Electronic power steering (EPS) was a huge sales pitch when it first was introduced in the ATV-world by Yamaha on the Grizzly 700 EPS back in 2006. The feature was marketed as a small revolution for the driveability of ATVs. But still today, you will find a lot of models not equipped with EPS. Maybe you are on the fence about whether you should check the box for the power steering package or not? Is it really worth spending the extra cash? Let’s have a look at the PROS and CONS of power steering.
In short, YES power steering is worth it. The majority of ATV riders state they will never go back after owning a bike with power steering installed. The feature helps prevent fatigue or even injuries if you do a lot of all-day rocky trail riding or plan on installing bigger tires or maybe tracks. If you have any health issues preventing you from comfortably riding a non-EPS quad, it may be just what you need. Some think of it as a nice bit of luxury you don’t really need, but if you can afford it, get it.
In what situations is there no real use for power steering?
Some “old-school” riders prefer the authenticity of riding a bike with no EPS. They like to feel better every rock and bump of the terrain they are riding on and thinks this gives the rider better control.
One could argue that there still are situations where power steering would be useful even for these riders, but if these aspects are crucial to you, EPS is probably not your better option.
Then, if all you are doing is some less challenging riding like shorter rides on smooth open trails, or just some occasional driving around the farm, you may not experience much of a difference whether you drive with or without power steering.
It’s not until you get yourself into a bit more challenging riding situations you really discover the difference between the two setups.
So do you really need power steering at all then?
It’s hard to argue that you absolutely NEED power steering. Just like cars without power steering, they are fully driveable with just good old muscle power. People have been riding ATVs without it for years, and many still do.
On the other hand, if you have some disabilities or weaknesses, making it hard or impossible for you to ride an ATV without a form of steering assist, one may say you really NEED power steering.
For anyone else, you can do just fine without it.
But after riding both ATVs with and without it, most riders seem to agree that it sure is a nice thing to have!
The same applies to features like a potent engine, active-decent-control (ADC), adjustable suspension, and so on. All features you may live fine without, but it sure does make life a bit easier.
What are the advantages of power steering?
Whether it’s worth spending the extra money on power steering depends a lot on what intended use you have for your machine. Let’s have a look at some features and when they will be nice to have.
Reducing kickback from hitting roots and rocks
The most important advantage of having power steering on your ATV may not be what you think it is.
While the system will lessen the effort of steering considerably, especially at lower speeds, tight spot maneuvering, and riding on rough terrain, the main advantage is how it takes away the handlebar jarring on rough- and rocky terrain.
And the kickback you get when hitting a rock or root can be downright brutal.
The EPS will have the same effect as a steering damper and may prevent your ride from ending with a broken thumb or the handlebar buried deep into your gut after being forced violently out of your hands.
Because of this, having power steering on your bike should be seen as having an extra safety feature.
The system doesn’t eliminate feedback into the handlebars altogether, but it does reduce it a lot and will make your ride a lot more pleasant.
For many, this feature alone makes investing in power steering worth every penny.
When carrying heavy cargo
Whether you are hauling hay bales around the farm, transporting building materials up to the cabin, or when your quad is loaded after a successful day of big game hunting, the increased strain on your front end will make steering a non-EPS into a real workout.
Adding power steering and you will gain full control over your cargo, and at the end of the day, you can be sure your arms will thank you.
Rolling big mud tires or tracks
Maybe you visited your local dealer, and there you were fortunate enough to test out a couple of different stock models both with and without power steering. After some quick rounds on a simple course, you conclude that the difference is negligible.
Not something worth spending money on, right?
Well, a couple of weeks down the line, you add some 28-30 inch mud tires and go for a full day of skeg riding. You engage 4wd and diff-lock, and steering becomes even more tiresome.
At the end of the day, you will be begging for EPS. With EPS, you almost forget the diff-lock is engaged.
And if you ever plan on installing tracks on your bike, there is really no option; you need power steering to turn those snow-filled, halfway buried pair of tracks.
Reduced fatigue after a long trail ride
You probably will have no problems battling the handlebar for shorter periods of time or be taking all the little and big hits transferring through your arms and into your upper body.
But after countless hours on rocky trails, the stress will eventually turn into fatigue that makes maintaining the much needed mental focus a real challenge. Especially when adding a passenger, your job becomes more challenging.
Again, adding power steering will get you through the day feeling sharp and alert all the way to your final destination.
Especially for people suffering from shoulder problems or similar issues, it should make the riding experience much more enjoyable, especially the day after.
Better second-hand value
The majority of buyers today are looking for a bike with power steering. This means resale could be much easier if your machine has the right equipment the market wants.
The loss of value will probably be similar on both bikes with and without power steering, but at least you won’t be stuck with a machine that not so many desire.
What are the potential disadvantages of power steering, if any?
As I stated above, you may not need power steering to ride your ATV, but the consensus amongst riders who have tested it for any length of time seems to be that it is a handy feature to have.
Some even think it is the best thing to hit ATV’s since fuel injection. But are there any real disadvantages to consider?
The system will add some unwanted weight to your machine.
One may argue that the EPS is just another thing that can break and that needs maintenance. While this is true, today’s factory power steering system is very reliable and rarely breaks down.
The system b consists of three main components: an electric motor, a gear, and an ECU unit. Both the electronic and mechanical part of the system is pretty simple and bulletproof.
If you run in really moist conditions, you may run into the occasional warning light, and the system temporarily stops working.
If you submerge your quad regularly, the water may eventually get inside and seize your system.
The EPS electronics can be sensitive to voltage irregularities, but usually, stopping and starting your quad is all you need to fix the issue. A bad battery or battery connector may be the cause if this happens.
And unfortunately, the system is considered a bit more prone to become sloppy over time than a non-EPS steering system.
The added cost of buying and owning
Opting for power steering adds from $600-$1000 to an already pricey purchase. The cost of an aftermarket kit will be in the same ballpark.
And should you be unlucky down the road, and the systems breaks after the warranty has ended, you may be in for an $800 repair bill.
Related: How Does ATV Power Steering Work?
To sum things up
Do you NEED power steering? Probably not. And if you never had it, you probably don’t miss it either.
Is it worth it? It will set you back a good lump of money, and like everything else, it will probably break if you abuse it long enough. But still, if you can afford it, I would say a definite yes, it is worth it.
I personally believe the added convenience easily outranks the downsides of having power steering fitted to your ATV. The market also seems to agree with my reasoning.
If your budget is tight and you need to make some compromises, you should definitely consider trading some power by opting for a smaller engine to gain the added comfort and safety of having power steering.
Your over-all riding experience will most likely be better.