When to Use High or Low Gear on ATV | Hunt or Shred

One of the great things about ATVs is their versatility for various activities. This is why they have a high and low gear, but you must know when to use each.

ATV riders should use a high gear when they plan on hauling heavy loads or reaching maximum ATV speeds. They can shift to low gear to provide more torque at lower speeds for better power and balance when they intend to climb hills, slopes, or steep trails.

This article is about the different gears on an ATV and how to use them. We explain how each gear works and when they should be used by riders to ensure safe ATV riding and overall best practices for maneuvering these complex machines.  

Table of contents


When to Use High or Low Gear on ATV?

When driving an ATV, it is vital to choose the correct gear based on the terrain type. This will help you avoid straining the engine and will allow you to drive more efficiently.

Low gear generally works best on more rugged terrain, while high gear should be used on smoother surfaces. Keep reading for more information about when to use low or high gear while driving your ATV.

A lower ATV gear will provide more torque, improving machine power despite driving at slower speeds. We recommend using this gear when climbing hills and slopes and while driving through steeper trails.

The easiest way to remember when to use low gear is "when in doubt, put it in low." You should use low gear when driving up or down a hill, over rough terrain, and when you need extra power, such as when hauling a load.

Conversely, high gear or high range is engaged by shifting the lever to its most elevated position.

High gear should be used when driving on mostly level ground, as it will allow you to go faster. Using high gear when descending a hill is also a good idea to avoid accidentally going too fast and losing control of your ATV.

What Is Low Gear On An ATV & When To Use It?

On more rugged terrain, it is best to use low gear. Low gear on an ATV refers to a lower speed with more torque. This will help you avoid straining the engine as you drive over obstacles.

You should also use low gear when hauling a heavy load with your ATV. Some examples of when to use low gear include:

  • Climbing hills and steep terrain
  • Handling rocky or muddy surfaces
  • Pulling heavy equipment
  • Riding at slow speeds
  • Improved braking power

When off-roading, it's best to stick with low gear. This will give you more power and control as you navigate rougher terrain.

You want to avoid putting too much strain on the engine by driving too fast, so it's best to take things slow when you're off the beaten path. Low gear is the way to go if you're hauling cargo with your ATV.

By shifting into low, you'll be able to control the vehicle better as it lugs around a heavier load. This also helps prevent accidental tip-overs (which can be pretty dangerous).

What Is High Gear On An ATV & When To Use It?

High gear should be used when you are on smoother terrain and want to go faster. High gear allows for faster speeds but less control over the ATV.

Some examples of when to use high gear include:

  • Increase speed on flat terrain
  • Trailing riding without steep hills
  • No mud or hills in sight

You should only use high gear if you are confident in your driving abilities and there are no obstacles in your path.

You'll generally want to be in high gear driving on paved roads. This will allow you to take advantage of the ATV's speed capabilities.

Of course, you'll want to take things slowly at first until you get a feel for the vehicle. Once you're more comfortable, you can start picking up the pace.

How Do You Change Gears On An ATV?

Changing gears on an ATV is a fairly simple process, but it's important to remember that the gearshift is not like a car’s gearshift. It will vary depending on the transmission type, although most ATVs use an automatic CVT.

With an automatic, there is no need to touch a clutch. Only the throttle needs to be shifted for a gear change to be effective.

A gear transfers power from the engine to the wheels through a series of cogs connected by a chain or belt. The cogs are connected directly to the engine's flywheel, which turns at a constant speed when the vehicle is in motion.

We recommend closing the throttle while shifting to help the wheels remain stable on the ground. It’s also critical to know where the engagement point is so there is no risk of stalling when changing from low to high gear.

Stop The Vehicle

The vehicle should always be stopped when a gear change occurs on an ATV. It’s not the same as a classic car, and it’s best to change gears when the ATV is not moving.

Allow The Engine To Idle

Next, the engine should still be on and idling when the ATV is stopped. This allows for an easier shift to a new gear without causing any internal problems that can cause a lack of stability on different terrains for the vehicle.

Press The Brakes

After stopping and allowing the engine to idle, press the brakes to bring the vehicle to a halt to change gears. This is the best way to guarantee the ATV stops, so it’s easier to use the shift lever.

Move The Shift Lever

The gears on an ATV are changed with a shift lever. Depending on the riding conditions, it can be adjusted to get to the desired gear. Never use the shift lever if the engine speed is above an idle position or if the vehicle is moving.

Monitor Speed

Lastly, always monitor the speed of the ATV when shifting. Try and maintain proper speeds based on the current gear.

Is It More Common To Use Low Gear Or High Gear On An ATV?

Low gear is used for driving at slower speeds of 25 MPH or less. Low gear is also used for climbing steep hills and pulling heavy loads.

High gear is used when the ATV has to go faster than 25 MPH, when the ground is slippery, or when the rider wants more power to climb steep hills.

Using a low gear on an ATV is more common than using a high gear. This is typically the case for all scenarios when riding an ATV unless we are on extremely flat surfaces planning to reach top speeds.

Key Takeaways

  • High gear on an ATV should be used when traveling at faster speeds over 25 MPH on flat terrain. Avoid using high gear in mud or on steeper off-road terrain.
  • Low gear on an ATV should be used on rocky or muddy terrain, at slower speeds, and when hauling heavy equipment. It also provides better braking power and wheel stability.
  • Most ATVs will use an automatic transmission with multiple gears, and it’s most common to use the ATV in low gear rather than high gear.




41 years old. I'm a freelance writer that specializes in informational blog posts. All my articles are detail oriented and well researched. I'm a huge Arizona Cardinals fan!

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