What Are the Different Types of ATV Chains?

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  • Written By: Lori Kilchermann
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 10 October 2019
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There are typically three types of chains associated with all-terrain vehicles (ATVs): drive chains, tire chains and tow chains. All of these ATV chain styles are very different and provide a specific function for the ATV and its owner. Commonly, most types of ATV chains are manufactured from a high-carbon steel and are designed to provide years of maintenance-free use. There are, however, some replacement products for the ATV chains that are manufactured from nylon and other types of plastic.

Many ATVs use a steel drive chain to propel the machine. Similar to a bicycle chain, albeit larger, these ATV chains send power from the machine's engine and transmission to the drive axle. This chain must remain very flexible to avoid breakage, so a routine maintenance schedule of cleaning and lubricating should be adhered to. Typically, light oil is used to lubricate the drive chain as the light oil is able to work its way into and between the links of the ATV chains. Some of the high-performance drive chains use small, rubber O-rings between the chain links to aid in the retention of oil and maintain lubrication of the chain.


Tire chains are also commonly used on ATV tires. The chains provide added traction in snow, ice and mud by digging deep into the surface and gripping solid material. Sometimes, these ATV chains are used on dry ground when an added amount of traction is needed. When using the ATV to pull heavy loads or to push large amounts of soil or snow, these tire chains are very helpful. Occasionally, an owner of a four-wheel drive ATV will place these types of tire chains on all four tires to add the ultimate amount of traction as possible to the machine.

Another type of chain used with an ATV is a tow chain. These ATV chains are usually used to pull a broken ATV back from a trail ride or to aid in pulling a fallen tree out of the roadway or off of a trail. Nothing more than a straight piece of chain, this type of chain commonly has a hook attached to each of its ends. Nylon tow ropes have replaced the use of chains for many ATV owners due to the light weight and ease of use and storage. The tow chain is commonly carried on the ATV by simply looping the chain around a luggage rack on the vehicle.


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