Keeping your machine in top shape is important. Part of that preventative maintenance is maintaining the proper tire pressure. Having a tire that is over- or under-inflated can negatively impact the ride of your machine, as well as the handling when on the trail. Riding on incorrectly inflated tires can also create abnormal wear and premature damage to the expensive rubber on your hunting machine.
Figuring out the PSI
Knowing the correct tire pressure can be confusing, as there are two different choices in most cases. The tire has a specific pressure printed on the sidewall and then there is the air pressure recommended by the ATV manufacturer. The number on the sidewall from the tire manufacturer is usually the maximum recommended pressure for seating the bead on the rim. Exceeding this pressure can result in damage to the cords in the tire as well as potentially rupturing the tire itself.
The air pressure recommended by the ATV or UTV manufacturer is suggested in anticipation of possible loads or the specific use of the machine. This ensures that the tire gives the owner the best traction and that the tire has a longer life cycle. Too much pressure and the tire's center will be the only thing making contact with the trail, creating premature wear in the center as well as reduced traction. Not enough air in the tire and you wear out the sidewall and outer tread first and open yourself up to potential rim bite, which can end in a punctured tire. That happens when a low-pressured tire allows the sidewall to flex too much and the rim pinches the tire between rocks or other trail debris, tearing a hole in the sidewall. Reference your vehicle's owner's manual or contact your local ATV dealer for manufacturer suggested air pressure information.
Even It Out
The air pressure from left to right on each axle should be the same. So, if the ATV manufacturer suggests the rear tires need eight pounds, then both left and right rear wheels should be at eight pounds. If the front pressure is suggested at 6.5 pounds, this means both left and right. Be sure it is exact, especially on the front wheels, as any difference could make the machine handle erratically. Getting the proper tire gauge is a must as well. You can pick up an ATV tire gauge at most auto parts stores and some ATV's have them in the onboard tool kit.
The best rule of thumb is to start out with the ATV/UTV manufacturer's recommended tire pressure, as there is no reason to exceed this unless you are carrying heavy loads day in and day out. Only increase the pressure if you are carrying a heavy load, and be sure to reduce the pressure back to the recommended pressure when unloaded.
Photo by mtneer_man on Flickr