Axles, Drive Belts, and Wheel Spacers: Get More Out of Your ATV with Aftermarket Upgrades

ATV with Aftermarket Upgrades

Last updated on December 6th, 2023 at 09:49 pm

If you want something small, light, and easy to throw around on dirt trails and rocky terrain, look no further than ATVs. They’re cheap to buy, easy to maintain, and even easier to ride. This is how most kids get into riding before they graduate to full-on dirt bikes or larger ADVs. 

That’s not to say ATVs of any size lack grunt. On the contrary, ATVs come with engines that spurt out all the power you need. Plus, the ride is both comfortable and forgiving, with wide sprung seats, capable suspension, and lively handling. Essentially, they’re dirt bikes on four wheels with extra padding for the backside. 

And like all bikes built for hard rides, they’ll need a bit more attention when it comes to parts. Regardless of which brand you own, or how much money you’ve splurged on your ATV, some parts like axles or CV boots won’t last long. If you’re into dirt riding, filters and intake parts are also the first to go. In cases like these, you can go with OEM replacements that replicate the performance the quad bike came with, or choose from the multitude of aftermarket options that offer a bit more. 

ATV Axles

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Axles on ATVs have several vital roles. They either support the weight of the rider and vehicle, in what are called solid or straight axles or come as half-shaft types with fitted CV boots or joints that make maneuvering your ATV possible. The first is commonly found on the rear and half-shafts up front. These transfer the power from the engine and transmission through the wheels. As such, they’re put through tremendous loads from the engine torque while keeping the vehicle stable when going through thick and thin. 

Factory axles are all good until they fail. Manufacturers are known to cut corners here to keep overall prices down, but this often means issues with bearings and boots, or in more severe instances, broken shafts. Any issues will affect performance to the point that the ATV won’t budge and you know it’s time for a replacement. 

Common signs before this happens are clicking or popping sounds from the wheels when accelerating or braking, and excessive vibrations. Torn boots additionally mean lost lubrication and water and dirt do the rest of the damage. 

If you’ll willing to risk it or find yourself in the middle of nowhere and on a quad bike with a failing axle, chances are you can make it home. But you’ll be doing more harm than good. Especially related components, like the suspension. Fortunately, finding a decently-made aftermarket ATV axle at a decent price is a straightforward task. The only thing you have to worry about is going with a quality brand. 

Aftermarket axles show their strength in two key areas- strength and durability. They’re better made, often in oversized diameters, and use quality materials. Even a cheaper replacement ATV axle is made of thicker high-grade steel and is paired with neoprene boots in half-shaft types to get the best in wheel articulation and efficient power transfer. 

Spend a little more and you’re looking at heat-treated Chromoly steel for higher strength to get you through bigger jumps and rocks in one piece, and prevent damage and rust buildup when traversing through water or mud. They also fare better with higher heat when you’re harder on the throttle. A bonus is the use of higher-grade bearings, as these are the first factory parts to show signs of wear. 

You can swap out single quad bike axles or do the reasonable thing and get them in pairs. This ensures you get equal performance on both left and right sides, and the ATV won’t be acting up in turns. There’s no major price difference between solid and driven axles with fitted CV boots. You’ll just have to shop for something compatible with your ATV brand and model in terms of drive setup, size, and fit. 

Drive Belts

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Drive belts are found in ATVs with a CVT transmission. You’ll find one in the crankcase cover where it connects the primary drive and secondary driven clutches. They help in the transfer of power from the engine to axles to wheels, so directly impact how your ATV performs. Oddly enough, these too are parts that can tear or snap when you push the ATV too hard. Most factory belts are rated for at least 1000 miles or 6 six months, so you’ll be regularly changing them out when the new season comes. 

Belts come in three material options – rubber, Kevlar, or carbon fibre. Rubber is the cheapest choice, but offers steady performance on casual rides in more moderate terrain. It does wear out quite fast, but for the price, it can’t be beaten. If you need better heat tolerance and flexibility when running the ATV through its paces, Kevlar drive belts are hard-wearing, more durable, and exhibit less elongation. And they’ll last in rides with the throttle turned to max. 

For the best performance and longevity, turn to carbon variants. Drive belts in carbon have the highest tensile strength out of all three materials, can endure very high heat much longer, and have minimal stretch. They’re also the lightest and suited to extreme riding. 

When choosing belts, either as replacements or upgrades, consider the performance you want out of the machine. High-end variants in multi-layer construction and specific tooth designs are still very affordable and well worth the few extra dollars. And they can get through more than one season when properly maintained. 

Wheel Spacers

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Wheel spacers are a necessity when fitting wider tires like those you’ll be using in thick mud or deeper snow. They provide more stability and a wider track, so improve traction and safety over different surfaces. Spacers are also required when going with bigger tires and aiming for more ground clearance. You’ll want them in technical terrain filled with undulations and on steeper climbs, but they prove worthy with more stability on hard-packed trails and pavement as well. 

Spacers can be optioned in thinner half-inch varieties to anywhere as thick as three inches. This means you get an additional 6 inches of track to work with. The benefit is less likelihood of tipping over, particularly when going at speed. There are specific hub and bolt designs to fit specific wheels, so finding what’s right is relatively simple. Another bonus is that they can give your quad bike a meaner stance if that’s your sort of thing.

No matter if you need axles, belts, or spacers, make sure you’re buying from trusted retailers or factory direct from respected parts makers. Also, remember to check warranties and return policies in case something goes wrong. Going with aftermarket ATV products brings more choice, higher quality, added performance, and lower prices.

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