Do you ever stop and think about what makes your ATV or UTV tick? What moving parts keep that big hunk of metal planted firmly on the ground and moving forward? (Or backward… or flipped over after attempting to climb a hill that turned out to be a little more than you bargained for—hey, we’re not here to judge.)
If you’re a mechanic or someone who handles all of your vehicle repairs by yourself, you probably have. But for the rest of us, the answer is probably not. After all, why would you? As long as it gets you from Point A to Point B and you have a hell of a time doing it, why does it matter?
Understanding the parts is important because the more you know, the easier it is to diagnose and fix things when something goes wrong. Familiarizing yourself with your vehicle’s insides also makes it easier to upgrade and adjust those parts to get a better ride experience.
And when it comes to making adjustments, nothing can impact the feel of your ride more than messing around with the suspension. So today we’re giving you a basic rundown of your ATV or UTV’s suspension. We’ll look at each individual part and talk about how they connect to one another and what happens when they fail.
After this quick episode of “ATV/UTV Suspension 101,” we hope you’ll feel more confident the next time your rig starts making a funky noise or handling differently.
In the simplest terms, your machine’s suspension is made up of all the parts connecting your vehicle to the road.
The suspension serves multiple purposes:
The suspension is comprised of dozens of complex parts. For the purposes of today’s discussion, we’re going to break these parts down into four categories: shocks, suspension arms, ball joints and bushings, and steering linkages.
We’ll lay out the purpose of each part and also take a look at common failure points and symptoms for each one.
Your machine has springs to absorb big bumps in the road and shock absorbers that dampen the motion of those springs. This is what keeps you from bouncing around like crazy every time you hit a rut or obstacle.
ATV and UTV shocks can last for years as long as they’re maintained and you’re not getting too crazy on the trails. It is possible for springs to break if you hit a bump too hard, and some will start to sag after many years of use. But in general, your shocks are less prone to failure than other suspension components.
So when it comes to replacing shocks, it’s usually because the rider wants an upgrade—not necessarily because there’s anything wrong with the stock ones. Upgrading your shocks can improve your handling and also add a personalized touch to your machine.
Whether you want to replace the shocks themselves or just the springs, SuperATV can help.
There are three types of suspension arms at work in your machine. Think of the arms as the pieces that hold everything together.
A-arms, also known as control arms, connect the wheels to your vehicle. One end connects to the wheel assembly and the other end connects to your frame. They keep your camber stable and give your shock something to push against in order to give you a comfortable ride.
A-arms are located at both at the front of your machine, and sometimes in the rear too. Most models have both upper and lower A-arms, but there are some that only use lowers. The A-arms attach to the wheel hub using a ball joint, and to the chassis using a bushing. (We’ll talk more about those parts in a little bit.)
Some control arms include adjustable attachment points to the machine’s frame. This is why riders love SuperATV A-arms. They all feature adjustable pivot blocks that allow you to dial in your camber and maintain perfect alignment.
Trailing arms are a suspension component located at the rear of your machine. These arms act as a pivot point running perpendicular to the length of your machine. They prevent the rear axle from moving forward or backward while you’re riding.
Another type of suspension arm is the radius arm. Some other common terms for this part include radius rods, torque arms, torque springs, or torsion bars. These are usually (but not always) found on machines that use trailing arms. Radius arms are suspension links that control wheel motion in the longitudinal direction. They connect on one end to the wheel assembly and on the opposite end to your frame.
To get more lift out of these suspension arms, upgrade to some SuperATV parts. Our trailing arms and radius arms are bigger than stock and made with stronger material. That means they’re guaranteed to last longer than your OEM ones.
If you’re a casual rider who hasn’t made a bunch of crazy modifications to your machine, your stock suspension arms will probably last you for awhile. These aren’t parts that need replacing regularly in order to maximize performance—you’ll typically only need new ones if they break.
And breaking them is probably what will happen if you push it beyond casual. If you ride hard and spend a lot of time on tricky or rough terrain, your stock suspension arms may need an upgrade.
Like we mentioned earlier, your arms attach to your machine using ball joints and bushings. Both of these are considered “wear-and-tear” parts. They require regular maintenance and replacement in order to keep things running smoothly.
A ball joint connects the arm to the wheel hub. It’s a small part, made up of a steel ball enclosed in a socket. In terms of movement, it works similarly to a joint in your body by allowing the wheel to move left, right, up, and down.
There’s no direct answer to the question of how long your ball joints will last. But factors like where you ride and how much weight your machine is carrying can affect how long you can go between replacing them.
Keep your ball joints running smoothly for longer through regular maintenance, namely in the form of greasing them. SuperATV has both heavy-duty and super-duty ball joints that are greaseable and serviceable. Being able to easily grease your ball joints helps them perform better and last longer.
A bushing is the connection point between a suspension arm and your ATV or UTV’s frame. This part usually consists of an outer metal sleeve, rubber or polyurethane bushing, and inner metal sleeve. Bushings help promote comfort and handling when you’re riding. Their primary purpose is to reduce friction, which also helps dampen noise and vibration.
Bushings deteriorate over time due to a number of causes—age, heat, exposure, heavy loads, and rough riding are some examples. If you hear weird noises when turning the wheel or knocking and clunking when going over bumps, it could mean your bushings are going bad. Some other symptoms of bad bushings include sticky or difficult steering and wheel shimmy, especially during acceleration.
Go longer between replacements by upgrading to SuperATV bushings. Ours are designed for the way we ride (hard and fast) and they absorb vibration better than OEM bushings.
Steering is one of the main factors that affects your ride quality. If your steering starts to get sloppy, you’re going to know right off the bat. But what parts are in control when you point your wheels in a certain direction? Let’s take a look.
Tie rods connect the steering rack to the steering arm, which is then attached to your wheel. Think of them as the pivot point between these three locations. Tie rods are thin, cylindrical structures made of high-strength steel.
Over time, tie rods can give out thanks to normal wear and tear. But another common cause of tie rod failure is rugged trail conditions. The harder you ride, the quicker they’re going to need replacing.
The part connecting your tie rod to the vehicle is called the tie rod end. It has a rounded end with a perpendicular threaded bolt that inserts into the knuckle. Rounded bearings allow the bolt to pivot, and the end is covered by a protective boot to keep debris out.
Tie rod ends carry a lot of weight while you’re riding, so they’re at risk for wearing out fairly quickly if you ride a lot.
Some symptoms of bad tie rods and tie rod ends include: uneven tire wear, front-end alignment issues, vibration or looseness in the steering wheel, and knocking or squeaking sounds when turning the wheel.
The worst-case scenario would be losing total control of your ATV or UTV. Because tie rods can go from bad to worse in a very short amount of time, it’s important to address the problem as soon as you start noticing any of these issues. Sometimes a simple alignment can fix the problem but most of the time, it’s time to replace them.
The good news—you don’t have to wait for them to go bad! Upgrade your stock tie rods and ends now to get more miles out of them. SuperATV has heavy-duty tie rod kits for almost every make and model. They’re bigger and stronger than stock, meaning they’ll last way longer.
Another part at play with your ATV or UTV’s steering is the rack and pinion. This system works by converting a revolving motion (the pinion, a circular gear) into linear motion (the rack, a linear gear).
The pinion sits on the rack, which is essentially a length of metal with teeth cut into it. As you turn the wheel, the pinion rotates, causing the rack to move either left or right. This is how your machine knows which way to go when you tell it to turn.
The rack and pinion can wear down over time, but a more common cause of failure is damage from impacts or rough riding. When this happens, you may experience loose or difficult steering or feel a pull when you try to turn the wheel.
When it’s time to replace that worn-out rack and pinion, you know SuperATV has got you covered. Our RackBoss Rack and Pinion kits include heavy-duty tie rods and are proven to last longer than OEM systems.
There are a lot of moving parts at play (literally) to keep your machine on the ground and your wheels turned in the right direction. The more you know about these parts, the better equipped you’ll be to diagnose and take care of issues when they happen.
And when it’s time to take care of said issues, don’t forget about us! Upgrading from OEM to SuperATV suspension parts is the best way to max out your ride time and keep repairs at a minimum.