ATV Suspension Setup Guide

ATV Suspension Setup Guide

If you’re new to the ATV world, you’ll experience a little discomfort during your rides. And chances are, you’ve been riding it out without making any changes.  

What if we were to tell you that you can make your off-road ATV adventure a lot more comfortable by making a few adjustments to your ATV, particularly the suspension. 

Don’t know where to begin? We got you. This article will go over the basics of ATV suspension and how you can modify it to your comfort level. 

What is ATV Suspension For 

Have you ever wondered why ATVs can take you on long off-road adventures while regular cars cannot? The answer is suspension. Although regular cars do have it, their suspension is designed for flat roads, whereas the suspension in ATVs is made to handle rough terrain. 

In short, the suspension on your ATV can make your ride a lot smoother. 

How Does the Suspension Work 

ATVs are all about making your off-road experience as comfortable as possible. It does this with the help of springs and shocks, which act as shock absorbers. 

For example, if you drive over a large rock or another obstacle, the shocks will absorb any shock that your vehicle will receive. This means you won’t feel the bump as much. 

The springs contain oil that prevents them from compressing. This causes your vehicle to bounce back to its original place as it goes over the rough ground, so your ride isn’t as bumpy as expected. 

Types of Shock Adjustments 

If your ATV is not providing you with a comfortable off-road experience, then something is not right. Your shock may require adjusting, and this section will help you understand how you can do that. 

You’ll have a much smoother ride when you take your ATV on the rugged terrain by adjusting the preload, rebound, and compression of your shocks. 


Although not all shocks allow adjustment, you can adjust the preload in most shocks. 

The preload is the amount of pressure on your shocks by default. You can either raise or lower the preload depending on how you prefer your ride. 

We recommend lowering the preload if you want a smoother, softer ride. Lower pressure on your shock means more flexibility and a more comfortable ride. 

On the other hand, raising the preload means increasing the pressure on your shocks which, although it means you’ll raise the height of your ATV, your ride will be much stiffer. 

Even though a lower preload sounds better, note that it increases the likelihood of your suspension bottoming out


We’ve already touched upon what compression is. Here, we’ll go over how you can adjust the compression of your shock to make your ATV ride better. 

As the name suggests, compression is the shock of your ATV compressing whenever it goes over an obstacle. You can adjust your shock compression to how you prefer it. 

If you leave the compression too loose, your springs will bounce a lot, and your suspension will bottom way too much, which isn’t good for the vehicle (or your back). 

However, if your shock compression is too stiff, your ATV won’t have enough bounce, and you’ll feel every obstacle and bump your vehicle goes over. This is also not good for the ATV (and, once again, your back). 

You need to ensure your compression is adjusted just right and your ride has just the perfect bounce. 


Just like compression, you can adjust the rebound of your shock as well. Rebound refers to the way your shocks bounce back after compression. You can also think of it as decompression of your shocks. 

Your ATV may or may not have the option to adjust the rebound since not all vehicles have a rebound adjuster. However, if yours does, the set screw is present at the bottom of the shock. You can adjust by setting this high or low. 

Like compression, setting your rebound just right is vital in determining how well you ride on your ATV. If your rebound is too stiff, your suspension will stay compressed for too long, which means the tires won’t come back to the ground in time, causing your vehicle to be constantly bottomed out. 

In other words, your suspension won’t act like a suspension at all. 

Conversely, if your rebound is too loose, it’ll come back up too fast, making your ride incredibly bumpy. So you’ll feel every rock and bump you go over, which kills the idea of having an ATV for off-roading. 

Therefore, it is essential to get your rebound just right to enjoy your ride. 

How to Adjust the Shocks 

Now that you are familiar with the jargon, we’ll take you through a step-by-step guide to setting up your ATV.

We recommend making these adjustments close to a trail or an off-road area where you can test out your ATV as you tweak it. In this way, you can prepare your ATV perfectly for any future off-road adventures. 

Step 1: Prep Your ATV 

You can only adequately test out your suspension if your tires are in top shape. Tires are the basis of your suspension, and if they are not suitable, you can tweak your shocks all you want, but it won’t do any good. 

Check your tire’s air and ensure it’s at the proper pressure before you begin adjusting your suspension. 

Step 2: Set the Preload 

Once you know your tires are good, let’s move on to setting the preload of your ATV. Setting the preload will alter the height of your vehicle, which means you’ll be able to control it much better. 

In addition, you can modify the preload to your preferred comfort level. You can tune your preload in two ways depending on the shock.

If your shock has a threaded collar, making the collar tighter will increase the height of your ATV, reducing the load and giving you a stiffer ride. You’ll achieve this by moving the collar down.  

Similarly, loosening it will decrease the height and result in a softer ride. You’ll get this setting by moving the collar up. 

If your shock has a snail cam, the adjustments are the opposite. For a stiffer ride with more height, adjust the cam higher. Conversely, for a softer ride with less height, move the cam lower. 

Step 3: Modify the Compression 

Once you’re satisfied with the preload, it is time to adjust your suspension’s compression. The best way to test out the compression is by riding your ATV on the rugged terrain and making adjustments accordingly. 

First, alter the high-speed clicker and the low-speed clicker by turning them clockwise and counterclockwise. Turning the clicker right makes the compression tighter, while turning it left makes it looser. 

Step 4: Change your Rebound 

The final step to setting up your ATV is the rebound. The adjuster for this is present at the base of the shock. 

The rebound is best tested by riding the ATV and watching how the vehicle lands after a small jump. Turning the rebound setting screw counterclockwise will loosen it, whereas turning it clockwise will make it tighter. 

Adjustments Didn’t Work? Try this 

If adjusting your ATV’s shocks didn’t do much for you, maybe it’s time for a replacement. Although ATV shocks are durable, they are not indestructible. How long you’ve been using your ATV and the extreme road conditions cause the shocks to wear out over time and may need to be replaced. 

Here are a few ways you can tell your shocks are no longer good. 

  • You spot fluid leaks. 
  • Your ride isn’t smooth; too bouncy and uncomfortable due to lots of compressions.
  • You see your tires wear out unevenly. 
  • Your ATV bottoms out.

Closing Thoughts 

If the adjustments aren’t suitable for your ATV, your adventure may be uncomfortable. And the personalization doesn’t end there, you can try other things to make your ride more enjoyable, like trying out handguards

We hope this article has helped you understand your vehicle’s suspension to get the most out of your off-road experience.

Warwick Braith

Warwick Braith is a thrill seeker at heart. He loves getting outdoors and testing his limits in the wild. As a blogger for YapQ, Warwick provides readers with insights and tips on how to get the most out of their outdoor experiences. Whether it's hiking, camping, or simply exploring nature, Warwick knows how to make the most of it.

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