One day I was out riding quads when I saw that my tire pressure was pretty low. Since I had never filled an ATV tire, I was a little concerned about filling it because I didn’t wan’t to get it too full and risk a bumpy ride or, even worse, a blown tire. I did some quick research to learn the best way to get proper tire pressure on ATV tires.
How do you check your ATV or UTV’s tire pressure? First you have to determine the recommended tire pressure for both the ATV and the tires. Then, use a low-pressure tire gauge to check the pressure, adjusting as needed to meet the recommended PSI or to meet your needs in special situations.
Maintaining the proper tire pressure on your ATV or side by side is absolutely essential to safely and effectively operate your quad. You should only adjust the tire pressure above or below the recommendations for certain riding styles such as riding int the snow, sand or where you are taking aggressive corners. Read on to see how to best check and set your tire pressure for each situation.
The importance of correct tire pressure
Having incorrect tire pressure on your ATV can cause a lot of problems where the tire pressure is too low, too high, or uneven between the tires. The most obvious risk the popping your tire. If your tire pressure is too low or too high, it is a lot easier to puncture the tire and leave you with a flat tire.
When a tire blows out, it is very easy to get into a bad accident, but even when your tire doesn’t blow, improper tire pressure can put you at a greater risk of accident. Improper tire pressure gives you less control over the ATV, making you more likely to crash at high speeds, around sharp turns or going over jumps.
Finally, even if you aren’t worried about getting in an accident, improper tire pressure will cause uneven wear on your tires. This will force you to replace the tires more often, and nobody likes wasting money on tires! Uneven pressure between your tires will also cause your ATV to feel like the alignment is off, as the quad will pull toward the side of the less-inflated tire.
Determine the recommended tire pressure for your tires and ATV
Something that most people fail to do, and I would have never thought of, is checking the recommended tire pressure for both the tire and for your ATV. Often, especially if you don’t have stock tires, the tires have a different recommended tire pressure than that of your ATV.
You should be able to determine the recommended tire pressure for your tire on the wall of the tire. If not, Google is your friend hopefully. To determine the recommended tire pressure for your ATV, you will need to have an owner’s manual. If you don’t have an owner’s manual, you should be able to find the recommended tire pressure on the manufacturer’s website or, at least, be able to order a new manual.
So which recommended tire pressure should you follow if they are different? Most experts recommend following the recommended tire pressure for your ATV. This seemed weird to me, but your ATV is designed to operate a certain way and tires usually have a decent range in which they can operate. Still, I usually feel more comfortable setting my tire pressure somewhere in the middle of that recommended for the tires and that recommended for the ATV. It may be stupid, but I like to hedge my bets and I figure that is the safest way to get closest to both recommendations. If you have special tires on your quad that recommend a tire pressure drastically different from your ATV’s recommended tire pressure, I would ask a tire dealer for their opinion.
Checking your tire pressure
You don’t want to eyeball your tire pressure when you are filling it. Especially with off-road tires and their big tread, it is very difficult to determine the tire pressure without a gauge, and gauges are so cheap, it doesn’t make sense not to have one.
The only thing is you need to a get a specific gauge for your ATV. Because the tire pressure gauges you would have for your car are designed to measure much higher pressures, they often don’t go low enough to do you any good. You want to get a good low pressure tire gauge. The one we recommend on our Recommended Gear page is under $10 on Amazon.
You should always check your tire pressure when the tires are not hot. If you remember high-school chemistry, it will make sense to you that the air inside the tires will expand as the tire gets hotter. This will result in a higher tire pressure reading. Because recommended tire pressures refer to the pressure at normal temperatures, you will not get an accurate read if your tires are too hot. Likewise, you will get a lower tire pressure reading if you are checking the pressure in sub-freezing temperatures. Because of this, you should always check your tire pressure before you ride or a few hours after you have stopped riding. Of course, if you notice your tire pressure is low during a ride, you of course want to take care of it right away, but just remember that the tire pressure is going to read a little higher than normal so you will want a touch of extra air in the tires. We recommend checking your tire pressure before every ride so you can always make sure the tire pressure is correct.
Now, the actual process of checking the tire pressure is pretty easy. Simply remove the cap on the air valve, if there is a cap still on. When you press the gauge against the valve, you should hear air come out. Press all the way down until you no longer hear any air escaping. Depending what type of gauge you have, you will either get a digital reading or a little bar will have popped out the bottom of the gauge and stopped at the number that reflects the tire pressure Digital gauges can be easier to read, but I just use the cheaper manual ones. With the manual ones, you may have to recheck it if something interrupted the gauge when it was popping out since that would make the result inaccurate.
What are normal tire pressures for ATVs and UTVs?
In case you have no way to figure out what the recommended tire pressure settings are for your tire or your ATV, you will be okay for at least a little while if you keep within kind of the standard range of tire pressures we would expect for most brands of ATV tires and models of ATVs.
What is the normal tire pressure range? For ATVs, the normal tire pressure recommendations are between 4 and 8 pounds per square inch (PSI). For a UTV or side by side, the normal tire pressure recommendations are between 12 and 18 PSI.
When do you want to add or removed extra tire pressures?
While it is never advisable to add or subtract to much air from the recommended minimum pressure, there are times when a higher tire pressure can be more advantageous. Indeed, many quad racers will add a couple PSI to their ATV tires before a race The added pressure will make your tires a little more stiff, which is beneficial when taking sharp turns at high speed and when you are sliding.
Higher tire pressure can also help avoid a punctured tire when you are moving at high speeds. When you hit a sharper object, a fuller tire will more easily deflect off the tire whereas a tire with lower pressure will let that object sink deeper into the tire, more likely causing a puncture
There are also times where a slightly lower tire pressure can be advantageous. These situations are where you want more traction and need as much of your tread to grip the ground as possible. A slightly lower tire pressure will add more traction when you are riding through wet mud, snow or slush. You want to be careful in the mud; however, as lower pressure tires can collect more mud. So, if you notice your tires getting clogged with mud, you need to increase the tire pressure to more effectively throw that mud from the tire.
What are common causes of low tire pressure?
Most of the time, low tire pressure is nothing to worry about. As you ride over different terrain and expose your tires to different pressures and temperatures, the air pressure will naturally reduce over time. If the low pressure isn’t significant and isn’t isolated to one tire, this is probably the case.
If the low pressure is isolated to one tire or if the pressure reduces significantly over a short period of time, it is likely being caused by something you need to address. The first thing you should do is check for any cracks in the tire, or any nails, screws or thorns that may have dug their way through your tires. It is easiest to give your tire a thorough check if you can jack it up a little bit. Check out our guide to easily and safely jacking up an ATV before you start.
- How do you know what ATV tires to buy? Once you identify the correct tire size for your quad, you pick the pattern shape, knob size, and tread depth that best match your riding style and the terrain you will be riding on. We have published an extensive guide on picking the right ATV tires and a list of recommended tires. If you are thinking of getting new tires anytime soon, it is a must read.
- How do you jack up or lift an ATV? The best and safest way to lift or jack up an ATV is to use a car or ATV jack with an additional jack or stand, or by using a lift table. We have a guide to how to most safely jack up your ATV that you should read before attempting it on your own