How To: ATV Hauling Tips

Home Page Slide Show, Other, Sport ATV, UTV, Utility ATV — on October 28, 2010 at 8:48 am

Whether the destination is a repair shop, an epic riding area far away from home or hunting land out in the country, most ATV owners will have to haul their machine on a trailer or in a pickup truck.

Securing an ATV on a trailer or in a truck seems simple enough, so giving pointers about how to do it is like critiquing how a man drives his car — it’s not usually well received. But the fact is most people have ridden with a bad driver, not to mention seen four-wheelers on a trailer that made them wonder how the machine made it out of the driveway without falling off.

The staff at ATV Reviews has tied down hundreds of quads over the years, but we learned a few things while gathering information for this article — more proof of the old adage “you never stop learning.” So read on to find a better way to haul your ATV.

ATV Hauling Tips: Hooking Up

Hook the straps in an "X" pattern to hold ATVs more securely.

Hook the straps in an "X" pattern to hold ATVs more securely.

There are two schools of thought regarding where a person should hook a tie-down strap to an ATV: above the suspension’s pivot point (such as a rack support or a high point on the frame); or below the suspension (such as the ATV’s tow hitch, frame or footrest). It’s a topic we’ve heard debated at riding areas, seen argued out on message boards and even read about in owner’s manuals (for example, the Polaris owner’s manual suggests one method, while Honda’s manual suggests another).

Some people argue that attaching high on the ATV and then cinching the strap to compress the suspension helps hold the vehicle in place and won’t allow it to roll or bounce in the truck or trailer. If you hook to a rack support and compress the machine 2 inches, for example, that will put steady pressure against the strap and hold the vehicle in place. This gives some leeway in case the strap loosens because the strap will remain taut until the suspension rebounds the full 2 inches.

Also, attaching a strap high on an ATV provides a mechanical advantage so you can use body weight to compress the ATV as you tighten the strap. This is especially useful if you use cinch straps rather than ratchet straps.

Others say that hooking above the suspension allows the strap to loosen momentarily as the suspension cycles when the trailer encounters bumps. They

A low attachment point helps prevent the ATV from rolling.

A low attachment point helps prevent the ATV from rolling.

say strapping low on a quad prevents the machine from rolling forward or backward while it lets the rest of the machine wiggle independently of the wheels as the trailer or truck goes down the road, plus the straps are less likely to loosen.

If they do loosen, however, like during a panic stop, a low attachment allows less room for error because there isn’t upward pressure of the suspension to put tension on the strap. If a strap slips and the ATV rolls forward a half-inch, the strap will have slack as soon as the driver lets off of the tow vehicle’s brake pedal.

Whichever method you prefer, use quality straps, get the straps good and tight, and tie off the ends. The amount of straps used to tie down an ATV is an important consideration, too. A person might assume that two straps — one in back, one up front — is adequate to secure the quad, but if one of those straps breaks, you could be in deep doo-doo. That is why each machine should be secured with four straps; attach them to the opposite corner so they make an “X.” This will prevent the ATV from moving laterally.

ATV Hauling Tips: Choose the Right “Tool” For The Job

Even with the most careful planning to hook tie-down straps in the right spots, if straps are cheap, worn out or not rated to handle a heavy vehicle like an ATV, your wheeler might end up upside down in a county road ditch. The moral is: Don’t skimp on straps.

There are many manufacturers of tie-down straps and they come from all corners of the globe, so it’s difficult to say with certainty whose straps are the best. But when shopping for straps, remember that you often get what you pay for.

We avoid the multi-unit packs from home repair stores. Webbing is generally thin and our gut says that a four-pack of ratchet straps for $15.99 isn’t a good value. We’d rather pay $40 at an ATV dealership for a pair of name-brand (Ancra, EK USA are a few brands with which we’ve had good luck) tie downs with thick webbing, a sturdy buckle and large hooks. Read the label to make sure they’re rated for the weight of your machine.

Always lock the brake and put the transmission in gear, or park if equipped, for more stability.

Always lock the brake and put the transmission in gear, or park if equipped, for more stability.

Another decision to make is whether to go with ratchet straps or cinch straps. Ratchet straps are more complex and more likely to malfunction — usually caused by user error, not due to failure — but they make it easy to pull the strap tight. Cinch straps are simpler and smaller without a complex buckle so they fit into confined spaces. They might be more likely to slip, though, because they don’t have a cam to hold their position like ratchet straps, and users usually can’t cinch them as tightly as a ratchet strap.

ATV Hauling Tips: Trailer Maintenance

OK, so you have good straps and you’ve determined the best place to attach them to the quad, but is your trailer ready for the road? If the only attention it’s seen in the past few years was to haul home your brother-in-law’s new patio set from Lowe’s, it’s time to get out a grease gun.

Most modern trailers have greasable bearings that, if periodically given a few shots of fresh grease, will roll trouble free for thousands of miles. Check bearings by elevating the wheel and spinning it. It should roll smoothly and quietly. Grab the wheel at 12 o’clock and 6 o’clock and try to jostle it. If it feels solid with no movement, it’s probably OK. Noise, rolling resistance or a rough feel during your inspection means the bearings and hubs need to be serviced.

Inspect the tires, too. Look at the tread and make sure it’s not split and that the sidewall isn’t cracked. Set tire pressure to the specification listed on the sidewall and check the lug nuts to make sure they’re tight.

Regularly inspect the coupler to make sure it latches securely.

Regularly inspect the coupler to make sure it latches securely.

If the coupler is bound up, you might be able to rehabilitate it with penetrating lubricant. Set it on the ball, engage the coupler and then get down on your knees and inspect the fit to make sure the coupler securely latches around the ball. If it doesn’t fit well, replace it. Couplers cost about $30 and are usually easy to swap out.

And while you’re at the front of the trailer, make sure both safety chains are strong, securely fastened to the trailer and have a few inches of slack when attached to the tow vehicle. Check the lights, too.

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  • jeff stroot says:

    do not like the”x”pattern.I think you should do a four corner tie down coming out straight off the bike.

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