13 Effective Tips to Prevent ATV Theft

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The days of trust and honor are long gone, and ATV theft is on the rise. If you don’t take the necessary precautions, you may wake up to an unpleasant surprise.

ATVs are sought-after objects for thieves to steal because of their high value and because they are easy to quickly put in the back of a van or onto a trailer.

A potential thief will only need a couple of minutes to load and disappear with your bike if it’s left unattended, with nothing to prevent an easy grab.

Also, in places where ATVs are not allowed to be used on public roads, they are often not required to be registered. They remove the VIN number, and this will make a stolen quad harder to track.

But luckily, there is a lot you can do to lessen the odds of the thief considerably. In this article, I give you 13 tips that will prevent your ATV from being stolen.

Who Is Your Typical ATV Thief?

Before we dive into the specific tips, it is good to know what you are up against. That way, It’s easier to choose the right actions and tight tools to conquer your opponent.

Your typical ATV thief will most likely not be the “Mission Impossible” type that shows up from nowhere with laptops or other special tools. Compared to luxury cars, ATVs are cheap, and therefore professional ordering thefts are less common.

Of course, if you are really unlucky, you may become a victim of someone that has made up their mind to steal your specific bike. This type of thief will be hard to stop as they will likely come prepared and are willing to do what it takes to get what they came for.

If they really want it, they will probably find a way to get it. But there is no need to make things easier for them than it has to be.

But since these types of thefts are not so common and harder to prevent, it is a better time and money spent to focus on preventing the way the majority of ATV thefts happen.

The typical ATV thief is more likely to be more of a smash-and-grab type, an opportunist looking for a quick win.

That’s why the main focus should be on not giving these people an easy opportunity they cannot resist. The key is making it not worth the effort.

None of the tips I provide in this article will make it impossible to steal the bike, but it will sure make it less tempting. And in many cases, it will have enough of a deterrent effect for the thief to pass the opportunity and move on to find something easier and with less risk of getting caught.

1. Remove the Keys When the ATV Is Left Unattended

Duh, this one is quite obvious, right? Well, you would be surprised at how many thefts have happened because the thief could not resist the opportunity of an ATV with the keys left in. They can merely start the vehicle and drive away.

Make it your rule to never, ever leave the key in the bike when unattended. Also, never keep them “hidden” near where your bike is parked. They are easier to find than you think.

And the best part about this tip is that it is totally free.

2. Keep the ATV Parked Out of Sight

Besides removing the keys, concealment will be your most effective and least expensive precaution.

Out of sight, out of mind, so if possible, always park your ATV in a garage. The more obscure, the better.

No lock or chain in the world is better than if you can prevent a potential thief from knowing that the ATV is there in the first place. Spotting their potential prey will pique their interest, and they will start looking for ways to steal it.

Make sure the shed or garage has a good quality lock on a sturdy door or gate that can’t easily be just kicked in.

If you don’t have a garage or shed available, you should at least put the bike under a cover as a minimum.

This will make it harder to see if it is worth stealing or not. It might just as well be a rusty old lawn-mowing tractor, and the risk of being caught lurking around looking under covers will often be enough not to pique interest.

3. Use a Larger Vehicle to Block the ATV In

The number one way of stealing an ATV is simply rolling it away. They are quite easy to roll both forward and backward, but they are definitely not easy to lift straight up and to carry. You would need at least two really strong people to lift and carry an ATV sideways.

So an easy way to prevent anyone from just putting the bike in neutral and rolling it away and onto a trailer is to block it in between a solid object like a wall and a bigger vehicle like your car. This works best in a garage, but even outdoors, it will help a lot.

This tip is also completely free if you own a wall and a car, that is.

4. If Your ATV Has a Steering Lock, Use It!

Another free tip. Many ATVs are originally fitted with a steering lock that will lock the wheels turned completely to either side, making it hard to move the bike. Many of these locking systems are a bit weak and can be broken with some force. But if you have it, use it. It will make it less desirable to snag in a hurry.

5. Put a Padlock on the Disc Brakes

If your ATV is fitted with ventilated disc brakes, you can get a high-quality, hardened steel padlock that you lock onto one of the holes in the brake disk itself, making it impossible to turn the wheel.

You can also get a caliper-style lock that will work the same way. Both of these locking systems will be a good option as a quick way to lock your bike whenever you cannot put it in a locked garage.

However, I think a padlock will be the better option between the two because it can also serve a dual purpose as an anchor lock, see tip nr 6.

No matter which one you choose, make sure you get a model that features a lock reminder cable that reminds you that you have a lock. You do not want to take off with the lock still attached, as this can potentially ruin your brake caliper and/or brake disc.

The cable goes from the lock and up to your handlebar, where it will act as a reminder.

If you want to increase the security even further, you can buy a lock that also is equipped with a sirene, triggered when the lock detects any movement.

These systems will usually send a short warning signal at first when they detect movement. If the movement continues, the full sirene will go off. This will draw anyone’s attention to the sound, attention the thief definitely will not appreciate.

This type of motion detection sirene will also be effective if you are troubled with kids playing on your bike or curious persons wanting to “test ride it” by sitting on it.

6. Ground Anchor, Padlock, and Chain

Applying this tip will physically anchor your ATV to the ground. This leaves not only rolling but also lifting the ATV out of the question.

The system works by installing a fixed anchoring point that you bolt to either a concrete floor or a wall. Then you use a heavy-duty hardened steel chain or cable and the padlock from tip number 5 to lock the bike in place.

Do not cheap out when you buy your chain, as a simple bolt cutter or a battery-powered angle grinder will make a short process of the cheaper models available. The thinner chains and cables will only give you a false sense of security.

Ensure you put the chain or cable through the frame, not only through a tire or something else that can be easily removed from the bike.

Bonus tip: Buy a chain with a steel ring in one of the ends. This way, you can thread the chain around the frame, through the loop, and onto the lock.

With this setup, you will only need half the chain length, allowing you to buy about twice as strong a chain for the same price.

As for the anchor point, I recommend getting a flip-up-style ground anchor to prevent it from being a toe-kicker whenever not in use. This will also make it possible to drive over the anchor point with a car without the risk of damaging the tire.

When out on the trail, a tree will work just as well as an anchoring point, but you will need a very long and heavy chain or cable. In this situation, I instead recommend that you apply some of the other tips in this list, including using a padlock on the brakes.

7. Use a Handlebar Lock

An option if your bike doesn’t have disk brakes will be to get a so-called handlebar lock. In a way, a handlebar lock works a lot like a padlock or a caliper-style lock that prevents the wheel from rotating.

But instead of locking onto the disk itself, you place the clamp-style lock onto the handlebar, where it will lock the brake lever in a pressurized position, making it impossible to turn the wheels.

I consider this less safe than locking the disc itself because you could easily disable it by cutting or disconnecting the brake lines, releasing the brake pads’ pressure.

8. Deflate Two of the Tires

If you remove the valve stems from two of the tires, they will deflate completely, making it very hard to roll the ATV over any distance.

At first, this tip seems quite silly, and for short-term storage and everyday use, it actually quite impractical.

While this tip is free and will indeed make it hard to roll the ATV, I find it quite impractical for everyday use.

You would need a compressor to inflate the tires again every time you want to go riding. But the compressor cannot be readily available because then the thieves will use it as well. It will need to be stored away from the bike itself. This will soon become tiresome.

For long-term storage, it could be an option to try out.

9. Install a Security System in Your Garage

I’ve already talked about using a lock with a sirene in tip nr 5. This will be a great option whenever the ATV is not parked at home in your garage.

To improve the security of your regular storage shed or garage, aside from having a solid door and lock, you can install an alarm system on the building.

Many manufacturers offer a wide variety of systems you can purchase.

Generally, you can choose between the traditional contract-based system, where you pay a monthly fee to a security company, or buying a complete system, where you pay the whole system up-front, with no contract with any security company.

A few years ago, you needed to shear thousands of dollars to a security company to get your hands on a decent-quality system.

But over the last few years, the home security systems available have evolved into affordable, smart, and simple-to-use systems you can easily install yourself.

So which system you want to choose will generally depend on whether you want to receive the alarm yourself or if you want to pay the security company to send a person to see what’s going on.

Regardless of which type of system you choose, I recommend you get a system that:

  • It uses wireless technology, with no cables for you to install or for the thief to cut.
  • It has detectors you can install on doors and windows.
  • It has a motion detector that registers any movement in the room it is installed.
  • Have a loud siren that will go off as soon as anyone uninvited tries to enter the building, notifying anybody close to what’s happening.
  • Has an HD-quality IR camera. Ensure it is meant for outdoor use and can handle cold and moist conditions.
  • It has a GSM module to send a message and a picture to your phone and/or to your computer when the alarm goes off. You can add multiple numbers to the receiver list so that you can include friends, family, or maybe a good neighbor you trust.
  • If you don’t want to be bothered with lots of false alarms and system failures, I recommend staying away from the cheapest systems.

10. Use a GPS Tracking System

This tip is not for theft prevention, but it is still a great tip for damage control, enabling you to locate the ATV easily after it was stolen.

At first, you might think this sounds sci-fi and expensive, but with the systems available today, this is actually not the case at all.

The system basically consists of just one small box that you attach somewhere hidden on the bike so that the thief will not know it’s there. At given intervals, the box will send your bike’s coordinates to either a phone or a computer.

Just don’t take on the chase yourself. Leave that part to the police.

I recommend getting a box that uses all of the three available technologies: GPS, GSM, and VHF. This will make it less likely that the thief succeeds if he were to try to block the signal, either on purpose or by putting the bike indoors.

11. Wheel Clamps (not really recommended)

This is one option that works, but I do not really recommend it.

Wheel clamps are quite effective in preventing anyone from rolling the ATV, but you will need two clamps to get the desired effect.

They are quite costly to purchase, and for everyday use, they will be a pain in the but to install and remove all the time. They are also not very practical to bring on trips.

For long-term storage, it may be just as effective but cheaper to deflate two of the tires.

12. Prevent Theft When the ATV Is on a Trailer

Many ATVs are stolen while sitting on a trailer, either at home or parked someplace when out on a trip.

Luckily there are a lot of easy tips you can apply to lessen the chance of this happening:

  • Install a ground anchor to the trailer, just as explained in tip number 6. This will prevent anyone from simply rolling the ATV of the trailer when left unattended.
  • When the trailer is hooked onto a car, any time you need to be away from the trailer, always use a hitch-lock pin. This will by no means prevent a determined thief, but it will slow him down, increasing the chance of someone noticing what is happening. Just be aware there are major quality differences between different brands of bolts that are available. The cheapest ones can be broken by using a simple pipe in a matter of seconds.
  • Also, make sure you put a locking pin through the locking mechanism on the hitch ball coupler. An ordinary pin can quite easily be removed. Get a special pin with a lock.
  • If the trailer has a hatch or ramp that needs to be folded backward to be opened, try to always back the trailer up against a wall or similar so the hatch cannot be opened.
  • If the trailer has loose ramps, make sure they are locked in place. Remember, lifting is much harder than rolling.
  • When the trailer is not hooked onto a car, you should use a good tongue-lock to prevent anyone from stealing both the trailer and the ATV just by hooking it up to a truck and taking off.

13. Electronic Antitheft Systems

Some manufacturers now offer bikes with digital keys. I’ve had it myself for years on my Ski-Doo snowmobile, and it’s been working great. My Polaris does not have this, but hopefully, they will make it available soon.

The key itself contains a unique digital code that needs to match the code on your bike. Jamming a screwdriver into the lock will not work as it may on traditional locks.

You will not be able to use the ATV without a key with the correct programming, which the manufacturer can only do.

Another great digital anti-theft feature is that the VIN number is stored in the ATV’s electronics and can be read by any dealer if an unsuspecting new owner were to take the bike in for service or repairs. They will immediately see if the ATV is reported stolen.

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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