How Do You Put a Four Wheeler in Reverse

I’ve recently been getting back into driving a four wheeler but I forgot how to put it in reverse. So, I did some research about how to do it, and here’s what I found.

As a general rule, start in neutral, then squeeze the clutch, press the reverse button, and press the gear lever down. To get it out of reverse squeeze the clutch in and pull up with your foot to put it in neutral. In some 4 wheelers and ATVs, you put it in 1st gear first before you press down again with the reverse button pressed in.

The tricky part is that on virtually all 4 wheelers reverse is the exact same gear as the first gear. The major difference is that before putting it into first gear, you first hold down the reverse button. The reverse button is almost always located on the left handlebar, close to where your thumb would rest when you’re holding the handlebar normally.

If you already know how to put in first gear, it is exactly the same as putting it in first gear, however, you just hold the reverse button at the same time.

In this article, I will explain everything there is to know about changing gears on a four wheeler or ATV.

ATV gear leve

How do you change gears on a four wheeler?

So you have a good idea about how to put a four wheeler in reverse. However, you may be wondering how all the gears work in general. So, here’s how to change the gears on a four wheeler:

To change gears you squeeze the lever on your left handlebar to engage the clutch. From neutral – you should always start your four wheeler in neutral – you press the foot lever on your left to put it in first gear. To go into second gear, and each gear after that you pull up with your foot rather than pressing down like you did to go into first.

To change down gears, you hold in the clutch and press down on the foot lever. The one tricky thing about going from first gear to second is that as you go up to second gear you go through neutral. So you need to give it a bit of pressure to go up through neutral and click into second gear. Here’s a diagram to show how it works:

3rd and higher gears

↑ – pull up with your foot

2nd gear

↑ – pull up with your foot


↓ – press down with your foot

1st gear – but also Reverse if you press in the reverse button at the same time

↓ – press down with your foot

No other gears, nothing happens

But, reverse is a bit different. From neutral, you hold the special reverse button that is located on the left handlebar while squeezing the clutch. And press down with your foot on the gear lever.

Just remember when you get to 2nd if you press down softly it will click into neutral. To go from 2nd to 1st you need to push down through neutral into 1st gear.

The most important thing to remember is to always hold the clutch in when you want to change gears. The clutch is virtually always the left squeeze lever on the left handlebar. It looks the same as the front and rear brakes on a bicycle.

The same squeeze lever on your right handle is the handbrake. Interestingly, you hardly ever use the handbrake when riding and only typically only when you’re parking your 4 wheeler. The normal brake that you’ll use consistently is the right foot lever that you press down.

Boy riding an ATV

Mistakes I made when learning to change gears on a 4 wheeler

It’s a bit tricky to get used to changing gears on a 4 wheeler in the beginning. When I was first learning I would get it wrong a lot, and it’s fine to stall the engine while you’re learning.

The most common thing that would happen is that I’d forget to go down two clicks when going from 2nd to 1st, and end up in neutral. Then I’d rev the engine but because it wasn’t in gear I would just rev the engine.

If you do this yourself, it actually ends up being quite funny especially if you’re riding with others or when others are watching because they’ll think you’re trying to show off by revving the engine.

The other thing that takes a bit of getting used to is the right speed for each gear. For example, you might change it into 2nd gear but you’re going too fast for 2nd gear and you need to almost instantly change it up to 3rd gear.

It takes a bit of getting used to because a motorbike is much quicker off the mark than a car. You might have noticed this if you’ve been at the traffic lights and there has been a motorbike in the front of your lane. When the light goes green they take off WAY faster than a car. And are miles away before the cars have barely gotten rolling.

The main differences between the gearbox in a car and a 4 wheeler

A major difference between the clutch on a 4 wheeler/ATV and a car is that you can’t skip a gear. For example, you can’t go from 1st gear to 3rd gear in one go. You have to first click it into 2nd gear, and then pull up again with your foot to switch it into 3rd gear.

The other major difference is the positioning of the gears. But, other than that it works virtually the same as a car. You release the clutch slowly and make sure you’re giving it some gas. And try to get a good balance between giving enough gas, and release the clutch at the same time.

If you’re giving it too much gas it will jerk forward, but if you’re not giving it enough the engine will struggle to stay going and can stall out. When that happens just brake or roll to a stop and start the engine again.

Racing in the sand on a four-wheel drive quad

How do you put a four wheeler in neutral?

One of the first things you’ll need to know to drive a four wheeler is how to put it in neutral. Here’s how to do that on virtually all four wheelers.

Either go down one gear from second gear or go up one gear from 1st gear to neutral. Neutral is located between 1st gear and 2nd gear. Always remember to squeeze the clutch as you’re changing gears. The clutch is a squeeze lever on the left handlebar. When a four wheeler is in neutral, the neutral light on the dashboard will stay on.

It’s always best to put your four wheeler in neutral before turning it on, and when you turn it off. Like a car, if you attempt to start the engine in a gear, the four wheeler will lurch forward which can be a bit dangerous.

There are a few exceptions for example if you’re trying to start a 4 wheeler that has a flat battery. In that case, you will have a friend push the 4 wheeler with you on it and you’ll try to start the engine while in first gear.

Well, that about covers everything you need to know about how to put a four wheeler in reverse, and how to change gears on a four wheeler or ATV.


I’m Rob, the owner of RX Riders Place. My family and I have a long history of riding dirt bikes and ATVs and want to share what we have learned.

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