Will Snow Hurt My ATV?

It’s well known that ATVs can be ridden on dry roads, and in normal weather conditions. In certain regions, there is either permanent snow or dumps of snow in the winter months. This offers a lot of opportunities for fun but it’s important to know whether it can potentially damage vehicles such as ATV, so today I will explain whether snow can damage an ATV.

Overall, snow will not hurt an ATV. But, it’s recommended to not let your ATV go more than 14 inches (35 cm) deep in snow. Doing so will cause water to get into the engine and cause some of the parts to fail. ATVs perform better in the snow if you use tire chains.

Snow is sometimes covering ice and ice needs to be a certain thickness otherwise it will crack under the weight of an ATV. So, below I will explain how thick ice needs to be to ride an ATV on it, how to ride an ATV effectively in the snow, and whether an ATV is better than a snowmobile for riding in the snow.

Winter race on an ATV on snow in the forest

Can You Use an ATV in the Snow

Snow presents with it a range of challenges. It can be quite deep and cars will easily get stuck in it. Four-wheel drive vehicles fare a bit better, but can still struggle, so here’s an explanation about whether you can use an ATV in the snow.

It’s perfectly fine to use an ATV in the snow according to the owner’s manual of popular ATVs such as Polaris. There’s the potential for snow to get into the transmission system if you ride in snow deeper than 14 inches (35 cm) without a snorkel.

If you accidentally ride in snow deeper than 14 inches (35 cm) then Polaris recommends drying out your ATV in the sun, or in a windy spot. This is because the snow can get into the transmission, known as the PVT. And if water is left sitting in it, it can damage it.

It’s also possible to get stuck in the snow. This happens when the spinning of the tires makes the tires go deeper into the snow. And also when the tires reach the compacted/ice-like snow or ice itself underneath. This type of surface is very slippery and difficult for ATV tires to get a grip on.

When this happens, top ATV brands like Polaris recommend putting the transmission in a low gear, and to use fast and sudden acceleration to cause the ATV to pop out of where it’s stuck. But, they do say to be very careful because accelerating in this way can lead to a loss of traction and can cause the ATV to roll over.

ATV on tracks ride back in a deep snow in the taiga

How well tire chains work for riding an ATV in the snow

For these reasons, if you are going to be riding in snow, it’s a very good idea to put some chains on the tires. Chains are very inexpensive and work much better than having no tire chains. The one thing to note is that you shouldn’t ride an ATV with tires chains very fast.

If the chains come a bit loose they can whip into the areas around the tires at a very high speed and cause a lot of damage. I explained the ins and out, and how well tire chains work on an ATV in this article about whether ATV tire chains work. It also has a video of a side-by-side comparison of riding an ATV in snow, with snow tire chains, and without tire chains.

Ice fishing using an ATV

Ice fishing is very popular for people who love fishing but can’t otherwise do it because the waterways are frozen over. It’s also a very fun winter hobby. Getting to and from areas that are good for ice fishing can be tricky given the amount of snow.

Therefore, some sort of vehicle either an ATV, 4×4 car/truck, or a snowmobile are ideal to get to hard-to-reach ice fishing spots. It can be hard to know if an ATV is good in the snow without trying it for yourself. But, snowmobiles are known to be REALLY good for traveling on snow and traveling incredibly fast on snow.

Snowmobiles use what are called tracks, rather than wheels. It’s also possible to install tracks on an ATV. I did a full comparison of whether snowmobiles or ATVs with tracks are better at riding in snow in this article about whether tracks are bad for an ATV.

How thick ice needs to be to safely ride an ATV on it

To safely ride an ATV on ice it needs to be a thickness of 1 ft (30 cm). A body of water that has frozen over is not necessarily the same thickness all over. Therefore, there is always a potential risk of the ice cracking and the ATV falling into the ice. Due to the fact that some regions can be thinner and not as strong as others.

Therefore, in general, it’s best to avoid riding an ATV on ice unless you’re very confident it’s much thicker than 1 ft (30 cm). An average ATV weighs within the range of 200 pounds to 1200 pounds (100 kg to 500kg).

This is not including the weight of the rider which can add around another 250 pounds (125 kg) at the most. Unless a person is a very rare exception and is extremely tall, muscular, or overweight. Ice can safely support this weight if it’s 1ft (30 cm) thicker or more.

Snowmobiles have a differently shaped body and are unique in a few ways from ATVs. I did an analysis of the pros and cons of ATVs compared to snowmobiles for ice fishing so you can decide which is best for you in this article that answers if ATVs are good for ice fishing.

Ice Fisherman in ATV Pulling Sled of Supplies

Can an ATV Be Used To Plow Snow?

Plowing snow on roads is typically done with a medium-sized truck. For smaller areas such as your driveway, or pavement areas around your home you may be curious whether it’s possible to do it with an ATV. As they are smaller and more maneuverable. So, here’s an explanation of whether you can plow snow using an ATV.

An ATV can be used to plow snow. The ideal size of an ATV used to plow snow should be 500 lbs (226 kg) and have a 500cc engine or bigger. Some ATVs come with a plow mount standard, which saves installing one. One with a winch is also very helpful for getting it out if it gets stuck.

A snowplow can be installed on the front like a snowplow you will have seen being used on highways, and residential roads. The main difference is it’s quite a bit smaller and is about the width of an ATV.

A truck with a large plow won’t fit into small spaces, and these are required to be shoveled by hand. In many cases, an ATV with a snowplow is much faster and less work. The main concern with using an ATV to plow snow is the grip of the tires. And tire chains are ideal to give them more grip and avoid getting stuck in the snow.

I looked into which ATV is best for plowing snow, and found that the Polaris Sportsman Utility HD LE, is one of the best. I did an in-depth rundown of why this is and took a look at why this one is the best options in this article about the best ATV for plowing snow.

Atv snow plow

Leaving an ATV Outside in the Winter – Should You Do It

In the summer months and in warm climates when it rains everything dries out pretty fast. But, in the wintertime, the lower temperatures can mean snow, more frequent rain, and water pooling on things left outside. ATVs are designed to be used outside and to get reasonably wet, but here’s an explanation about whether ATVs can be left outside in the winter.

As a general rule, you should not leave an ATV outside in winter. The main reason is that wet weather will cause rusting. Provided it’s not raining or snowing it’s ok to leave an ATV outside. But, avoid leaving it where it will have water sitting on it for extended periods of time.

It’s possible to put a cover on top of your ATV to keep it dry. However, a typical plastic cover such as a tarpaulin doesn’t have good ventilation. If you use one of these, condensation will cause water to pool on the underside.

This will cause the ATV to become wet. The main concern with your ATV getting wet is it will rust any parts that are metal. Such as bolts that hold various pieces of your ATV in place. The top ATV brands such as Polaris say that they sell specialist covers that will protect your ATV from the rain but also have enough ventilation that condensation doesn’t form on the underside.

These are ideal if you NEED to leave your ATV outside because of a space requirement, or would prefer it to save space in a garage. But, generally, you should make plans to always keep your ATV indoors where it won’t get wet. Another concern is the battery in your ATV. The battery should be kept cool and dry.

As well as keeping your ATV dry, you should not store it in direct sunlight according to popular ATV brands like Alterra. This will fade/discolor the colors on your ATV.

ATV driver riding through snow

Whether Plowing With an ATV Is Worth It

It’s possible to either get someone in to plow snow or remove it from your roof after a snowstorm. But, you can also shovel snow yourself, or install your own snowplow on one of your vehicles. You can have a snowplow on an ATV, but I wanted to know if it’s worth it and looked into how much it costs compared to hiring someone to do it, and here’s what I found.

Plowing snow with an ATV is worth it. However, if you have a large area to plow, a truck or a larger vehicle is more efficient because it can plow more snow in less time. A snowplow for an ATV costs around the same price it would cost to have someone plow your drive for an entire season.

According to Home Guides, to have someone plow your driveway for an entire season costs about $600 to $800. The price for a snowplow for an ATV is about the same price $600 to $800. However, you can use it for many seasons.

This makes it worth it because it will pay for itself, as well as, give you the flexibility to plow other areas not just your driveway. A plow for a truck though costs a bit more and cost around $1000 to $2500. This means it will take longer to pay for itself but still be worth it in the long run.

A snowplow on an ATV works perfectly fine and is just as effective as a snowplow on a truck. The main difference is, it has a bit cheaper upfront cost. And in some cases can have a much lower upfront cost.

Are ATVs/4 Wheelers Are Good at Plowing Snow

ATVs and quads are very good at plowing snow. In extreme cases, they can plow snow that is 3 feet (1 meter) thick. For regular snow, they also do a good job and are much more maneuverable than a large truck. Here’s a video showing how well an ATV plows snow:

Below is also an extreme example of how well an ATV can plow snow:

In my opinion, it isn’t ideal to use an ATV to plow snow in this way. The reason is the person stalls the engine multiple times and rides the engine really hard. This would create more wear and tear on the engine.


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.

Recent Posts