There are many reasons why ATV owners want to quiet the exhaust noise on their machines. In this post, we’ll look at different ways you can achieve this.
We will also examine the advantages and disadvantages of muffling the exhaust and assess its effectiveness. This will allow you to consider whether the benefits outweigh the downsides and decide whether it’s worth it for you.
1. Install an Aftermarket Muffler Silencer
Adding an aftermarket silencer muffler is a simple and effective way to get a noticeably quieter exhaust sound.
An additional muffler is installed behind your OEM system as an auxiliary exhaust. Installation time is less than 10 minutes (as long as you don’t have to fabricate mounting brackets), so you can remove or install it according to your needs.
There are quite a few different brands out there that offer their take on this concept. They all work by the same principle; the exhaust has to pass through one extra muffler stuffed with baffles and silencing materials.
One brand or model silencer may work well on some ATVs but not others. Read a review specifically for your bike before deciding what type to get.
For example, some riders think the Kolpin Stealth is the best silencer available, while others report that it did not perform very well on their Polaris Sportsman XP 1000.
You’ll find model-specific mufflers that will bolt straight onto most major ATV brands. Or, if you don’t find one that’s made for your bike, you can opt for a universal model.
The universal models work just as well, but installation may require some modifications, and the final result may not look as stock as a custom muffler will.
What results you should expect varies a bit between the different brands available. But as a general rule, you should see an improvement of about 6-8db at idle. In some cases, you may see a reduction of as much as 10-12 dB when revving the engine at 2000 RPM.
While 6-12db may not seem as much, it’s worth noting that an increase of 3 dB equals double the sound intensity. This means a system putting out 99 dB is four times more intense than a system emitting only 93 dB.
2. Install a Spark Arrestor
While the primary purpose of spark arrestors is preventing forest fires, they also come with the added benefit of slightly reducing the sound output of your ATVs exhaust system.
The sound must pass through the steel mesh or baffles, breaking up the sound waves on their way out of the muffler.
However, do not expect drastic results from this simple tweak. You can anticipate a reduction in the range of approximately 1-3dB in terms of noise levels. On some ATVs, the difference with and without the arrestor is relatively easy to notice just by listening.
Many stock exhaust systems come equipped with a spark arrestor installed from the factory. And if your bike is fitted with an aftermarket performance exhaust system or muffler, the spark arrestor may or may not have been included in the kit.
In some cases, you have to purchase it separately. It’s usually optional whether you want to install it or not.
Check out this post to learn more about spark arrestors and how to find out if your exhaust system already has one.
The spark arrestor requires cleaning from time to time, so it has to be easily accessible. Installing a spark arrestor is, therefore, usually relatively straightforward.
You may need to drill a hole or remove a couple of bolts, but that is usually all it takes to install one. Follow the manufacturer’s directions or ask the dealer if you get stuck.
3. Repack Your Existing Silencer
Inside some mufflers, you will find a fiberglass sound-dampening material that helps to quiet the exhaust sound. I’ve seen this more often on aftermarket systems, but some stock systems also use this technology.
Over time, this fiberglass material gets dirty, burns out, and loses its dampening effect. So if your system is starting to have some age, you should consider removing the old stuffing and replacing it with new.
All you need is some high temp silicone and silencer repacking material that fits your muffler. Most manufacturers sell these as spare parts, and you should stick with the OEM stuff.
The repacking process varies, but most manufacturers provide proper instructions for your silencer.
4. Pack With Steel Wool or Fiberglass Insulation
Some riders use steel wool or steel dish scrubs as dampening material inside their mufflers. This may result in some initial improvement, but it’s not an option that stands well over time.
It also comes with a significant fire hazard, which makes it an alternative I do not recommend.
What may happen is that the wool heats up until it gets glowing red hot. Then it gets tossed out of the exhaust as burning red particles that can ignite dry leaves and debris.
Over time, oil and fuel may soak the steel wool. The glowing red particles may then cause the muffler to ignite from the inside.
When the steel wool burns out, it also loses its dampening effect. Not to mention potential rust issues.
Fiberglass handles the heat much better and will not glow from the exhaust heat. It is usually cheaper than steel wool as well.
If you are on a budget, fiberglass building insulation is a better alternative for stuffing material than steel wool because you won’t have the risk of incineration.
But the best option is always to get the OEM fiberglass mats. They are easier to install, won’t burn out as fast, and give the best dampening results.
5. Build a DIY Extra Muffler
If you want to keep your costs down and don’t care too much about the aesthetics of your system, consider building a DIY extra muffler made from a car muffler. It installs behind the stock system, just like the muffler silencers made explicitly for ATVs.
Car mufflers are cheap and usually have an excellent dampening effect. Your best option would be to buy a small-size model that fits your bike. You will also need a couple of 90-degree bends of the exhaust pipe in the correct diameter and some flat steel to make a mounting bracket.
You will also need a welder or a lot of clamps to connect the different parts.
If you can live with the looks, you should make a system like this for half or two-thirds of the cost of a bolt-on system.
Be aware that back pressure and power loss may become issues if you choose a too-restrictive muffler.
6. Fix Any Exhaust Leaks
Even the most minor leak or crack can make your exhaust noticeably louder. It is common to experience shrill whistling noises when you apply throttle. Under deceleration, you may even get a backfire due to a change in backpressure.
The leak may be hard to spot, but start at the front and work your way backward.
Check all welds or joints between the different parts of the system extra carefully. The first few inches of pipe from the engine are usually most prone to leaks and cracks because of the significant fluctuations in temperature.
Look for black zoot, a sure indicator of a leak. Weld the leak or replace broken parts with new ones to restore stock performance.
7. Replace a Damaged or Rusted-Out Stock Muffler
Like any other component, the muffler wears out over time. And when it does, it also starts underperforming.
The most common wear on mufflers is that the sound-dampening internals either rust away, burn out or come loose. When this happens, it will no longer dampen the exhaust sound as it should. You may also get rattling sounds like a nice bonus.
If you wait long enough, you may find your muffler completely gutted out, with barely any sound-dampening effect.
Not only will this give you a loud exhaust, but you may also run into issues caused by reduced back pressure.
The easiest way to fix a worn-out muffler is to get an OEM muffler that bolts straight onto the bike.
But if you want to save a few bucks and potentially get a quieter system, there are a couple of DIY alternatives you may look into.
The first is getting an aftermarket muffler silencer intended to be installed at the end of your stock system.
Frequently, you’ll discover that these mufflers provide a quieter system, even when used as a replacement for the stock muffler. This option may, however, require some slight modification to make it fit.
Another option for silencing your ATV cheaply is replacing the stock muffler with a stock muffler from any Japanese racing motorcycle.
Owners of these bikes often replace their stock mufflers with aftermarket performance exhausts. You should be able to get your hands on the stock one at a very reasonable price or for free.
Modify it to fit your exhaust header pipe and mounts, and you should, in most cases, get a decent improvement in sound output.
Remember that any time you create a DIY solution like this, you are entirely on your own if you run into any issues caused by a change in backpressure. We’ll look more into the potential risks involved further down this post.
8. Insert a Quiet Core Insert in the Muffler – dB Killer
Some manufacturers of aftermarket exhaust systems offer quiet core inserts that can be fitted to make the exhaust quieter.
The design of these inserts varies but usually consists of a baffled or perforated pipe that fits inside the muffler. These core inserts often come with a spark arrestor or a downwards-facing pipe for directing the sound down to the ground.
Not all manufacturers offer these types of inserts, commonly named dB-killers. But it’s worth checking out if you already own an aftermarket muffler or are in the market for getting one.
It may be hard to visualize how the system will sound when you are in the process of purchasing the new exhaust.
So if your brand new system ends up sounding louder than you were expecting, it’s good to have the option of installing a simple insert to make it a few dB quieter.
The dB killer inserts usually install in just a matter of minutes.
9. DIY Quiet Baffle Modification
If no bolt-on quiet core kits are available for your muffler, consider making one on your own. You should achieve just as good or even better results as with the store-bought kits.
Get inexpensive universal baffle inserts and fit them into your exhaust system. These inserts come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Find one that fits the diameter of your exhaust pipe.
Depending on the piping design of your ATV, you can ensure a proper fit by disconnecting a joint and securing it in place inside the pipe through welding or bolting.
Alternatively, you can make an extension pipe behind the muffler that contains the baffle insert.
This is probably the best (cheapest and least ugly) budget solution for those looking to make their stock exhaust more silent.
This modification should work fine for low RPM trail riding or utility work on most bikes. For racing applications, it is likely not the best option. Just make sure you restrict airflow too much so that you build up back pressure that can damage your engine.
More on that further down.
10. Make Sure the Sound Is Directed to the Ground
This tip will not reduce the actual sound levels your system puts out. But making sure the sound is directed downward to the ground will significantly impact how far the sound will reach after it leaves your muffler.
With a straight muffler, the sound gets shot directly backward and can be heard far away.
But if the sound gets directed straight down to the ground instead, the rough surface will act as an acoustic dampener. The sound waves ” break up,” effectively leaving them unable to reach as far.
To achieve this, you install a sound direction pipe at the end of the muffler, a so-called down snout tip. This part is simply a small piece of bent pipe that changes the direction of exhaust flow downwards.
Most manufacturers offer this part as an option, or it may even be included when you buy the exhaust system. It should bolt on in just minutes. And if you look around, you will also find universal parts that may fit your exhaust.
As a final alternative, you can buy a 90-degree exhaust pipe bend and weld it to the rear of your muffler.
11. Connect a Coil of Metal Conduit
This may be your method if you’re in a rich to get your ATV more silent. Get about 6 feet of flexible metal conduit (made for electrical wires) and connect it to your muffler using a simple clamp. Coil it up and use some steel wire to keep it in place.
This will eliminate almost all exhaust sound, but be aware that you may be restricting exhaust flow too much.
Use this only when in a pinch and only for low RPM riding.
12. Ride Gently When You Can
This last tip is completely free.
Any time you find yourself in a place with a risk of disturbing others, drive gently until you are alone again. Backing off the throttle slightly reduces the exhaust sound to more manageable levels.
What Option Is Best for Your Type of Riding?
Now that you have a wide range of methods to choose from, it’s time to determine which best suits your needs and preferences.
Besides aspects such as cost, looks, and the level of mechanical work involved in the installation, you may find yourself asking questions such as;
- Is it safe for the engine?
- Will I lose engine power?
- What is best for my type of riding?
- Is it worth it?
Goal: Silent ATV Exhaust for Trail Riding
The sound is widely recognized as the number one challenge by those who work hard to keep our riding trails open. A loud exhaust is also one of the major obstacles when looking to open up new trails to motorized recreation riding.
The problem has become even worse in later years with large four-stroke engines entering the scene. These ATVs are typically much louder than the two strokes, especially when installing performance exhaust systems.
On the one hand, there are ATV riders who simply seek to enjoy their trail rides in nature. They feel that others need to accept the occasional ATV passing by.
On the other hand, you have those that feel loud engine sound is completely ruining their experience of enjoying nature’s silence.
Somewhere in between, there are numerous ATV enthusiasts who can empathize with both perspectives. These riders are frustrated with individuals who install loud aftermarket exhausts on their large four-stroke machines, mainly to attain a nearly imperceptible power increase.
It’s not hard to understand why there is a conflict of interest here. And it doesn’t matter which side you are on.
The reality is that riders running loud aftermarket exhausts on open trails contribute to heating this conflict to the boiling point. As a result, we see an increasing number of trails and riding areas being permanently closed.
Being allowed to ride on public grounds is a privilege directly influenced by the majority’s opinion. All it takes is to annoy the landowner, and the trail closes.
It all comes down to upsetting fewer people. Over time, this strategy will increase the number of ATV trails and riding grounds available for us to enjoy.
Another significant benefit of having a quiet exhaust on your trail machine is the ability to communicate with your passenger without needing to shout or strain your voice. After longer rides, you get home feeling much less exhausted as well.
It’s not only trails and open riding areas that face the risk of permanent closure or severe restrictions due to noise concerns, but many race tracks also encounter similar challenges.
Not all tracks are located out of reach from people’s homes and need to apply sound limitations so that they are allowed to stay open.
As a result, more and more manufacturers are now offering high-performance exhausts that keep sound output at reasonable levels. 96dB maximum sound level is becoming the norm. Some places even operate with lower limits.
Goal: Quiet ATV Exhaust for Hunting
If your goal with quieting the exhaust is to sneak past wild game completely unnoticed, you are most likely wasting your time and money. No matter how silent your exhaust is, most animals will pick you up long before you get within sight.
It is not only the exhaust that makes noise on your bike. Even when leaving exhaust sound out of the equation, the noise still present from your bike’s transmission, drive train, airbox, and mechanical engine noise is enough to make your ears ring.
Bikes with CVT transmissions are particularly noisy, whereas bikes with manual transmissions make for much better candidates as silent rides.
Even when riding an electric golf cart, the deer will hear you coming from far away. In addition, you have the smell of grease, oils, and exhaust that will blow your cover even if you were moving completely silent.
A quiet exhaust may allow you to drive closer to wildlife without scaring them away, leaving less disturbance in the hunting grounds. But they will still hear you coming.
Why bother using ATVs for hunting at all, then?
As operators of loud forestry machinery and farming equipment will likely testify, the sound of their machines has never scared the deer away. How can this be?
The trick is not removing the sound and smell but making the animal used to it!
All you have to do is take a few rides through the area in the last few weeks before the hunt begins.
Use the bike to check up on your deer stands. Use it to learn your hunting ground by mapping out key places such as water sources and food plots. Check your trail cameras.
Make all this a part of your season preparation routine, and your riding will soon no longer be an abnormality that scares them.
On opening day, you should be able to ride out with little chance of spooking them. Walking in on foot will usually cause a lot more disturbance than an ATV they are used to from before.
Can Exhaust Modifications Hurt the Engine?
Modifying the exhaust system to make it quieter will alter how the exhaust gasses flow through the system.
When you add a muffler, you make it slightly more challenging for the exhaust to pass. Therefore it will require a bit more pressure to blow the same amount of air through the system in the same amount of time.
If you restrict airflow too much, back pressure may build up inside the engine. You may experience issues like misfiring, stalling, loss of power, and the engine running too rich. None of which are likely to cause any damage to the engine.
But you may also experience the engine running too hot, which you don’t want.
As long as you choose a reputable brand that specifically designs and manufactures mufflers for each ATV brand and model, you can have peace of mind and minimal concerns. These usually add very little back pressure.
But if you decide on one of the DIY alternatives, you are entirely on your own if you mess up. Making such modifications will most likely void the warranty, so be careful.
It’s always a good idea to check the jetting or get a fuel programmer when doing modifications like those described in this post. You want to ensure the fuel/air mixture remains within acceptable limits.
Aftermarket muffler manufacturers often claim that you do not need to worry about the jetting, and I have no reason to doubt that they know what they are talking about. But if you want to be completely safe, it’s worth a check.
How Does an Aftermarket ATV Exhaust Affect Performance?
More noise equals more power, right? This is not always the case anymore.
Both European and American manufacturers now offer systems capable of keeping the sound output well below the recommended 96dB limit without any power loss.
The tradeoff is usually that you get a physically larger and slightly heavier muffler. A small price to pay for keeping the trails open if you ask me.
And as long you stick to a reputable brand, you should have no noticeable loss of power by installing a muffler silencer. These systems add just about 2% of back pressure that will minimally impact the engine performance.
Actually, you might experience a slight increase in bottom-end power after installing the system.
However, Some DIY solutions may cause some power loss, especially at higher RPMs. This makes such modifications best suited for hunting, Sunday rides, or utility work.
If you’re into racing, aftermarket systems are your only viable option.
It’s worth noting that if you ride at altitudes above 5000-6000 feet above sea level, you are advised to adjust the jetting for the best performance. Some manufacturers will even offer specially designed systems for high-altitude riding, ensuring proper airflow and performance where the air gets thin.
Do ATV Muffler Silencers Work?
An exhaust muffler silencer can reduce the sound level of an ATV exhaust by up to 60%. It dampens the popping or crackling sound from the engine backfiring and changes it to a lower-pitch rumble. The sound reduction depends on the brand of silencer and ATV engine size.