The best ATV tire
There's a huge range of choices when it comes to ATV tires -- which is great, but can complicate your decision. We've been looking at dozens of options to help you get the best for your vehicle and the conditions you drive in.
Finding the right ATV tire means considering what type of terrain you plan to explore. This will affect your choice when comparing the treads, ply rating, and tire construction of different options.
The number of ATV tires available can be intimidating, but we will walk you through your choices. We've also made a few recommendations at the end of this article to get you started. Our top pick, the Kenda Bearclaw, comes from one of the industry's top names and combines excellent off-road performance with great wear rates.
Considerations when choosing ATV tires
The key factors to think about are tire construction, ply rating, and tread pattern. The latter in particular can make a big difference to handling, particularly for the adventurous ATV owner. However, every aspect of your tires will affect the traction and handling of your ATV.
Tire size is particular to your vehicle -- and not something you should really mess around with. It could alter the gearing (and thus performance) and result in transmission damage.
There are two types of tire construction: radial and bias ply.
Radials dominate the market for road vehicles but are expensive by comparison. Their main advantages -- better grip, comfort, and fuel efficiency on asphalt and cement -- aren't so important on ATVs.
Bias tires are more flexible and offer superior grip on uneven surfaces. They are also far cheaper, making them the most common choice for ATVs.
Tire strength is determined by the ply rating -- or layer count.
Two-ply tires are relatively thin, which gives flexibility and spreads the load well. On the other hand, if you're tearing along off-road trails, you need a tougher, stiffer tire that's more resistant to punctures. In this case, six-ply is a popular choice. Four-ply and eight-ply tires are also available.
Your tread type should be selected to fit the type of terrain you will traverse most often.
Tread pattern doesn't just define the amount of traction. Lots of shallow lugs (tread blocks) close together can still provide good grip on damp or gently sloping lawns and have little impact on those easily damaged surfaces. These treads are often nondirectional -- the pattern is the same forward and backward -- so it doesn't matter which way you mount the tire.
In mud, sand, or loose gravel, you need fewer, deeper lugs. These not only give the additional grip you need, but are often "self-cleaning," as it's called, too. The wide spacing of the tread doesn't trap mud or debris that would otherwise clog the surface. These tires invariably have directional tread. It's vital that you fit them the right way. It's usually clear just by looking at them, but it should also be marked on the sidewall.
The downside of big, deep lugs is that there isn't much rubber on contact with the surface, so wear rates are generally higher. This is particularly severe if you drive on abrasive surfaces like asphalt. While they're great in rough and challenging terrain, on smooth surfaces they can wander badly, making steering difficult. In fact, this kind of ATV tire is almost never street legal in the U.S.
You can also find specialist snow tires for your ATV. They generally have small, but widely spaced lugs, running at right-angles to the rotation.
The final important consideration is weight rating, which determines the maximum safe vehicle weight that the tire can support. Like size, this is not a factor with a lot of wiggle room -- follow the manufacturer's recommendation.
The price of ATV tires depends largely on size because of the amount of material needed. You're unlikely to pay less than $40 per tire, as most brands offer tires starting around $50 to $60. Larger tires can cost anywhere from $90 to $130, with popular brands falling on the higher end of the scale. You can expect to save money by purchasing tires in sets of four.
Q. Is the best idea to just replace my worn ATV tires with new original equipment manufacturer ones?
A. Factory-supplied tires are designed for general-purpose use, not specific terrain types. So, as we explained above, a change of tread pattern can improve performance on particular surfaces. Another brand might also be cheaper.
Q. What do the three numbers on the ATV tire sidewall mean?
A. They describe the size and fit. So for example, a 25x8.00-12 is 25 inches across (maximum diameter), 8 inches wide (when properly inflated), and fits onto a 12-inch diameter wheel rim.
ATV tires we recommend
Best of the best: Kenda's Bearclaw
Our take: A tough, durable ATV tire from a brand with tremendous knowledge and experience.
What we like: Puncture-resistant six-ply construction. Clever tread pattern provides high traction and good directional control. Molded rim guard gives added wheel protection. Low wear rates. Wide choice of sizes.
What we dislike: Very little. Off-road only.
Best bang for your buck: ITP Mud Lite ATV Tire
Our take: A specialist tire that's actually very versatile -- and affordably priced.
What we like: Heavy-duty six-ply off-road sports tire. Great in the mud, but also good on dry, loose trails. Wide range of sizes. Excellent value.
What we dislike: Not much. Aggressive tread will tear up lawns.
Choice 3: Carlisle's HD Field Trax ATV Tire
Our take: Very popular general-purpose tire minimizes damage on grassy areas.
What we like: Good traction without major impact on softer terrain. Non-directional tread makes for easy steering. Decent range of sizes -- some street legal.
What we dislike: Expensive. Two-ply construction not for serious off-road use.
Bob Beacham is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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