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Understanding ATV Wheels

Chaparral Motorsports
February 12, 2020

Riding an ATV is one of the most exhilarating off-road experiences imaginable. Whether you're exploring new terrain or enjoying a race with friends, all-terrain vehicles offer the ruggedness and performance you need to enjoy yourself. In order to be fully immersed in the ATV experience, you need to be confident that you have the right equipment. One of the most important parts of equipment on your ATV is its wheels. Weather you own a brand new ATV or recently purchased a used vehicle, eventually you'll probably want to upgrade or need to replace your wheels. When that time comes, understanding ATV wheels is essential knowledge. Take the following into consideration when it comes time to shop for ATV.

Know What Size You Need

Size matters. You know that. It's not just a matter of showiness to invest in the biggest, baddest wheels, though. Sometimes your ATV demands bigger wheels, and sometimes it requires smaller ones. You should understand how to shop for the right size wheel. The following measurements will be important to know:

  • Diameter
  • Width
  • Offset

ATV wheels are typically identified by numbers, such as 12x7, 4+3, 4 on 156mm. At first, these numbers can seem mystifying, but this example refers to the aforementioned measurements-diameter, width, and offset. To ensure you get the right size wheel, the first measurement you should get is the diameter (height when the wheel is standing up). While it would make sense to measure the widest point across the center of the wheel from one rim lip to the other, that's not quite going to give you the right diameter in regards to the tire's you'll eventually need.

All wheels are made differently and some have taller lip sections than others. So when measuring your ATV wheel diameter it's important to measure the widest point across the center from bead seat to bead seat. As seen here the diameter from the bead seat measures 12".  

To determine the width you are going to use the bead seat and measure only from the outside of the wheel to the inside. In the image you can see that this wheel measures 7" wide bead to bead.

Choose the Right Offset

The last of these measurements, the offset, is just as important as the diameter and width. The offset of your ATV wheels refers to the distance between the wheel's hub mounting surface to the centerline of the bead seat. Offset will help determine how far your wheels/tires will stick out or will tuck in towards the vehicle. Offset is important because it can make your vehicle's stance wider or narrower which can affect handling, performance, or can possibly cause clearance issues.

If you see a portion of an ATV wheel size that includes a plus sign (+), this is its offset. Offset always references the inside number (side of the wheel facing the vehicle) first followed by the outside measurement. A wheel that is identified by 4+3, then, represents four inches from the interior bead seat to the wheel's hub mounting surface and three inches from the center of the exterior bead seat to the wheel's hub mounting surface. In the two images here you can see the inside offset measures 4" and when you flip the wheel over, the outside offset measures 3".  

The three types of offsets include the following:

  • Positive: If the bell section of an ATV wheel is wider than its nose, it features a positive offset value.
  • Negative: When the nose of a wheel is its widest part, it features a negative offset.
  • Zero: Wheels that feature the hub mounting surface at the very center have a zero offset value.

Offset impacts performance, ride experience, and safety, so it's imperative that you select the wheels with the optimal measurements for your ATV.

Take Bolt Pattern Into Consideration

If you don't switch out your ATV bolt pattern, you will only be able to choose wheels that match the one your ATV already features. ATV wheels come in 3-lug, 4-lug, and 5-lug varieties, and each pattern typically comes in different sizes, too. The aforementioned example wheel with measurements of 12x7, 4+3, 4 on 156mm has a bolt pattern of four-which is to say that it features four bolt holes. For 3-lug wheels, its measurements are taken from the interior circle of its bolt holes. Bolt patterns of 4-lug wheels are measure by determining the distance from one bolt hole's center to the center of the hole across from it. Lastly, 5-lug wheels are determined by the distance between the back of a bolt hole to the center of the hole two over. In the photo of the wheel you can see that it's a 4 hole pattern with a distances of 156mm from the center of one bolt hole to the center of the opposing bolt hole.

Know What Size You Need

Choosing wheels that are the wrong size or otherwise inappropriate for your ATV is a surefire way to wear them out to quickly and compromise the overall experience and safety of your ATV. Choosing the right wheels, conversely, will give you a smooth ride and high performance that will last through your excursions and adventures. With this guide to understanding ATV wheels and their sizing, you can be confident that you're making an informed decision the next time you're shopping. If you owna UTV you can use these same procedures to measure and shop for UTV wheels as well.

Chaparral Motorsports offers a range of wheels, parts, and accessories for ATVs. Find the wheels that are best for your ATV and get everything else you need for all of your off road adventures and ATV accessory needs.

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