If you want a smoother ride on your ATV, then adjusting the suspension is the way to go. You’ve never touched your ATV’s suspension before though, so you’re feeling a little nervous about doing it. How do you adjust your ATV’s suspension?
To adjust your ATV suspension, check the tire pressure and refill if necessary. Then adjust your ride height using the snail cam or threaded collar. Next, set your high-speed and low-speed clicker and your rebound and compression and you’re all finished!
If it sounds like we were speaking an entirely different language here, don’t worry. In this guide, we’ll first explain how your ATV suspension system works, then how to adjust it. By the time you’re done reading, you’ll feel confident when handling your suspension.
What Is an ATV Suspension System? All the Components
Your ATV suspension system is comprised of a multitude of parts, but the two most important ones are the shocks (short for shock dampeners or shock absorbers) and the springs.
Without those two parts, your suspension system will feel as jagged as sandpaper.
Besides the shocks and springs, an ATV suspension system also includes clickers. Let’s talk about all three of these components now.
Your ATV has one of two different kinds of shocks, either oil-filled or gas shocks.
A gas shock is more adjustable, which is quite convenient, as you can tune it to your ATV’s chassis settings. The performance of gas shocks is exceptional.
Oil-filled shocks, also known as hydraulic shocks, are the more common of the two since they’re lower-cost.
An oil-filled shock will feature a tube, some valves, and a piston. The tube houses the oil and the piston.
The tube also features a series of valves that can open to allow for more oil or close to reduce the amount of oil.
The purpose of shock absorbers or shocks is to keep the spring–which we’ll talk more about in just a moment–from taking too much of the force of every bump and impact.
That’s why they’re called shock absorbers; they absorb the brunt of your ATV riding.
That’s how you get a smooth ATV ride.
The next component of an ATV suspension system is the springs.
Depending on how you’re driving your ATV, the springs will either compress or release. The purpose of the springs is to maintain wheel stability so the wheels are as close to the ground at all times.
If you were to drive over a large slope that would send your wheels up, the springs will compress to prevent any bodily impact to you. The springs then push the tires back down so you can maintain your control and traction on your ATV.
Your rate of acceleration shouldn’t slow one iota, either!
The springs need the shocks to keep the springs from moving and wobbling this way and that, which would make for quite the unpleasant ATV experience.
There’s one last component of your ATV suspension system, the clickers.
Remember how we mentioned before that the valves in oil-filled shocks can determine how much oil the shocks receive? Well, part of how that happens is due to the clicker.
A clicker, despite what the name might make you envision, is a screw, nut, or knob on the shock.
You can turn it to allow more oil or less. In doing so, you’re also affecting the compression of your ATV, which we’ll discuss in the next section.
So why are these little parts called clickers, you ask? They do make an audible clicking sound as you turn them.
Older ATVs will have a single clicker system, but newer models may be equipped with low-speed and high-speed clickers.
A low-speed clicker is for little maneuvers on your ATV and intended for mildly uneven terrain.
High-speed clickers are for higher-impact maneuvers, including jumps.
ATV Suspension Rebound and Compression
We mentioned above that setting the clicker settings will affect your ATV’s compression, but what does that even mean? And what is rebound? Let’s investigate.
ATV compression is technically an adjustment you can make. It’s a measure of how much the shock will compress each time you do a jump on your ATV or run over a gnarly bump.
Another way to think of compression is as a damping setting. The compression can influence how quickly the shaft of the shock moves into the shock body.
The right compression speed is usually somewhere right in the middle. When the compression is slow, the shocks are likelier to bottom out since they compress into and out of the shaft body at too rapid a rate.
If you set the compression too fast, then the shocks become stiff, and your ride does as well. Using your ATV could be a rather painful experience at that point.
In that same vein is rebound, which involves the springs of your suspension system.
Since they’re springs that can bounce out of and into position, they can rebound at a faster or slower rate. What that rate is all depends on what you select for the rebound settings.
Once again, somewhere in the middle for rebound is best.
Shocks with a slower rate of rebound force the springs to compress each and every time you go over a bump in the road, which can be often depending on where you’re riding.
When the rate of rebound is too high, your ride will feel jerky, bumpy, and out of control.
How to Adjust Your ATV Suspension System
Now that you understand the parts of your ATV suspension system better, it’s time to talk about how you can adjust the system as a whole. Per the steps in the intro, here’s how it’s done.
Step 1 – Check Your Tire Pressure
To start, take your pressure gauge and determine the amount of pressure in each tire of your ATV.
Although this might seem like an unrelated task, it’s truly anything but. Without the right tire pressure, you won’t be able to properly tweak the shocks to improve the smoothness and quality of your ride.
If the pressure of any of the tires is a little low, you should refill that tire with air so the pressure is consistent across all the tires.
Step 2 – Preload the Shocks
Next, you need to do what’s known as preloading the shocks.
In other words, you’re setting your ideal ride height.
How do you do this? You’ll need to access either the snail cam or the threaded collar on the shocks. Your ATV will have one of the two but not both.
That said, you might see a locking ring attached to the threaded collar on the shocks. If so, this is a good thing, as now you can adjust the preload more flexibly.
We would recommend opening up your owner’s manual and reading through. In the manual, the manufacturer will present a preferred range for the threaded collar.
A lower preload will produce softer riding conditions with more flexibility and lower pressure. Your ride height will be lower.
A higher preload will be stiffer and less flexible, but your ride height will be higher.
The key when preloading the shocks is to keep the adjustments consistent in every corner, of which there are four in all.
To reduce the preload, loosen the locking collar. Likewise, you can tighten the locking collar for a higher preload.
Your ATV might include a double locker ring. In that case, you need to loosen the ring to make any adjustments.
Then, rotate the adjuster ring so your suspension is looser or tighter. Then tighten the double locker ring again. A hammer and punch comes in handy here.
What if your ATV has a snail cam instead? That will be located underneath the shock.
You can still use the snail cam for adjusting the suspension. With a lower adjustment, your ride height is lower and the suspension softer. With a higher adjustment, your ride height is higher and the suspension is stiffer.
Step 3 – Adjust the Clickers
After preloading, it’s time to set the clickers.
Start with the low-speed clicker if your ATV has one. How you’ll adjust the low-speed clicker varies based on how your ride feels when you currently use your ATV.
You’ll know the low-speed clicker needs adjusting if your ATV rides extremely stiff.
You also don’t want to feel like you’re on a bucking bronco that’s going to throw you out of your seat, as that indicates the low-speed clicker needs some hardening.
Keep the changes small. Use trial and error to determine how your ride feels after tinkering with the low-speed clicker and keep repeating that until it’s good.
Then move on to the high-speed clicker. The same sort of trial-and-error approach works here. You only need to do two clicks at a time to make a huge difference in how your ATV rides.
For stiffer suspension, turn the high-speed clicker to the left. For looser compression, adjust it to the right.
Step 4 – Set the Compression
Now you can dampen your ATV’s compression.
Check the shock body and you should spot a knob.
If not there, then the knob will be on your shock reservoir. This knob is how you adjust the compression.
Okay, so it’s not always exclusively a knob. Some ATV models might feature a screw head that has a slot for turning. It works the same way as a knob and achieves the same purpose.
The flow of the oil should be somewhere in between too much and too little.
Step 5 – Set the Rebound
On the bottom of your shock, you’ll find the rebound adjustor.
When your ATV bounces a lot after you make a jump, then you need to adjust the rebound.
You can do this by rotating the adjustor screw, then getting on your ATV, testing it out, and adjusting the screw further if necessary.
Step 6 – Go for a Ride and Have Fun!
Now that your ATV is properly adjusted, you’re ready to get out there and ride without the suspension feeling painfully stiff or dangerously bouncy.
Feel free to tinker with the suspension again the next time something seems off.
Adjusting your ATV suspension is crucial for a smooth, reliable ride every time.
This is one of those ATV jobs you can do yourself, and it’s very satisfying when you get all the parts perfectly aligned and your ride feels great.
Now that you know what to do, you can finetune your ATV suspension. Good luck!