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When should you use high vs. low gear on your ATV?

When should you use high vs. low gear on your ATV?

There are few experiences more exhilarating than riding an ATV across rough terrain. However, it is essential that, before you get strapped in and ready for an intense dose of trail riding, you take a moment to understand how to properly ride your vehicle. After all, with great power comes great responsibility. Indeed, it’s important to make sure not to compromise your safety or that of those around you. In this article, we explain everything you need to know about low vs. high ATV gear. 


What do high and low refer to on a four wheeler?

High and low on a four-wheel drive are the gears that you use depending on the driving conditions. For example, 4WD high is what you should use in situations that are low-traction but relatively high-speed (dirt road, snowy roads, etc.) whereas 4WD low is best for slow off-roading.

It is essential that you know the difference between high and low gear, when to use them, and how to effectively use your gear selector, as it will determine how your ATV rides and how safe you are while driving it. It’s important to drive in the correct gear as doing otherwise will ruin the integrity of your four-wheeler. 

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What is the difference between low and high gear?

The difference between high and low gear is how much vehicle power the ATV receives. On average, the lower the gear, the more power you can put into your ATV. 

You should always be aware of not only the terrain that you are driving on, but also any terrain that may be upcoming, as it will mean that you will have to change gears. 


How do you know when to use low or high gear?

Knowing when to use high or low ATV gear is all about intuition and knowing the kind of ride you want to have. If you want a faster, more exhilarating ride, you will need to be in low gear. If you want to play it safe, and are on terrain that does not require a lot of power, you will need to be in a high gear. Knowing what gear to use at what time is something that comes with experience. The more you ride, the better you will get at switching gears.

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Is it better to drive in high gear?

It is not necessarily better to drive in high gear, but drivers often do it for convenience. Sometimes, ATV drivers perpetually leave their vehicle in high gear. However, this can cause serious problems further down the line. If you are only driving at high speeds, you could damage the drive belt of your ATV which can cause serious problems with your engine further down the line and add to your ATV maintenance expenses. 

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When should high gear be used on an ATV?

Below are some examples of when you should use high gear on your ATV.

Driving at high speed 

Just like with the gears on a regular car, the faster you are going, the higher the gear should be. Lower gears are designed to give your car a boost if it is doing slow speeds which need more power whereas a higher gear caters to a vehicle that is already traveling fast. However, it’s important to remember that, when driving fast in high gear, you need to switch down gears to reduce your speed. This is known as engine braking.  

As most ATV trails are designed to allow riders to go fast, most riders will tell you that they go around trails in high gear. This is a good option for some, but we encourage you to thoroughly look through your user manual to understand what your vehicle can cope with. Sometimes, continuously driving in high gear can damage your ATV.

Driving on smooth surfaces 

High gear is not designed for heavy-duty riding. If you are faced with a steep incline, or a rocky terrain, you are going to need more power than if you are riding along a fairly flat and smooth surface. If you are riding along a smoother surface, you should be in high gear as it will ensure that your engine output is not too high and will help maintain a safe and consistent ride.

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When should low gear be used on an ATV? 

Just as there are certain scenarios that are more suited to high gear, there are also scenarios which are more suited to low gear. Below are some of the most common instances in which you should be using low gear on your ATV. 

Driving on a steep hill 

Any kind of incline calls for low gear. The steeper the hill and the harder the climb, the more integral low gear is. Many people think that you only need to use low gear if you are going up a hill, but it is also smart to use it when going down, as it can provide you with more control over your vehicle. 

While low gear is your best friend in these situations, it is best to use your own judgment and assess whether or not the hill you want to scale is safely doable. If you decide that it is, remember to keep your engine idling for a second or two before you make your ascent in low gear. 

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Driving through mud 

The very nature of ATV trails means that you are going to encounter mud. This can be a huge nuisance, and even, sometimes, dangerous. In this scenario, low gear is the way to go. 

Although high gear is good for going fast, it does not have the kind of power required to get you through thick troves of mud. You should shift your car into low gear if you know you will be facing muddy conditions. 

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Shop for ATV accessories

Riding an ATV is all about getting the experience that you want out of it. It is both a hobby and a sport designed to allow you to thrive in exhilarating conditions. Once you know how to properly ride your ATV and are sure that you will be safe on the trails, there are different things that you can do to customize your vehicle and adjust it to your riding preferences. At Perfex Industries, we sell ATV accessories such as foot pegs, lift kits, skid plates and wheel spacers so that you can personalize your ATV. 

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