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When I think about four wheel drive ATVs the first thing that comes to mind is MUDDING. Mudding can be a lot of fun but can also be very costly if not done the right way. This means making sure that your ATV is properly equipped to handle the mud that will be trying to creep into every orifice it can.
Now, can you go mudding with a stock 4WD ATV? Sure you can, but you will want to spend a little cash on modifications to save a lot of cash in the long run.
ATV mudding has become so popular that manufacturers are designing and building many of their ATVs specifically for mudding. If you have one of these models that has been designed for mudding, there are still mods that can be done to enhance your ride and give you better protection and performance.
As with anything, mods vary in the degree of effort and cost but there are several essential mods you can do at home. Other mods will require some trips to the shop so if you are not afraid of decking out your mud monster, then let’s dive in.
Purchase New Tires
The first thing on the list that should be done for any aspiring mudder is to get rid of those stock tires and get a nice set of mud tires. If all you are going to be doing is mudding and not trail riding, then go AGGRESSIVE with your tread. Riding in mud with an ATV is a whole lot of fun and if you really want to have a great time in the mud, it may be time to invest in the best mud tires you can afford.
Mud tires are made from specialized rubber and are generally much thicker than your normal all terrain tires. These tires have a thickness of 6 ply which helps prevent puncture if you happen to slam into a rock, log, or tree stump because you were not able to see it riding through the mud.
Most aggressive style mud tires come with very deep tread depths, around 1.5 inches, and the tread is normally spaced apart more than normal. This helps keep the mud from sticking in between the treads and caking up, causing your tires to lose grip.
Aggressive tires are not for everyone! Generally speaking, a more aggressive mud tire will often weigh more and ride rougher than a less aggressive all terrain tire. This is caused by deeper tread depths and wider spaced treads. These types of tires handle muddy terrain easily, but the overall ride quality in a non mud scenario will suffer greatly.
Get Rims With Beadlock
Along with tires comes a good set of rims to fit those tires. You want to grab a set of rims that have beadlock technology on them. A beadlock is a mechanical device that actually holds the tire in place on the wheel of your ATV. This design uses tire pressure to push the bead of the tire up against the wall of the rim or wheel and they rotate together.
This type of rim is fantastic for most mudders who like to run their tire pressure a bit low. This makes the tread of the tire spread out, creating more surface area for the tread to grip the terrain. For normal style rims, if the pressure is too low, there would not be enough pressure to keep the bead on the wheel and the bead would likely pop right off the rim if you tried to run a lower pressure.
Install Light Bars
Some might not consider this a modification for mudding but I most certainly do. Mudding can be an all day affair and the stock headlights on most ATVs are not that great. Nothing is worse than being out longer than expected and having to squint to be able to see where you are going. I want to be able to light up my path like a christmas tree and sure I can see what I need to.
In this case, some good quality LED light bars are a great option. Not only does this provide you with the ability to see better at night, but it makes it much easier for others to see you! Installing a light bar doesn’t take much effort, just make sure all the wires are tucked away nicely and protected from mud and water.
Do I Need a Winch On My ATV?
YES, a winch is a MUST HAVE if you want to go mudding because with mudding comes the inevitable getting stuck. If you have ever been mudding and gotten stuck then you know a winch is a life saver. Just wrap the cable around a tree and drag your ride right out that mud you just can’t seem to get yourself out of.
If you don’t have a winch, you better make sure you don’t go through mud that is too deep, or just bring a buddy who’s ATV has a winch installed.
Invest In A Snatch Block
If you use a winch on am ATV, then you NEED a snatch block installed. A snatch block is basically a pulley system that gives your winch mechanical advantage and lessens the load on the winch. It actually cuts the amount of force in half that the winch uses as pulling force.
Downsides to using a snatch block are that it uses twice as much cable and takes twice as long to winch. I wouldn’t call that much of a downside though since it will cause less stress on your winch and increase the life.
Get Yourself Bubba (Recovery) Rope
When a winch won’t cut it or you are faced in the wrong direction with your winch inaccessible, it is time to hook up to your buddies ATV and use a Bubba Rope to snatch your ATV. A Bubba Rope is a brand name of recovery rope that works extremely well. I can tell you first hand that a regular recovery rope can snap very easily when you try to snatch out a vehicle and can cause some serious injuries.
The good thing about Bubba Ropes is that they are made of nylon and have some stretch to them. This allows the energy from a moving vehicle to be carried through the rope to the stuck vehicle, allowing it to have more pulling force. These things will get you out of those really sticky, and muddy situations.
Install An Intake Snorkel
A snorkel for an ATV is just like a diver’s snorkel in principle. It allows the diver, the ATV in this case, to breath while submerged in water or mud as long as the snorkel stays above the surface. An intake snorkel is a long tube that is mounted on the intake that allows it to suck air in even when the ATV is submerged in mud. Mud and water in an intake will get into your engine which will just ruin your day.
Install Clutch Belt Housing Snorkels
You definitely don’t want water getting into your clutch area. You often see 3 snorkels popping out the top of most mudding ATVs. One is for the air intake and the other 2 are for the clutch housing intake and exhaust. That’s right, the clutch housing has an intake and an exhaust. These 2 snorkels will keep your belts nice and dry and save you a whole world of problems.
Install an Exhaust Snorkel
There is one more crucial snorkel we need to talk about and that is the exhaust snorkel. “But it is always pushing exhaust gasses out” you say. What happens when you stop giving it gas and the exhaust is submerged under water? Your engine just got a big old gulp of water inside it and that will kill the inside of an engine compartment.
Once you have all four of these snorkels installed your ATV will start to look a little like those tractors at the tractor pulls but now you know you probably won’t be sucking any water into your crucial components.
Get a Lift Kit Installed on Your ATV
The higher the lift, the deeper mud you can trek through. This helps to keep you axles and ATV frame up higher off the ground so if you do bottom out, you can do so in deeper mud and keep going.
This also has the distinct advantage of being able to run over larger objects and not slam the bottom of the ATV onto rocks, roots, and stumps causing serious damage to the undercarriage areas.
Extreme Angle Axles After Your ATV Is Lifted
On average, an original axle on an ATV has CV joints that won’t bind until they get bent to 25 degrees or greater. If you are running stock suspension then your axles won’t get to 25 degrees even when your shocks are fully extended. As you start to add lift to your ATV, that angle gets closer and closer to 25 degrees until you lift too much and end up binding your axle.
The easy way to tell if your lift is too high for stock axles is to lift the ATV until the tires are off the ground and see if you can turn the tires by hand. If it binds then you need to either upgrade to axles that can handle higher CV angles, install some limiting straps to keep your axles from dropping too far, or remove the lift kit from your ATV.
Install Skid Plates For Protection
Skid plates are kind of a no brainer if you want to keep the underside of you ATV from getting damaged. Skid plates are large pieces of plastic or aluminum that will protect the underside from any kinds of rocks or tree logs that you happen to slam down on. Along with the lift kit discussed earlier, your ATV should have no problems keeping the underside from getting marred, dinged, and possibly damaged further. Most of these come in kits and are machine specific. Obviously the aluminum will protect more but are generally more expensive than the shock resistant plastics.
Buy a Full ATV Exhaust System
With larger tires and other modifications that will allow you to venture into deeper mud, you are going to have to do something to kick up the power. The larger, heavier tires alone will bog down your ATV in thick mud and buying a full exhaust system will give you a few more horsepower to help keep your wheels turning in the thick mud and muck.
Buying a full exhaust system is not the cheapest mod around but if you can get a little more power out of your mudding ATV, that is less work the engine is doing in the mud and, of course, that will save you in the long run.
Install A High Flow Intake Air Filter
Now to talk about more of the power you can get to push your ATV through the mud better, you definitely need to invest in a high flow, performance air filter. Now that you have your full exhaust system installed, you want to make sure the ATV is breathing better. With a better performance exhaust and no intake it is kind of like trying to drink a milkshake out of a coffee straw. A high flow intake air filter will allow more air to get to the engine causing better combustion and more horsepower.
Add A Fuel Controller
When adding performance pieces such as high flow intake air filters, full exhaust systems, or changing the factory build with new clutching or larger tires, fuel controllers are a key piece in putting everything together to maximize performance. A fuel controller setup specifically for your ATV will make sure you get that performance you are looking for.
A fuel controller reads several different parameters from the ATV such as speed, throttle position, and engine RPM and then based on what the program that is loaded tells the ATV, it will deliver the amount of fuel needed to properly perform in that current situation.
Since we are talking about more cash heavy mods, a performance clutch is another thing you might want to consider. With those huge tires and rims you just put on your ATV, you are going to want to have a responsive clutch when it comes time to venture into the super deep mud. Not only does it provide the ATV with better throttle response, it also prevents the clutch belt from slipping while trying to mud on some very tough terrain.
If you decide to do this modification, don’t forget to get some snorkels for the intake and exhaust on the clutch housing like we talked about earlier.
Radiator Relocation Kit
A big theme with mudding is trying to keep all the water and mud out of our key engine components and the radiator is no different. Most ATV radiators are placed lower on the chassis and prohibit you from taking your ATV into the deep mud where you really want it. Thankfully there are companies that make radiator relocation kits for ATVs.
These kits allow you to move your radiator to a more desirable spot so it can stay dry above the surface of the mud. Most kits move the radiator to the front of the ATV near the snorkels to keep the muck out better.
Stronger CV Axle
Most modern 4WD Utility ATVs come equipped with axles and CV joints turning all four wheels. While enclosed shaft and chain/sprocket systems are more durable, they aren’t the best option when lifting an ATV more than 6 inches. The downside to a CV (Constant Velocity) axle is that it is one of the more common parts that are broken when riding hard like mud riders tend to do. The answer, kind of, is to get a stronger cv axle combo than the stock one that is currently installed.
CV Boot Protectors
If you are going to buy stronger axles then the manufacturer will most likely supply you with the boots that cover the joints but if you they don’t or you just want to upgrade your current setup, it is best to get thicker, cut resistant CV Boots.
If you are mudding and get a cut in the CV boot then the grease will seep out causing your axle joints to lose lubrication and heat up very quickly. It would also allow dirt, rocks, or water to enter the axles moving parts and possibly seize up.
Performance Clutch Belt
I talked about keeping the clutch housing dry and free of water to prevent slipping of the clutch belt. Well this won’t eilminate it all together, especially after all the upgrades that have been done. A performance belt will grip better and cause less slippage than a stock belt ever could.
If your ATV has a drive chain then it is probably a good idea to go ahead and replace it with an O-ring style chain.
O-ring chains are basically the same as standard chains but have O-rings between the outside link and inner roller area. O-ring chains also stretch less and last far longer than the standard chain.but they cost 2-3 times as much as a standard chain.
Handguards are plastic pieces that cover the hand grips and protect your hand from limbs, debri, and anything else that may fly up and crack your hands causing injuries. Handguards, along with proper gloves, will provide maximum protection for your hands in almost all situations.
Consider Adding Mud Hand Grips
Upgrading the grips on a mudding ATV is not a MUST, but it will be worthwhile. You can get grips made to withstand the rigors of mudding and provide the best grip possible in these situations.
You can also consider getting a set of heated grips. Heated grips will keep your hands warm in the cool mornings or the early winter chills and are a great accessory in general.
Upgrade Your Foot Pegs
One thing that is very important, and that is being able to keep your feet on the foot pegs. A good set of boots with grippy bottoms would be number one, but getting a set of foot pegs with an aggressive grip style will help keep your feet on the ATV at all times providing you with extra safety and keeping your feet and ankles from getting injured.
Get Yourself Some Fender Flares
Another mod that isn’t a must but is nice to have. A set of fender flares will extend your fenders out and keep extra mud from sling up on you and riders in your vicinity. If you don’t mind getting a bunch of extra mud slung up all over you then consider skipping this mod but I suggest it as a courtesy for other riders.
Waterproof Your Parts
Keeping water out of critical components such as electronic connections and intake and exhaust components is paramount. You can take some silicone sealant and apply it around the seals of your intake air box.
Silicone sealant is a more permanent solution but if you want something that will protect but not be as much of a pain to take off, consider using some marine grease. Marine grease is used in boating and is designed to be waterproof and not wash away providing a barrier to protect your components. You can also use marine grease around and on your electronic connections.
Last, But Not Least, Rider Gear!
This is not really a modification persay, but safety is something that you need to be mindful of when mudding. There are many ways for you to get injured and getting the right gear will help minimize the risk of you getting hurt. Check out all the gear I think you should use on my recommended gear page and see what will work for you.
At The End Of The Day…
You want to make sure you keep yourself and your ATV as safe as possible when mudding and it takes quite a bit of work to get your ATV COMPLETELY ready to go into the deep deep mud but if you want to experience something truly fun and feel like a big kid again, then take a swing at modding your ATV for the mud with these tips and you will have no little to no problems keeping up with the pack.