It’s the most important thing you have to do to go for a ride, but it doesn’t make your ride any better. That’s right, we’re talking about tying down your UTV. It’s the only ride-related chore you have to do multiple times for every ride. And if you do it wrong, it’s a chore that can add a lot of stress. So if you want to know how to tie down a UTV on a trailer the right way, we’re here to help.
By the time you’re done here, you’ll know exactly what you’re doing and why whether that’s choosing the right straps or how and where to anchor.
Probably the single most important part of tying down a UTV to a trailer is choosing the right tie downs. There are a few different common options to choose from:
We’ll take a look at each.
Ratchet straps are our preferred trailer tie down. They’re versatile and easy to use. Odds are you’ve already got a load of these laying around somewhere. Not to mention, they’re lightweight and can be easily stored in your garage or truck.
One thing to keep in mind is that you can’t use just any ratchet straps. A strap that’s strong enough to secure a piece of furniture in your trailer is not equal to a heavy-duty strap designed for your 1,800 lb. side-by-side. We recommend straps somewhere in the range of a 1,500 lb. working load.
The one downside to straps is that they can fray if they rub against any part of your machine. It’s just something to watch out for.
If you want to go with the proper old-school tie down method, go for chains.
Chains, however, are not as user friendly as ratchet straps. They’re heavy and bulky. You’ll have to dedicate a lot of space just to store them. They require special chain binders that can be tricky to use for a new rider.
The big advantage of chains is that they’re strong and durable. Apart from corrosion that can be mitigated by choosing anti-corrosion alloys or with a spray-on protectant, a set of chains will outlast straps every time.
You just have to decide if the strength is worth the trouble.
There are many special tie down solutions you can use on your trailer. These are straps and devices that mount permanently to your trailer. They make tying anything down easy, but they lack the versatility of ratchet straps or chains.
One popular strap is called a cargo buckle. It’s basically a spring loaded ratchet strap that mounts permanently to your trailer. When you’re ready to tie down your UTV, you just pull the strap out like a seatbelt, hook it to your machine, and then ratchet it down for tension. It’s easy and convenient, but it’s a one-trick pony.
An alternative and even safer method for securing a UTV to a trailer is to use tire bonnets. There are a variety of tire bonnets that are all used to secure your wheels directly to the trailer. There are three main styles:
E-tracks are a special type of slotted track that bolts directly to the bed of your trailer to match your vehicle’s track width. You drive over the track, then use special ratchet straps with E-buckles that fit into the slot. Throw one strap over each wheel, ratchet them down, and you’re done!
Chocks and straps work similarly, although they’re a bit more machine specific. This setup requires you to bolt the chocks to your trailer’s bed right where your UTV’s tires sit, then use straps to secure the wheels to the chocks. Unlike E-tracks, chocks and straps can’t be used on vehicles of different lengths.
Finally, you’ve got the classic tire nets. These are the traditional tire bonnets and are sometimes referred to as tire baskets as well. These sit over the tire and then hook to your trailer like a ratchet strap. All you have to do is find a good anchor point on your trailer, tighten it, and you’re good to go. Easy peasy.
Before you entrust your fifteen grand side-by-side to a few metal links or pieces of fabric, it’s important to make sure they’re gonna do the job they’re built for.
For any strap, check for fraying along the edges. Make sure the hooks are still securely bound to the strap and have no structural issues. If they’ve been around the block a few times, look for any rust on any metal parts. If you notice anything, go ahead and replace it.
Inspecting a chain is more straightforward. Look for deep corrosion and pits—anything that might signal a compromised link. If a link has some burgeoning structural failure, you’ll notice elongation of the link before anything else. Again, replace it if you notice anything.
Don’t take chances with your tie downs. Making sure they’re in perfect condition is cheap insurance for your UTV and trailer.
There are a few different methods to tie down a UTV on a trailer. The first decision you’ll have to make is whether you want to compress your suspension or not.
The rule of thumb for towing vehicles is that you don’t want to compress the suspension. That’s because in theory, if you tie down at a point that compresses your suspension, the strap or chain could loosen momentarily when your trailer goes over a bump. That tiny loosening and tightening happens hundreds of times every time you tow your machine somewhere, and each one is like a tiny shock load. Basically, it can wear out your straps and chains fast.
But, in practice, compressing the suspension doesn’t really cause many issues for us. It’s fast and easy, and with a little knowhow, you can get by without directly securing your tires to the trailer. Don’t worry about damaging your shocks either, as manufacturers ship new machines on compressed suspension (in crates) as well. If they’re not worried about blowing shocks, then we’re not worried either.
The process of tying down a UTV is pretty straightforward. Just follow these steps, and you’ll be headed to the trail in no time.
You want to position your UTV as far forward in the trailer as possible. It doesn’t matter if you’re facing forward or not. We sometimes like to back the UTV on when we’re in our driveway so that we have an easier and safer time unloading at the sometimes unpredictable staging areas at a park.
If you’re still looking for the right trailer to haul your UTV, check out this helpful guide.
If you have a flip windshield, you’ll want to keep it closed if your machine is facing forward and keep it closed if it’s facing backwards.
Once you’re in position, set your UTV to neutral. This will keep tension off the transmission when you’re tightening everything down. Don’t worry, if your straps aren’t tight enough to keep it in place, you’ve got bigger problems.
Even if you’re tying down in a way that will compress the suspension, you want to keep that compression at a minimum. This is accomplished by finding anchor points that are low to the trailer bed and keeping the straps at low angles.
Ideally, you’ll want to attach to your lower A-arms and trailing arms as close to the wheels as possible. Otherwise, find an easily accessible spot on the frame to hook your tie downs to. Don’t wrap a strap around something and hook it to itself—that’s a good way to destroy your strap.
Do your best to avoid allowing your strap or chain to rub on anything else on your machine as well. This will wear out your strap or cause damage to your machine if you’re using a chain.
This may seem obvious, but make sure you have a strap in each corner pulling on the machine symmetrically. This will help keep it stable.
Finally, tighten everything down as tight as you can get it. If you kept your straps low enough, there should be minimal compression on the shocks. Once everything’s tensioned, go through and double check that everything’s still holding onto where you hooked it. If it’s all set, then you’re good to go.
The steps to secure your wheels to the trailer without compressing the suspension are pretty much the same as using straps or chains—just ditch the straps and grab your tire bonnets.
Set them evenly over each tire then attach them to the anchor points on your trailer. Tighten them up and then you’re ready to roll.
When you’re ready to unload, make sure you’re on flat ground. Then cut the tension on each strap. Clear the straps out of the way, get behind the wheel, and pull off carefully. Keep an eye on people mulling about and consider using a spotter to keep you rolling off straight.
And that’s all there is to it. With a proper tie down technique, you can keep your UTV on the trailer for hours of safe highway driving.