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What Is a Tracked ATV?

Dan Cavallari
Dan Cavallari

An all-terrain vehicle, or ATV, is designed to transport people and supplies over treacherous terrain, either for recreational or utility purposes. Most ATVs feature four wheels outfitted with aggressively treaded tires to handle such terrain, though in some cases, tracks may be installed in place of wheels. A tracked ATV will feature tracks similar to the ones found on a tank or on certain construction vehicles; the tracks are usually made from rubber and are run around pulleys that keep the track in line. A tracked ATV is less common than a wheeled version and is useful for different applications.

The tracked ATV will feature a broader surface, thereby making it suitable for driving over snow or mud. It will, however, be less versatile over dry terrain and uneven surfaces such as rocks or roots. The steering capabilities of the machine will also be cut down when the tracks are installed on the ATV since the tracks tend to be much longer and wider than the more typical pneumatic tires. The tracked ATV is less likely, therefore, to be used for high speed applications like racing; the tracks can be quite heavy as compared to the wheels as well, which is another reason why the tracks are generally unsuitable for high speed applications.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

One advantage of using the tracked ATV is the durability of the tracks. While pneumatic rubber tires are more maneuverable, they are also susceptible to punctures, which can render the ATV unusable until the tire is repaired. A tracked ATV will not go flat because they are not pneumatic; for long-term applications in which repairs may not be possible, tracks are a better choice. Military ATVs are likely to feature tracks for this very reason, since soldiers may operate in remote areas where repairs or replacement are not possible.

The tracks themselves will often feature parallel teeth with channels in between, increasing the vehicle's grip as well as its mud and snow shedding abilities. Mud and snow will easily slough off of the tracks as they rotate around the pulleys, thereby ensuring a solid grip on the ground while the vehicle is in motion. Of course, the snow or mud can also be flung up off the tracks, and some of that debris can fling up onto the rider. The tracks generally extend further outward away from the body of the ATV, further exacerbating the debris problem.

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