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Understanding ATV/UTV Rider Language

When hitting the trails, you’re bound to hear chit chat amongst ATV/UTV owners. But if you’re not familiar with the lingo, you may be lost in a vocabulary world that you’ve never heard before. There is definitely a “language” amongst ATV and UTV riders, and it’s one that you may want to brush up on before heading out to the trails or into your local ATV shop.

What is an ATV/UTV?

There is still a bit of confusion out there regarding ATVs and UTVs. Looking at the two side by side though, it won’t take you long to understand the significant differences.

An ATV is an off-highway motorized vehicle. ATVs generally accommodate a single person, but some can carry two people and are typically used on farms as work equipment. An ATV’s steering is comprised of a handlebar mechanism and seating is like that of a motorcycle.

A UTV is a machine that can accommodate two to four passengers, side-by-side. It comes with a lot of storage room for work tools and cargo. UTVs are larger and more powerful than ATVs and can generally haul more. Steering is more like a car, and its wheelbase is like that of a car as well. A UTV is the more expensive of the two.

Common ATV Jargon Explained

If you’re going to be embarking on trail rides in the ATV or UTV world, or anything else related to these pieces of equipment, you’re going to want to learn and keep up with all of the jargon that goes along with it. Below, we explore some of the more common terms that you will want to familiarize yourself with.


Quad and Four-Wheeler are simply other terms for ATVs and UTVs. The truth is, some UTVs come with more than 4 wheels, but chances are, when you’re hearing these terms, they are referencing an ATV or UTV.


CCs are a measurement of volume in reference to the size of the ATV/UTVs engine. The higher the CC, the more powerful it will be. CC stands for Cubic Centimeter.

 Automatic Transmission

An automatic transmission on an ATV is just that. An automatic transmission. Like a car, the rider’s need to shift gears is eliminated. This allows for a rider to focus more on balance, direction, and traction.

Manual Transmission

Manual transmission allows the rider to select the best gear for the circumstances, manually. It is helpful for hauling heavy loads and low traction scenarios, where higher gears may not provide enough power in the moment.

Air Filter

Air filter is definitely a term you should get used to in the ATV/UTV world – because you will be replacing them often (or at least you should be). Your air filter is what filters the air through to your engine. It removes impurities to allow your engine to breathe properly.

Bump Start

A bump start means starting your ATV manually rather than using the starter switch. There may be times where your ATV’s electrical system may not work properly. A bump start allows you to kick start your ATV manually in the event that this happens.

Sport ATV

Sport ATVs are typically used for just that. Sport. Not all ATV’s are built or used for work. Many see ATV riding as a sport or hobby, which it absolutely is. Sport ATV enthusiasts take their quads out on the trails, often with a group or riders. Sport can also mean that they are used for racing. These ATV’s are built for speed, are nimble. and not ideal for work.

Utility ATV

Utility ATVs are what you would typically see on a farm or on trail rides as well. They’re capable of hauling and meant to get down and dirty with.


Mudding refers to a specific type of ATV/UTV riding that deliberately takes place in the mud. The muddier the better. It’s somewhat of a sport for trail riders who love to splash around in the mud and get dirty with their ATV’s.

Side-By-Side (SxS)

Side-by-side is simply another name for UTVs. It references the fact that you can sit side-by-side.


Four-stroke refers to a type of engine where the piston completes four separate strokes while turning the crankshaft. It refers to the way in which a piston travels along the cylinder in either direction. ATVs/UTVs have four-stroke engines, therefore, it’s a term often used to reference quads.

Track Kit

A track kit is a kit that is often installed on ATV’s for more rigorous trail riding. It also makes it useable in the winter months by allowing the machine to work its way through heavy snow etc.


A winch is a mechanism that is installed on your quad which allows you to tow items.

Ground Clearance

Ground clearance refers to the amount of space there is between your ATV’s undercarriage and the ground. It is a term often used amongst trail riders due to the fact that riding over uneven terrain can sometimes cause damage to your quad’s undercarriage, if you’re not careful. Stones and debris are often hidden under rougher terrain areas, which can lead to damage.


Hydrolocking refers to water getting into an ATV’s internal combustion engine. Riding through water and puddles is a whole lot of fun, however, the reality is that your engine was not designed to handle it—even with a snorkel kit. At least not in excessive amounts.

Knobby Tire

A knobby tire is a tire that provides more power and increased traction on an ATV. They are tires made with a slightly rounded footprint, which is great for general use.

Paddle Tire

Paddle tires are tires which are specifically built for riding through sand and sand dunes. Paddle Tire is another term for sand tire.

Learn the Lingo

Whether you’re out trail riding, working amongst other ATV/UTV owners, or simply visiting a repair shop one day, it’s important to understand the world of ATV/UTV jargon. Get used to hearing and using these terms and don’t get left in the dust. Reach out to your local ATV/UTV team for advice, parts and/or service, questions or even just a visit to talk shop with fellow quad lovers alike.