ATV Alignment Tips
ATV Steering and Alignment Tuning Guide
Does your ATV veer sideways when the handle bars are straight? Do your front tires wear unevenly? Are your tires less than parallel? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you probably need to tune your ATV’s steering!
Proper Tire Inflation
The first thing to do for proper wheel alignment is to ensure your tires have the proper pressure. Grab a tire gauge, remove the tire nozzle cap and check the current pressure of each tire. How do you know what the proper inflation should be? On the sidewall of each tire there will be listed a MAX INFLATION number. Usually for ATV tires this around 24 PSI (pounds per square inch).
A good rule of thumb is to inflate each tire to 70-80% of the MAX value (so for max 24 PSI tires, inflate to about 18 PSI). Use an air compressor or visit your local gas station to inflate your tires.
Wheel Alignment (Toe Angle)
To check if your alignment is off, turn your handle bars to dead straight. Now stand in front of your ATV and look at the angles your tires make with respect to the ATV’s frame. Imagine a line going down the center of your ATV from back to front. Both front wheels should be parallel to this line when your handle bars are straight (this is called toe angle).
To adjust toe angle, you must adjust the tie rods of your ATV’s steering assembly. The tie rods connect the wheels to the steering column. On most Gio ATV’s, the tie rod is a hexagonal (6-sided) metal rod that is positioned behind the front axle. The tie rod usually has a movable joint on each end, which connects to the wheel assembly and the steering column.
The tie rod has threads on each end; one end has left-hand (normal) threads, and the other end has right-hand (reverse) threads. What does this mean? When you rotate the rod around the bolts it attaches to, it will either unscrew or screw in on both ends simultaneously. In this way, the tie rods can be easily adjusted, right and left wheelindependent from each other.
Your tie rods should allow some room for adjustment when they are correctly straight. This means that part of the thread will show on either side of the tie rod. If this is not the case, your tie rod may not be properly sized or properly installed. To adjust the toe angle, first loosen the nuts on either end of the tie rod. Once this is done, use a wrench to rotate the tie rod the desired amount.
If facing towards the steering column of your ATV, rotating the tie rod clockwise will shorten the overall length, causing your wheel to “Toe Out”, meaning the front of the wheel will angle away from the center of your ATV. Rotating the tie rod counter-clockwise will increase the overall length, causing your wheel to “Toe In”, meaning the front of the wheel will angle towards the center of your ATV. Adjust the tie rod until your wheels are straight when the handle bars are straight. Once complete, tighten the nuts on the each end of the tie rod tightly with a wrench.
What if your tie rod is not symmetric?
On the wheel side of the tie rod is a universal ball joint with a bolt that inserts into the wheel assembly, usually secured by a castle nut and a cotter pin. First, remove the cotter pin and then unscrew the castle nut from the joint bolt. You will probably need to elevate and jack the ATV’s frame up so that there is not downward pressure on the suspension. Next, remove the joint bolt from the wheel assembly hole so the tie rod is free to be moved around. This may require moving the handle bars back and forth until the tie rod is free.
Once the tie rod is free, unscrew the wheel-side ball joint and set it aside. Next, unscrew the tie rod from the steering column-side ball joint. You should now have the tie rod standing alone. Make sure the nuts are screwed onto the joint bolts on both sides. Now, screw the steering column-side nut completely onto the joint bolt. Next, screw the tie rod completely onto the steering column-side joint bolt, until there is no thread left showing. Next, screw the nut and wheel-side ball joint bolt completely onto the tie rod so there is no thread showing (remember this side will be reversed threaded, so you have to turn to the opposite direction from normal).
You can now reinsert the wheel-side ball joint (on the end of the tie rod) back into the wheel assembly hole. The alignment will probably not be correct, but this can be adjusted later. Resecure the castle nut onto the joint bolt and insert a new cotter pin through the joint bolt. The suspension and steering is now reassembled. Now just follow the steps above to realign the steering to the proper toe angle!
What if you can’t get the proper toe angle after all this? You probably have bent components in your steering/suspension or you have the wrong tie rod for your ATV. Contact an experienced mechanic at this point.
To adjust camber, you need to adjust the upper arm of the suspension. First, jack up or elevate the front of the ATV frame to take pressure off the suspension. The upper suspension arm connects to the wheel assembly at the wheel-side end of the upper arm, usually with a large bolt and three nuts. To adjust this, you will need to remove the upper arm ball joint from the wheel assembly. To do this, remove the cotter pin from the upper joint, and then unscrew the castle nut from the upper joint bolt (see previous diagram with labels). You may need to also remove the cotter pin and castle nut from the lower suspension arm joint bolt as well to allow room to remove the upper arm.
With this nut off, remove the upper arm ball joint from the wheel assembly hole. Loosen the nut on the wheel-side of the upper arm connection bolt. This will allow you to move the upper arm connection bolt in or out. Adjust the bolt the necessary amount to straighten the camber. After this, retighten the wheel-side nut. Now, reinsert the ball joint bolt into the wheel assembly hole, screw the castle nut back on, and insert a new cotter pin through the joint bolt. Retighten anything else on the suspension you may have loosened. Inspect the camber angles, and if they are now straight, you are done!
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