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HOW-TO: Widen your ATV

October 8, 2015
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Great handling and stability are key in ATV racing and riding, but we can’t all afford top-notch equipment for our machines. Over the years, the Dirt Wheels crew teaches tips and tricks on how to pick the right performance parts that won’t kill your budget and how to properly set up an ATV to enhance its handling. In this how-to, we widen a stock machine with aftermarket A-arms up front and widen the rear axle to give the quad a more stable footprint. Our goal is to be able to ride faster and in more control on a budget.

We took one of the industry’s best ATVs, the Honda TRX400X (EX), which started out as a well-known trail quad until 450 sport quads took over the market, and began wrenching on it. Alba Racing sells a set of high-quality A-arms for the 400’s front end at an easy price of $450. You can purchase the set by calling (619) 561-0188 or go to www.teamalbaracing.com.

The kit adds 2 inches of width on each front corner, has camber and caster adjustments, and will work with stock or long-travel suspension by installing or removing the shock adapters that come in the set. Alba’s bottom A-arms fit long-travel suspension normally, but they designed an adapter that bolts onto the long-travel mount and where the ball joint connects to the arm. This provides the stock-sized suspension-mounting bracket and lets the quad sit at the correct height in the front end. Re-valving your front suspension is a good idea if you stick with the stock shocks. We switched out our TRX400X’s front shocks with a stock set of TRX450R’s, which helped the quad ride better with the new Alba kit. A set of similar A-arms that fit stock shocks from Lonestar Racing start at $599. Long-travel versions can cost over $700 from other companies and not provide the option of running stock or long-travel shocks.

There are two main options to widen the rear axle of a sport quad. You can buy a new axle that will add 2 inches to each side, or the less expensive option would be to purchase wheel spacers that add the same width. We went with a $100 set of 2-inch wheel spacers from Slasher, which you can pick up from your local MTA dealer. There are upsides and downsides for each route, though. Wheel spacers bolt up to the stock wheel studs and then the wheel mounts to the spacer’s lug bolts. This creates a weak point on the stock wheel studs that could break from too much stress by landing hard off jumps or slamming the rear wheels into turns and rough terrain. Buying a new rear axle is more expensive, generally costing between $300–$500, but it could be the better way to go depending on the type of riding or racing you do.



STEP 1: You can work on both sides at once, but focusing on one side at a time might be easier. Take off the front wheels and set them out of the way.


STEP 2: There is no need to remove the tie-rod ends from the spindle or steering stem. Loosen the lock nuts on the tie-rod and spin the tie-rod until it is disconnected from both tie-rod ends. You might need the stock tie-rod nuts for the new rods.


STEP 3: Taking off the brake calipers from the spindle can be helpful to do the job. If you removed them, rest them on something so the brake lines aren’t stressed from hanging freely, or zip-tie them to your frame. Remove the cotter pins from the stock ball joints that run through the castle nuts and ball-joint shafts. A flat-blade screwdriver and needle-nose pliers are useful to remove them.


STEP 4: Then remove the castle nuts from the ball joints. The spindle rotates freely on the A-arms since the tie-rod is removed. You can take a piece of wood or a wooden hammer handle and rest it between the stock A-arm and spindle to keep it from moving depending on the direction you have to turn your wrench to remove the castle nuts.


STEP 5: A pickle fork is the easiest tool to use to remove the ball joints. This tool can cause damage to the stock ball joints and make them unable to use if you ever want to put the stock A-arms back on. Slide the forks between the ball joint and spindle, and use a hammer to pound on the back end of the pickle fork. The ball joints should pop loose pretty easily.


STEP 6: Remove the shock from the upper shock mount and the lower A-arm. The arms will then hang down freely. Remove the upper and lower A-arms off of their mounts. Now you can clean up the spindle where the new ball joints will be installed.


STEP 7: Read the instructions that come with the kit to see which spacers to use when you install the top arm. Depending on what type of riding you do, the spacers are used to offset the top A-arm to your preference. Once you bolt on the top arm, the bottom one can be attached, which doesn’t require spacers.


STEP 8: Next step is to bolt on the new ball joints to the new A-arms. The bottom ball joint has no adjustments and can be tightened down in place. The top ball joint is adjustable to set the camber later on, so do not tighten them all the way down once you install them to the new arms.


STEP 9: Reattach the shock onto your machine the same way it was removed from the stock A-arms.


STEP 10: Once the new ball joints are installed on the A-arms, you can attach the wheel spindle to your machine. Make sure the tie-rod end on the spindle is in the right place so the spindle is installed correctly. Slide the bottom ball joint into the spindle, and screw the nut down a few threads. Do the same with the top ball joint into the spindle.


STEP 11: Take a piece of wood and place it between the spindle and the bottom A-arm in the front or rear of it, depending on which ball joint you are tightening. The bottom joint might require extra pressure to seat into the spindle. You can utilize a jack stand or wooden block to rest the bottom ball joint on, so you can tighten the nut down. Tighten the ball-joint nuts down as hard as possible so they seat properly into the spindle. Reattach the brake caliper to the spindle if you had to remove it.


STEP 12: If the stock rod nuts are required, install them on the new tie-rods first. Then, making sure the new tierods are installed evenly into the tie-rod ends, screw them on until the spindle looks straight from the front of your machine. Lightly tighten the tie-rod nuts against the tierod ends. You will have to make adjustments to this later for a proper alignment.


STEP 13: At this point everything should be installed, aside from the wheels. Make sure every nut and bolt removed or installed on the new A-arm kit is tight. Some parts require torque specs. The only loose part should be the top ball joint for adjusting the camber.


STEP 14: Install the wheels onto your machine. Now you can set your quad back on its wheels and follow the alignment instructions that the kit comes with to set up your machine the way you prefer it to handle.


STEP 15: With the rear tires removed, slide the spacers onto the lug bolts and tighten them down with the new lug nuts. Make sure they are tightened properly. If any of them are too loose, that can cause the lug bolts to snap and your wheel to part from your machine.


STEP 16: Now you can install the wheels onto the wheel spacers with the stock lug nuts. Make sure those are properly tightened as well. It is that simple.

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