How To Check And Maintain ATV Drive Belt | Hunt or Shred

ATV drive belts often break, this article will help you if you want to learn how to check and maintain your ATV drive belt.

You must regularly check your ATV’s drive belt for signs of stretching, cracking, and wear and tear. It’s best to replace the drive belt if it has started to show signs of damage. To extend the lifespan of your drive belt, you should use low gear when you aren’t driving your ATV at high speed.

ATV drive belts are highly prone to damage because ATVs are usually meant to be driven on rough terrains and at high speeds. Hourglassing and spin-burn are two common reasons why ATV drive belts get damaged so often. Most ATV users don’t use low gear when the tires get stuck in the sand or mud or when unloading or loading their vehicle. In short, not using low gear when you aren’t operating your ATV at high speeds is one of the major causes of drive belt damage on your ATV. If you want to know how to check and maintain your ATV drive belt, this blog post will help you a great deal!

If you ask us, we, as ATV experts, would recommend you always use a low gear driving range when you aren’t driving your quad at high speed. High gears produce heat which is the biggest enemy of ATV drive belts and leads to wear and tear.

Table of contents


Signs that Your ATV Drive Belt Needs Replacement

Not many ATV owners inspect their drive belts very often. As a result, they often find themselves stranded when they least expect it. However, your ATV drive belt won’t slip or break just like that. There will always be early signs that indicate that it’s time for you to replace your ATV drive belt. Unfortunately, the signs aren’t always very prominent. You just need to be vigilant.

Here are some of the early signs of damage you must keep an eye out for:

Engine Misfire

If your engine misfires, it can indicate that your drive belt is slipping. You can tell that your engine has misfired if it loses power, doesn’t start easily, or if you notice increased fuel consumption. If you see any of these signs, it’s high time you inspect your ATV’s drive belt for damage.

Jerks While Driving or Provides Inconsistent Acceleration

Another sign indicating that it’s time to check your ATV drive belt is if you feel the ATV taking jerks during your drive or if the acceleration is inconsistent. The peak rpm might reach too high (higher than the normal high), or it can suddenly fade away. In either case, you need to check your ATV’s drive belt immediately.

Identifying problems before they become worse is your best bet at preventing ATV drive belt damage. However, you can only do that by staying vigilant and not overlooking any potential signs!

Now you may want to know – how to check and maintain your ATV’s drive belt to ensure you don’t have to get stranded amidst your off-roading adventure. Continue reading ahead to find out the answer!

What to Look for When Checking an ATV’s Drive Belt?

If you have never checked the drive belt on an ATV before, you may not know what to look for. We’ve listed down some signs of damage that you must look out for when checking your ATV’s drive belt:


When checking the drive belt, look for signs of hourglassing. It is a condition that causes noticeable circular wear at one spot on the belt. The wear occurs on both sides of the drive belt. Hourglassing results from the drive clutch engaging the belt when the drive train doesn’t move.


Inspect the drive belt for cracks. Even if the belt isn’t cracked yet, but you notice slight marks that you think will lead to the formation of cracks, it’s best if you don’t take any risks and replace the belt right away.

Other Physical Damages

Other physical damages to check when inspecting your ATV drive belt include missing cogs, loose cords, excessive wear at any point along the length of the belt, abrasion, or thin spots. It’ll help you identify damages if you compare the drive belt of your ATV with a brand new drive belt. The differences will be quite clear.

How to Check and Maintain an ATV’s Drive Belt

Checking your ATV’s drive belt is a highly technical job, so you must do it with the utmost focus. You’ll have to keep the right tools handy, so you can check the drive belt every now and then without having to rush to a professional mechanic.

What You’ll Need

You’ll need the following tools to do the job yourself:

  • Nitrile gloves
  • Safety goggles
  • Clutch spreader tool
  • Rags
  • Sockets
  • Breaker bar
  • Torque wrench
  • Ratchet

Checking the ATV Drive Belt

Wear Protective Goggle and Gloves

  • Before you do anything, make sure you’re wearing safety goggles and nitrile gloves. Ensuring your safety is crucial.

Remove the Belt

  • Park the ATV on a flat surface and make sure the vehicle is stable. Make sure the transmission is set to neutral. It’ll help move the manual movement of the pulleys on which the drive belt is set.
  • The drive belt is enclosed in a cover. Clean the debris that’s present on and around the cover.
  • Use a socket to loosen the fasteners that have secured the belt cover close.
  • When removing the belt, make sure you’re following the right direction. You can check the manufacturer’s manual if there are no visible markings on the belt to indicate the direction. Once you know, make a mark on the belt to help you the next time you’re working on your ATV belt.
  • Rotate the driven pulley, which is the larger pulley present on your right, clockwise. This would loosen the drive belt. When the belt has come loose, pull it off the pulley. The way the belt is loosened depends on the model and the make of your ATV. You may need a specialized tool to loosen it, or you may be able to do it by simply pressing down and then rotating the sheave of the driven pulley.
  • Use a Vernier caliper to measure the width of the drive belt at its widest point. Compare the measured width with the belt width mentioned in the manufacturer’s manual. If the width is less than what the manufacturer has mentioned, you should discard the belt and replace it with a new drive belt. Even if the width isn’t too different from what’s on the manual, you should still discard it if it appears to be worn out, has sheared cogs or frayed edges.
  • If the belt seems to be in good shape, simply clean it and put it back in place.
  • Clean the belt enclosure thoroughly before securing the cover back in place.

Install the New Belt

  • Just like you removed the belt following the right directions, you must do the same when installing the new drive belt for your ATV:
  • Set the drive belt on the pulleys in the same direction as the original belt was installed.
  • Rotate the pulleys into the position in which they operate.
  • Now, measure the deflection of the drive belt. Place your finger on the top of the drive belt and compress it. This would remove the slack. Continue compressing while laying a straightedge across the two pulleys.
  • Now measure the deflection at the point where it’s the widest, from the top of the drive belt to straightedge’s bottom.
  • Compare the measured deflection with the value mentioned in the manufacturer’s manual. If the values don’t match, loosen the belt a little. Add shims to the larger driven pulley on the right.
  • Once that’s done, set the belt back on the pulleys and rotate the pulleys in their operational direction.
  • If the deflection values match, rotate the driven pulley to fix the drive belt in the grooves on the sheave.
  • Put the cover of the drive belt enclosure back in place.

How to Maintain Your ATV Drive Belt

While you can’t deny the fact that ATV drive belts are highly prone to damage, and they will get damaged sooner or later, if you change your driving habits and maintain the drive belt and your ATV well, you can surely delay the damage to the ATV drive belt. ATV drive belts can be quite durable if you take good care, provided that you’re investing in a high-quality ATV drive belt in the first place.

Let’s have a look at some of how you can prevent damage and keep your ATV drive belt in great shape:

Handle and Store it Properly

If you maintain ATV drive belts well, they can last a very long time. Before installation, try not to twist, pry, or backbend ATV drive belts. It can lead to the belt getting damaged even before you install it. The damage might be too minor that you can’t see, like the breakage of a tensile cord, but it’ll lead to the belt breaking earlier.

If you keep an extra drive belt in the space, you should make sure you’re storing it properly. It would be best to store it somewhere it doesn’t get dirty. If it does get dirty, clean it regularly so that it’s ready to use when the need arises. Don’t try to push the belt into congested storage spaces. Twisting and turning the drive belt can damage it and deem it useless. You can invest in dedicated storage cases for ATV belts or store ATV drive belts in wide drawers or shelves where they won’t twist in irregular shapes and angles.

Change Your Driving Habits

ATVs are meant to be driven on tough routes. If you stop doing that, what’s the point of investing in an ATV? When we say change your driving habits, we’re addressing the things you can change. Don’t use the wrong gears or leave your ATV idle in gear for too long. It’s because when your ATV is in gear but not moving, your belt isn’t moving, but the clutch is still moving at full speed on the belt. This generates a lot of friction and heat, which can eventually lead to the failure of the ATV drive belt. As we’ve already mentioned, heat is the biggest enemy of ATV drive belts. It’s best to leave your quad in neutral transmission in such situations.

Excessive and sudden engagement rpm and wide-open throttle in an attempt to pull your ATV out of sand or mud are among the most common bad driving habits that can damage an ATV’s drive belt. If your ATV gets stuck, use low gears. Sudden peaks in the RPM can damage the ATV drive belts sooner than later. Most people think that using high gears will produce the acceleration it takes to pull the ATV out of the mud, but they couldn’t be any more wrong.

Check Clutch Alignment

ATV drive belts can still break even if you avoid bad driving habits altogether. That might be because the clutch isn’t aligned correctly. If the clutch alignment isn’t correct, it can cause disintegration of the ATV drive belt. This is specifically important when you get any upgrades done on your ATV. Whether it’s mounting new mud tires or adding weight, you shouldn’t overlook clutch alignment. Every time you make any modifications or upgrades to the ATV, the chances of the clutch getting misaligned are high, so we suggest you tune the clutch and make sure it’s aligned.




45 years old. I'm in business marketing. I write for Hunt or Shred on the side. I love hiking, camping, and everything outdoors with my family. I have 6 years of experience working at an ATV shop selling, fixing, and test driving all brands and models.

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