vehicle and rider, work with the suspension to keep you upright, and transfer power from the engine and transmission to the wheels. With bigger power and torque numbers in new ATVs and UTVs, it’s the axles, boots and joints that cop a lot of the heat, stress and metal fatigue to the point that you’re stranded in the middle of nowhere. Common issues are torn boots, leaking grease, overheating CV joints, worn bearings, or bent, cracked or broken shafts. Not something you’ll want to see when going full out on the throttle or buzzing your way through bloodthirsty wildlife.

Telltale signs are not only the loss of power and difficulty braking or steering, but also the clicking and popping sounds around the wheels, signalling tears in the boots, the accumulation of dust, dirt and road debris, and, with the loss of lubrication, joints that endure increased friction and heat. Thinner shafts and subpar materials also aren’t rated for the extreme uses that come with the addition of lift kits for modded suspension parts. The general take is that factory axles might be OK for light trails and slower speeds, but if you ride your ATV like it’s meant to, then upgrades provide more performance.

If you’ve broken a stock axle or blown the joints and boots, look for replacements that offer more strength and longevity. Even standard-duty aftermarket ATV axles feature thicker steel shafts for versatility and strength across a wider range of terrains, as well as the ability to handle more torque when you’re more eager with the throttle. Neoprene boots block water, mud and debris and are packed with grease for smooth-rolling joints. You’ll get more worry-free miles, even with other mods in place. Another bonus is the low cost and high availability, so you can find quality axles even for niche ATV and UTV brands.


Most riders will be happy with the performance of budget aftermarket offerings. But if you want more, then go with the extreme-duty variants. These aren’t astronomically priced, but they have improvements all around. Shafts grow in diameter and are now 4340 Chromoly affairs, bearings are heat-treated for reduced friction, Moly grease endures higher temperatures and pressures, and CV joints and surfaces are CNC-machined for utmost precision. More leeway in the joints with increased angles also improves wheel articulation, so bigger obstacles are no longer a challenge. And the addition of thicker boots prevents punctures even when scraping against rocks and branches at speed.

Aftermarket ATV axles, joints and boots come as pre-assembled units and are sized to the dimensions of numerous makes and models, so there are no fitment issues. Make sure you also take note of the production year to rule out any size or geometry differences in updated versions of the same model. Quad bike axles are usually sold as left and right pairs for the front or rear or sold separately, so having a spare or two around, especially on longer rides, can be a lifesaver.

The Benefits of Wheel Spacers

The basic purpose of wheel spacers is to create a wider track, or the distance between the left and right wheels. This does a few things for your quad. The parts help with stability on uneven ground, with spacers widening the wheels between 1 and 6 inches, depending on the thickness you choose. With ATVs and UTVs in particular getting bigger and heavier, the wider track prevents losing balance and tipping over and delivers a safer ride with more steering control.


Then there’s the possibility of going with bigger tires and tire chains for added traction. Spacers create the required space to fit these extras without causing potential damage to the fenders, plastics, or brake and suspension components. Lastly, the parts fill an aesthetic need. You get an ATV that looks bigger, meaner and more aggressive. Choose wheel spacers for the front wheel pair, or add them all around, and reap the rewards of a more agile, stable and controllable machine. Just ensure to observe bolt patterns to match the wheel hubs.

Slap on New Tires

If you’ve racked up more than a few miles on the stock tires, chances are they’ll start to show signs of wear. Tires that come standard on showroom quads are in medium treads and are meant as general-purpose tools. They’re jacks of all trades, but they will suffer lower traction on looser terrain like mud or sand and not get up to speed on cleaner ground. To build confidence and get more out of your off-roading rig, choose tire and wheel combos designed for the job. The benefits are better handling, increased grip, faster acceleration and an ATV that’s more fun to ride.

Slightly deeper treads and wider block placement are the first steps toward improved performance. Tires like these should get more grip down, both on and off-road. When the ground softens up, more aggressive treads work better. Mud tires, for instance, have even deeper treads and pronounced lugs to dig deeper and keep your balance. The opposite is true of tires designed for sand, with smooth treads, thinner profiles, and features to flick sand away. Regardless of which type you choose (all are marketed with specific uses in mind), aftermarket tires are meant to get power down to the ground, offer better puncture resistance, and last longer.

When choosing, consider soft, medium or hard compounds and ply count. Softer compounds are for higher top speeds but will wear out faster, while medium to hard compounds are for slow-speed traction on tougher terrain and improved puncture resistance, particularly on heavier ATVs and UTVs.