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Over 56,000 new ATVs were sold in Canada in 2020.

They’ve become very popular for both work and recreation, but many people still don’t know too much about them. If you want to get into ATVs, one of the first things you want to get to grips with is all of the vehicle terminology.

This beginner’s guide covers some of the most essential ATV slang to bring you up to speed.

Beginner’s Guide: What Is an ATV/UTV?

Before getting started with an ATV/UTV, you need to know what they are.

An ATV (all-terrain vehicle) is often also called a quad bike. It’s a four-wheeled motorized vehicle built for one rider, but some are made to fit an additional passenger at the rear. The overall structure is similar to a motorbike in some ways such as the seating and handlebars.

A UTV (utility task vehicle) is a slightly larger vehicle usually containing 2 or 4 seats. These often have storage space for cargo and are more like cars in terms of their structure. UTVs tend to be more powerful than ATVs.

Read More: Five Mistakes ATV Beginners Make

Common ATV Jargon Explained

There’s a lot of vehicle terminology in the world of ATVs. Learning some of the basic riding terms will help you keep up with conversations and communicate with other people who are interested in ATVs.

Read through this ATV guide for some of the key terms and important parts of ATVs you’re likely to need.


When people mention a quad or a four-wheeler they will usually be referring to an ATV, but this could also be a UTV. There are a handful of ATVs available that have 5 or 6 wheels, but people might still refer to these in the same way.


CCs (cubic centimetres) is the unit used to measure the volume of an engine. At the lower end, these may be around 50cc, and you can find models as high as 1000cc.

Automatic Transmission

Transmissions control the gears of an ATV as different gears are suited for different situations. With an automatic transmission, the ATV will shift up and down automatically. This is best if you’re a new rider as it means you can focus less on the gears and more on everything else.

Manual Transmission

A manual transmission serves the same purpose, but the rider is in control. You can change gears as you see fit. This is ideal when hauling heavy loads or if you need more traction as switching to lower gears can be helpful.

Air Filter

You may know this term if you’re familiar with cars. Air filters make sure the air that goes to the engine is clean by filtering out any impurities. ATVs are often used in environments with a lot of dirt and dust, so you’ll probably find yourself replacing these quite often.

Bump Start

A bump start is something you might need to do if there are issues with your electrical system. To do this you need to push your ATV and let the clutch out. If done right the engine will turn over and start.

You might be able to bump start an ATV on your own on flat ground. If not you should get someone to help you, or get it going downhill.

Sport ATV

ATV manufacturers produce a range of vehicles to fit different uses. Sports ATVs are powerful and fast, designed for racing. These are ideal for thrill-seekers or those who race competitively.

Utility ATV

A utility ATV is one that’s designed for work. They’re often strong so that they can tow heavy loads and usually have things like additional racks for storage. There are also sport/utility ATVs on the market that work well for both.


Mudding is a type of riding that is done in very muddy environments. This is all about fun and can get very messy.

Side-By-Side (SxS)

This is another name for UTVs. The name is because they almost always have at least 2 seats next to each other, although some single-seat models do exist.


ATVs/UTVs often have four-stroke engines, which means the piston goes through four strokes as the crankshaft turns. There are some two-stroke engine ATVs available, but they are very uncommon.

Track Kit

A track kit can be installed on an ATV in place of wheels. These tracks make it much easier to navigate snow or other loose terrains.


Some ATVs have a winch as standard, but they can be installed on any ATV. They can help you get your ATV unstuck if you end up in deep mud, water, or trapped between rocks.

Ground Clearance

Ground clearance is the distance between the bottom of your ATV and the ground. This is important because ATVs are often used on uneven terrain, so more ground clearance can be helpful here. Just bear in mind that a higher ground clearance tends to mean a higher centre of gravity, which can make an ATV less stable.


Many people enjoy riding through water such as puddles and rivers on ATVs, but if you’re not careful this could damage your engine. These engines aren’t designed to take on water, so this can lead to hydro locking, which can sometimes cause mechanical failure.

Knobby Tire

Knobby tires are quite versatile, working well on soft and hard services. They provide maximum performance and are generally quite durable.

Paddle Tire

Paddle tires are more specialized with a smooth core and large paddles. They’re specifically designed for driving on sand and mud.

Why Should You Buy an ATV?

This beginner’s guide may have covered some key ATV vocabulary, but that’s just the start. ATVs can be helpful for work, and they’re a lot of fun. If you want to get to grips with ATVs the best thing to do is to start riding.

Muskoka Powersports is a leading supplier of ATV, UTV, and dirt bike products. If you have any questions about what we offer or want some advice on your first ATV, click here to contact us today.