Quad riders are divided on the topic of quad wheel spacers. There are some riders who prefer ATVs in their stock configuration, while others install wheel spacers for ATV for performance-enhancing or purely aesthetic purposes. These accessories have their benefits and drawbacks. Experienced riders recommend learning about them before making a buying decision.
How They Work
Quad wheel spacers are a special accessory that can widen the distance between the wheels by up to six inches. They also create extra space inside the wheel wells. The vehicle gets a wider, more stable stance, and the rider gets several additional benefits and a few drawbacks.
Let’s start with the benefits. There are a few riding scenarios where customized vehicles outperform those without ATV spacers.
Using Tire Chains
Most quads aren’t meant to be used with chains. But tire chains become necessary if you are planning to do some winter riding. Wheel spacers prevent chains from hitting brake lines, fenders, and the exhaust muffler thanks to increased clearance. For this purpose, you won’t need accessories thicker than two inches.
When you try going up hilly trails, you risk losing your balance and rolling over. ATV wheel spacers prevent your vehicle from flipping thanks to better sideways stability. A wider wheelbase makes most slopes less challenging to climb. Wheel spacers allow you to take more risks without injuring yourself or damaging the vehicle.
High-Speed Driving on Paved Roads
Check whether your local laws allow riding ATVs and UTVs on public roads. If that’s the case, spacers can improve your safety on paved surfaces by making your ride more stable. Some quads can go faster than 80 mph, but they lack sufficient protection compared to cars. If you take sharp turns at high speeds, you risk flipping and seriously injuring yourself.
Swapping Tires for Bigger Ones
ATV wheel spacers allow installing wider tires on almost any ATV. This is much cheaper than buying a new set of rims. Both approaches add space to the inner side of the wheel wells. These accessories prevent tires from hitting any sensitive parts. They also add to the “monster quad” aesthetic.
Upgrades Cost Less
Going with ATV wheel spacers is generally faster and much cheaper than doing extensive modding like swapping the rims for bigger ones. Yes, quality spacers can be pricey, but they cost only a fraction of more expensive parts.
Improved Driver Safety
Stability equals safety. In general, spacers make your ride smoother, especially if you are driving on straight tracks. However, increased safety comes at the cost of agility.
A slightly wider stance makes your quad look more rugged and aggressive. You can always take them off if you want to return to the more subdued default look.
While the benefits are self-evident, the drawbacks require paying attention. You can also minimize some of them by installing thinner spacers.
Potential Damage to Drivetrain
The biggest issue with spacers is the strain that they put on multiple drivetrain components. Your ATV’s axles and ball joints experience additional wear and become more likely to break. Experts advise against installing accessories thicker than two inches. The strain becomes greater as the distance between the wheels increases.
If your quad model doesn’t have a power steering system, you will be required to apply more force handling the quad. Your arms will tire quicker, leading to fatigue and muscle strain. Even with power steering more input is needed, since the steering control’s center is not aligned properly anymore. Spacers can cause premature wear of electronic and mechanical components.
The feedback becomes more noticeable. When you hit a small ditch or a bump, your handlebar steers itself a little. This twitch is called a bar whip. A pro-tip is to install spacers at the rear, and leave the front wheels as they are. This approach won’t affect your steering.
Narrow Gates and Dense Forests
Narrow, muddy trails may become impassable for a quad that has a wider wheelbase. Please note that some recreational trails have a fixed maximum width. If your wheelbase exceeds 50 inches, driving on such trails becomes illegal.
Your quad may get stuck in a narrow pass or between the trees. You won’t be able to ride through some gates.
Not Enough Trailer Space
If you carry your ATV on a truck bed or in a trailer, it may no longer fit after modifications.
Dirt, Sand and the Elements
Using thicker spacers will leave you without protection from dirt and sand. Buy additional accessories like fender flares, or avoid dirty trails altogether.
Is using ATV wheel spacers a sensible choice? Yes, if you need to install bigger wheels or tire chains for the winter season. Buy spacers from a reputable manufacturer. Consider the drawbacks like the more difficult steering and additional wear before making a buying decision.