Putting Bigger Tires on an ATV: All You Need to Know

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Many ATV owners first consider installing bigger tires on their vehicles, believing that bigger always means better. However, before rushing to purchase a new set of tires, it’s important to weigh several factors.

As we’ll explore, the largest and most aggressive-looking tires aren’t necessarily the ideal choice for every rider. This table provides a succinct overview of the considerations for installing larger tires on an ATV.

Key Takeaway
ATV Compatibility
Most ATVs can handle tires 1-2 inches larger than stock without major modifications.
Impact on ATV
Larger tires can reduce performance and increase wear on components.
Clearance Issues
Oversized tires may rub against the ATV body or parts, especially on rough terrain.
Modifications Required
May need to trim fenders, install lift kits, or use wheel spacers for larger tires.
Torque Loss
Bigger tires can lead to torque loss; clutch or gear reduction kits might be needed.
Strain on Components
Extra strain on drive belt and driveline; reinforced parts might be necessary.
Stability and Safety
Higher center of gravity with bigger tires affects stability; consider wider wheels or spacers.
Warranty Concerns
Check if tire modifications affect the ATV’s warranty.
Tire Size Selection
Choose tire size based on riding style and terrain.
Front/Rear Tire Balance
Keep the same rolling diameter ratio between front and rear tires.

Can You Put Larger Tires on Your ATV?

When you’re thinking about switching to bigger tires, it’s essential to remember that the manufacturer chose the stock tire size specifically to fit the engine size, suspension geometry, driveline strength, and transmission setup of that ATV model.

Changing to bigger tires will affect the carefully designed proportions between these components and cause them to be out of balance, potentially causing reduced overall performance, premature wear, or even sudden component failure.

But is there any wiggle room, or are you stuck with the stock tires?

Most ATVs can take tires one to two inches larger in diameter than stock without modifying the vehicle. However, even bigger tires usually require modifications to prevent rubbing, loss of torque, premature driveline- and drive belt wear, and correct offset gear ratio.

This means if your stock tires are 26 inches in diameter, a 27-inch and probably a 28-inch tire should not cause any significant issues that trigger a need for extensive modifications. 

So, if you’re looking for slightly better off-road performance without breaking the bank on expensive mods and upgrades, you are better off not deviating more than one or two at the tops from the stock tire diameter.

But what if you want to go even bigger? What are the potential issues, and how do you solve them?

Bigger Tires May Cause Clearance Issues

When installing oversized tires on a stock ATV, you’ll first notice that the tires will catch on the bike’s bodywork, undercarriage components, frame, brake lines, or other parts inside the bike’s wheel well.

When riding on smooth ground, larger tires typically don’t cause issues. However, when the terrain becomes rough, and the tire bounces up and down, especially during sharp turns, this can lead to problems.

The front wheels will typically rub first because they usually move around more. With the rear tires, the exhaust muffler often gets in the way first, along with the fender flares.

There are a few modifications you may consider doing to the bike to combat this issue:

Trim the fenders. When increasing tire size by two to three inches, you may get away by trimming off the outer portion of the plastic wheel fenders. I’ve discovered that using an angle grinder with a standard cutting disk results in clean and precise cuts. However, other cutting tools like a jigsaw should also be effective.

Install a lift kit. This mod is the most common and considered the best option to gain more clearance to fit bigger wheels and tires. Lift kits come with all the parts you need to increase the ride height of your ATV. You can get kits that raise the bike to anything from one to six inches or more. 

The kits are usually not universal, so you’ll need a kit specifically made for your TV make and model. Within the kit’s spec sheet, you’ll often find information on the maximum size tires you can fit when the kit is installed. 

The smallest kits typically consist of spacers, custom brackets, and the required longer bolts. They cost anything from $50 to $200.

As you go up in size, the kits become more comprehensive and also more expensive. A four or six-inch lift kit typically consists of lift brackets, spring spacers, custom A-arms, more durable axles, heavy-duty tie rods, extended brake lines, and the required mounting hardware. Expect to pay from $200 to $2000 or more.

Related: ATV Lift Kits: Weighing the Pros and Cons

Install wheel spacers. The final option to gain better clearance in the wheel wells is to install wheel spacers. Wheel spacers are metal discs that bolt onto the wheel studs to move the wheel outwards. You can get spacers ranging from ¼ inch to three inches or more, but I do not recommend getting spacers wider than two inches at the tops. 

While wheel spacers offer a quick and easy way to increase clearance, they have their share of drawbacks. 

As the wheel shifts further out from the wheel hub, the ATV becomes increasingly more challenging to steer, increasing strain and causing more wear to the undercarriage components and driveline.

Check this post to learn more about the pros and cons of installing wheel spacers on your ATV.

Related: How to Choose and Install ATV Wheel Spacers

Bigger Tires Cause Loss of Torque

One of the significant downsides of installing bigger tires is a loss of torque. This happens mainly because of the bigger circumference and because bigger tires typically weigh more. 

While ATVs over 500cc may pack enough power to handle tires two inches larger in diameter, ATVs smaller than 500cc may begin to struggle even with a one-inch taller tire.

Using a tire with a longer circumference is almost like installing a high gear kit on the ATV or always running it in a slightly too high gear. Also, a heavier tire means the engine needs to use more power only to turn the tire, which leaves less power for acceleration. 

Related: ATV Mud Tire Weight Comparison (With Charts)

You can install a clutch kit or a gear reduction kit to gain some torque back.

A Clutch kit will be the best alternative for those who go up one or two inches in tire size and like to ride fast. The kit uses stiffer springs to change the RPMs at which the clutching phase happens. It’s like recalibrating the clutch to match the bigger wheels. A quality clutch kit will set you back around $300. 

A gear reduction kit is likely the best option for those that go up no more than two to three inches in tire size but go slow for the most part. This category of riders will be those who are into rock crawling or those who do a lot of technical riding. There are two main types of gear reduction kits on the market: portal gearboxes mounted on each wheel hub or internal transmission gear reduction kits. 

A Clutch kit AND a gear reduction kit may be required if you increase the tire size by more than three inches in tire size.

Related: Will Bigger Tires Make an ATV Faster? (Or Slower?)

Bigger Tires Put Extra Strain on the Drive Belt

A bigger tire’s added weight and longer rolling circumference put more strain on the clutch belt and shorten its service life. You can reinforce your clutch by installing a heavy-duty drive belt. They do cost more but may save you both money and agony down the line. 

Bigger Tires Adds Stress to the Driveline and Suspension

Heavier and larger diameter tires increase strain on the drive belt and cause the entire driveline to work harder. The CV joints are particularly prone to premature wear because of the added strain and because the joints have to work at an increased angle due to the added height. 

Consider installing heavy-duty axles and CV joints to make them last longer and reduce the risk of them failing when your big tires suddenly catch traction as you spin them at full throttle in deep mud. Upgraded shocks will keep the added weight of the tire in check as it bounces up and down on uneven terrain. 

Bigger Tires Make the ATV More Likely to Tip

While better ground clearance is one of the main reasons people install bigger tires and lift kits on their ATVs, it’s essential to understand how it affects the bike’s stability. As the frame, engine, and body lift from the ground, so does the center of gravity.

An ATV with a high center of gravity may become top-heavy and more likely to tip when cornering or going up or down steep hills.

To combat this issue, you have three main options to choose from:

Get wheels with a wider offset. The wheel offset is a measurement that tells you where the wheel’s centerline is located relative to the outer surface of the wheel hub. The offset can be negative, zero, or positive, and the wheel center shifts further out as the offset decreases.

Let’s say your stock wheel has an offset of -10mm. By installing wheels with an offset of -20 instead, the wheel shoots 10mm further out from the ATV, making the bike more stable when cornering. 

Install a lift kit with a wider stance. Some more extreme lift kits include wider A-arms and longer axles that move the wheel hub further out than stock. The kit spec sheet should include information on how much the kit widens the ATV. While this is likely the best option to make an ATV broader and more stable, it is also the most expensive. 

Install wheel spacers. If new wheels do not fit your budget, you can always install wheel spacers to achieve much of the same effect.

Bigger Tires or the Required Mods May Void the Warranty

Note that some manufacturers have placed certain restrictions because of some of the issues that may come with installing bigger tires.

While a slight increase of one to two inches is usually allowed, you should always check the warranty terms to ensure that the wheels and modifications you are planning are permitted. 

Why Do People Want Bigger Tires on Their ATVs?

Stock tires offer decent overall performance in various riding applications ranging from utility work and high-speed trail riding to rock crawling and mud riding. 

However, no one tire offers optimal performance in all of these scenarios. If you want extreme performance when you go mud bogging, you’ll need completely different tires than the need for excellent grip when rock crawling. 

That is why most people want bigger tires: to optimize performance in specific riding conditions.

Better traction and flotation in wet mud, snow, or sand. Bigger tires with a more aggressive tread pattern typically offer better flotation and traction in wet conditions. 

Better ground clearance. The added ground clearance gained by installing bigger tires lets you clear stumps, rocks, or other obstacles that would otherwise leave you high-sided. 

A more aggressive look. Other riders want bigger tires because they think it looks meaner, more aggressive, and better in general. 

How to Choose the Right Tire Size for You

While massive tires may look cool, they may not be your best option. You must carefully consider what type of riding you’ll do the most. Then, use these guidelines to choose:

Utility work and occasional recreational riding. For most types of utility work and the occasional off-road experience, the stock tires will provide an ideal balance between traction, flotation, maneuverability, and performance.

Rock crawling and technical riding in rough terrain. You may want to increase the tire size slightly to increase the ground clearance for any technical riding. However, tires more than two inches from stock may have too much of a negative effect on stability and maneuverability in rough terrain.

Also, the aggressive thread pattern found on some of the most oversized ATV tires is not beneficial for traction on hard and rocky surfaces.

Mud bogging in waist-deep mud or muskeg. If you’re building a dedicated mudding machine, you generally want to go as big as your wallet and the bike’s engine can handle. Those who live and breathe this type of riding often choose 30 to 34-inch tires with enormous lugged tread patterns to paddle through the mud.

Trail- and dune riding. In this type of riding, you typically want to go fast. A taller tire may cause too much of a negative impact on torque for it to be worth it. But if you often ride in sand dunes, consider using a wider or specialized paddle-style sand tire.

However, if you do a lot of dune riding, consider a wider tire or even a dedicated paddle-style sand tire.

Does ATV Tire Width Matter?

In some riding applications, the tire width matters more than the height. 

In deep mud, you want a tall and narrow tire to cut through the wet upper layer and into the firm underground for traction. 

However, you’d want a wide tire on the sand and deep snow for better flotation and traction without sinking too deep into the surface.

What Are the Biggest ATV Tires?

The biggest ATV tires currently on the market are the Super ATV Terminators, measuring a massive 34x10x15.

Can You Install Only Bigger Front ATV Tires?

The front and rear tires on most, if not all, ATVs are the same height. On a 4×4 ATV, you should never increase or decrease the height of only the front or rear tires, as this may damage the bike’s transmission. Maintaining the same rolling diameter ratio between the front and rear tires is essential.

The tire width, however, is a different store. While changing the width of the front or rear tires likely won’t cause any transmission issues, there are good reasons why the front tires on an ATV are smaller (narrower) than the rear.

Wrapping Up

Before upgrading to larger tires on your ATV, consider how they’ll affect your vehicle’s balance, performance, and mechanical components. Choose wisely to enhance capabilities without compromising safety or violating warranty terms.

Related: The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Right ATV Tire Size

Haavard Krislok
Haavard Krislok
Haavard Krislok is an ATV and off-road enthusiast with a rich background spanning two decades in owning, maintaining, repairing, and utilizing ATVs for farming, logging, and hunting. Outside his professional life as an engineer and project manager, he cherishes recreational trail riding and is the creative force behind BoostATV.com, serving as its owner, editor, and content creator.

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