How Tos & Tutorials

How to Pick and Measure ATV Tires

Having a hard time deciding which ATV tires are good for a particular trail? Or maybe you’re wondering if your tires are thick enough to withstand the usual bumps and curves?

In this article, we’ll help you choose the necessary ATV tires on various conditions and measure them accordingly. Don’t forget to traverse the track with ATV helmets and ATV goggles, too.

What Makes ATV Tires Different from Regular Tires?

atv tires vs road tires

1.  Tire Type

types of atv tires

Not all tires are created equally. As such, the road tires you normally use won’t fit in an off-road setting because tires under this category are made to be suitable for various terrains. In fact, there are 5 tire types.

  • Sand TiresThey’re designed to be lightweight in such a way they can float on sand surface. What distinguishes sand tires from other types is their special pattern that scoops up sand grains and their ridge that helps you gain “controlled” maneuverability during difficult turns.
  • Mud TiresMud tires have a noticeably widespread lug design for maximum grip on slippery surfaces like muck or other similar wet conditions. The good thing about them is they’re normally self-cleaning, which gives them the advantage of automatically removing mud and making maintenance easy.
  • All-terrain TiresThese tires are known to be the best of multiple worlds because of their versatility on different surfaces as their very name suggests. Modern-day all-terrain tires have close lug patterns to help you establish more ground contact, comfortable and safer rides, regardless of the surface type, especially when you’re in a hurry.
  • Rock Tires – Rock tires are designed with widespread lug design similar to mud tires. However, these are tougher than the latter because they don’t easily get damaged due to the fact they adapt to rock shapes. Hence, they go by the name, crawler tires.
  • Snow Tires – These are special tires used for very cold climates. What makes them unique from all other tires is they bear a mountain snowflake seal that proves they’ve passed the slip test to ensure they have maximum grip on snowy wet trails. Plus, they don’t become rigid under low temperatures which gives them quick speed, turn and brake responses.

2.  Tread Design

ATV tire tread is the one responsible for ground contact when driving. Without it, your vehicle won’t have the necessary traction needed to resist sinking, sliding and other possible problems both on and off the road.

  • Rib Tread PatternsThey have slow-rolling resistance and provide adequate traction on wet surfaces.
  • Lug Tread PatternsThey provide high-rolling resistance that are useful for heavy vehicles.
  • Rib-lug Tread PatternsThey’re useful for braking and acceleration, recommended when you frequent gravel roads.
  • Directional Tread PatternsThese patterns have to be uniform with their assigned rolling path.
  • Asymmetric Tread Patterns – They easily distribute water and are vital for cornering traction purposes.
  • Block Tread Patterns – They have excellent grip and water draining capabilities and are usually found on all-terrain tires.

At a simple glance, ATV tire tread appears to be only composed of tread patterns. However, it also has the following.

  • Tread Rib – It’s the circumferential outer part of the tires that connects the tires to the ground, akin to a hand that’s resting on a table.
  • Tread Blocks – They serve as gripping nails that cling to the terrain surface that aid in traction.
  • Sipes – They’re narrow channels which drain water and other fluids from the tires and enhance grip on slippery surfaces.
  • Tread Groove – It assists in your vehicle’s maneuverability and braking capacities.
  • Multiple Groves – They flush away water from the area of contact and also improve grip.

3.  Tread Depth

tread depth

Looking at ATV tires’ tread depth is important because it says a lot about your tires’ lifespan and their usefulness. As a matter of fact, measuring it will give you an idea whether the tires have passed the safety certification test or not and identify other related problems, which is very handy when you’re planning on buying used tires.

To do so, search for your tires’ shoulder which is in between the sidewall and tread area, where you’ll notice a tiny arrow which points to the location of the wear bars.

Wear bars are thin protruding portions in the tread grooves that tell you if your tires have reached a particular lifespan measurement and need immediate replacement.

For accuracy purposes, you need a tire tread depth gauge. But if you don’t have one, you may use a simple trick – inserting a coin in between the tire treads. Make sure you place the coin’s head in an inverted position. If the entire head’s showing, it means your tires are lower than 2/32” and needs a quick replacement.

For those using a tire tread gauge, please refer to the measurement table below.

Tread Depth Chart

Tread Depth Action Braking Effect
5/32” and above None Low
3/32”-4/32” Replacement is Optional Moderate
2/32” and below Replacement is Mandatory High

4.  Sidewall

tire sidewall

Surprisingly, you can determine how good ATV tires are performance-wise just by looking at the printed information on their sidewall. Click here for the complete walkthrough.

  • P and LTP stands for Passenger car tire intended for carrying the weight of the people or passengers inside the vehicle, whereas LT means Light Truck tire intended for carrying heavier loads that trucks are supposed to endure (and are more durable than the former).
  • The Measurement Scale (235/35 ZR20)235 refers to the tire width from sidewall to sidewall and is measured in millimeters. /35 refers to the aspect ratio or a percentage of the tire or tread width. 20 points to wheel diameter. Explanation on ZR is found in tire carcass.
  • 92Y92 refers to the maximum load rating that the tire can carry. Load ratings vary from one tire to the next; it can be as light as 70lbs but can also be as heavy as 3,748lbs. On the other hand, Y means the tire’s safe maximum speed rating.
  • Extra Load Label – It indicates that a certain tire can hold a higher load rating or air pressure than its usual size.
  • Maximum Pressure – It talks about the highest cold pressure that a tire can hold when not in use but not the recommended one, which can be found in the owner’s manual.

5.  Tire Size

Determining the ATV tire size can be difficult if you rarely look at your tire’s sidewall and aren’t fully aware of the details that go with it but for starters, tires have 2 types of measurement; metric and flotation.

Metric is common among tires and can be confusing because of the varying measurement unit each number represents. As what was discussed in the sidewall section, the P means Passenger and LT means Light Truck.

However, there are instances when you’ll see ST and T instead, for Special Trailer and Temporary, respectively. If the measuring scale lacks any of the aforementioned letter designation, it automatically means it’s a passenger car tire.

To be able to measure the tire size in metric form, follow 265/50R20 as an example; where 265=width, 50=percentage and 20=wheel size or diameter.

Following the formula above; after obtaining the 132.5-mm sidewall height, you need to convert it to inches, round it off to the nearest hundreds when necessary, multiply it twice and add the diameter. Thus, in equation form; 5.22 x 2 + 20 = 30.44 or 30.4 inches.

If you come across a tire size in flotation form, you need not compute at all. In the example 40×15.50R22LT, 40 automatically refers to the tire height, 15.5 is the width and 22 is the wheel size, which are all in inches.  

6.  Tire Carcass

tire carcass

Carcass in a simple term, only means the ATV tire body. It’s the bare part of your tire once you remove the treads. However, the moment you strip off your tire, you’ll discover there are layers in between the sidewall and body known as plies that bear ply ratings (PR).

Before, the ply ratings refer to the number of layers used in designing the tire. So, if you see 6, it means the tire has 6 layers put together. But now, ply ratings point out to your tire load capacity. PRs usually range from 2(softest) -12(toughest).

In cases when you’ll see stars beside the PRs, the stars also refer to ply ratings. One star is equal to 2 plies, meaning the more there are, the more durable but the heavier the tire is.

In terms of ply components or how a ply is constructed, there are 2 types.

  • Diagonal Bias Ply – has intersecting patterns that let the tire be somewhat elastic on rocky surfaces.
  • Radial Ply – more popular due to longer tread wear and are useful even at high speeds. Going back to the example measurement scale 235/35 ZR20 in the sidewall section, the R means it’s made of radial ply. However, Z represents a speed rating that goes beyond 149 miles per hour.

Different letters represent different speed ratings and are also found on the link provided in the sidewall section.

Mounting ATV Tires

After choosing and buying the necessary ATV tires with the help of the important considerations, we’ll give you some instructions on how to put them on your wheels. Check this out for the detailed guide.

how to mount atv tires


Picking ATV tires is more than just looking cool on the trail. It’s about performance and longevity which you’ll only achieve if you know how you’ll be using your ATV tires and the kind of terrain you usually get into. Share us your thoughts about this by commenting below.


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