When you’re in the industry for a new ATV, over there are countless factors to consider, among them gift what drive system you have to choose. You may have actually heard people talk around belt drive, obelisk drive, and chain drive. Girlfriend will discover that these terms are frequently used interchangeably, bring about unnecessary confusion.

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That’s why I determined to do this post to help clarify several of the terminologies and administer an synopsis of i m sorry shaft-driven ATVs are on the market.

Most utility and also recreational ATVs top top the sector are shaft-drive; lock use steel drive shafts to transfer power indigenous the transmission to the wheels. This includes both ATVs with a belt-driven CVT transmission and also beltless options offered through Honda. The exception is many sport quads and some youth ATVs that are chain drive.

What execute we typical by shaft-drive, belt drive, and chain journey in one ATV?

To understand why many ATVs are thought about shaft driven, we must clarify what we mean when we talk about an ATV being shaft drive, belt drive, or chain drive.

These three various terms are referring to what format of drivetrain a automobile has. But the terms are not constantly used in the same method with all species of vehicles. Also, They do not always refer to the same certain component of the drivetrain.

Thedrivetrainincludes every component the transfers the engine’s strength out come the wheels, consisting of the transmission. Various setups have various groups that components.

Thedrivelineincludes every component the transfers the strength from the engine the end to the wheels, except the transmission.

The ATVs in the industry today come with one of two main styles of infection systems:

CVT, continuously variable transmission.A CVT can be belt-driven, but this does no make the ATV belt drive. A CVT can also be chain propelled (not so usual on ATVs), but this does no make the ATV chain drive.Geared transmission.A geared transmission is a gearbox is make from a team of metal gears and also shafts, but this does no make the ATV tower drive. Mechanically gearbox transmissions on ATVs space either manual, semi-automatic, or totally automatic.

Here is an introduction over ATVs that have actually automatic transmissions.

Honda supplied to sell a hydrostatic transmission with their Hondamatic models, yet none of their current models sell this infection style. Lock do, however, use hydraulic torque converters.

What is shaft-drive on one ATV?

Shaft driveon an ATV usually refers to the driveline style and not the inner functions of the transmission. Regardless of what transmission form an ATV has, it may still be shaft-drive.

The shafts in a tower drive refer to the metal driveshafts and axles that carry power native the transmission to the wheels via the front and also rear differentials.

The picture at the peak of the post show the behind drive shaft, if this image screens the fromt driveshaft on mine Polaris Sportsman XP1000.

Some people refer to ATVs through beltless transmissions, frequently the ones v a gearbox and clutch configuration, as being shaft-drive. They might be correct, but not due to the fact that the ATV has actually a gearbox. It’s tho the driveshafts and also axles that would certainly make the cycle a pillar drive.

If a beltless ATV through a gearbox and also clutch supplies a chain to journey the wheels, it is chain drive, no shaft-drive.

While a gearbox is do from a group of metal gears and shafts, it is not considered a shaft drive. With gearbox transmissions ~ above ATVs, it’s quiet the driveshafts and also axles that make the a tower drive.

So referring to beltless ATVs as a column drive might confuse because ATVs v CVT belt transmissions are column drives together well.

Let’s to compare a couple of examples:

ACan-Am Outlanderhas a CVT transmission and also uses steel driveshafts and also axles to carry the strength to the wheels. That is a shaft-drive ATV through a belt-drive transmission.

AHonda Fourtrax ForemanES has actually a five-speed + turning back automatic transmission and also direct front and also rear driveshafts. It’s a shaft-drive ATV through an automatic gearbox.

AYamaha Raptor700has a five-speed + turning back transmission v a chain final-drive. It’s a chain-drive ATV v a hand-operated gearbox.

What is belt-drive on an ATV?

Belt-drive on one ATV is typically referring come a belt-driven CVT style of transmission.

CVT belt drive transmission on a Polaris Sporsman.

Most belt-driven ATVs are shaft drive as-well because they use metal shafts and also axles to carry the strength from the CVT transmission and also out to the wheels.

Here are the rear CV-axles on mine Polaris Sportsman XP1000.

The confusion occurs as soon as comparing v belt-drive top top a motorcycle. Belt journey in one ATV and also belt journey in a motorcycle is not the exact same thing.

Some motorcycle manufacturers, such as Harley Davidson, market a few models where the metal chain last drive is replaced with a rubber belt. This would make their driveline belt-drive. ATVs, however, perform not use belts in your driveline, only in the CVT transmission.

What is chain-drive on an ATV?

Chain journey on an ATV usually describes the metal chain that transfers power from the transmission and to the behind axle. One sprocket on the gearbox is associated to an additional sprocket on the rear axle, using a steel chain.

Chain drive on a cheap youth ATV.

This setup is accessible on many sports quads and also some youth ATVs.

Technically, a gearbox consists of a metal chain, yet most human being don’t think about them chain journey regardless.

What ATVs are shaft-driven?

All ATVs that use steel driveshafts and also axles to transfer the power from the transmission and also out to the wheel are obelisk drives. This includes ATVs through belt-driven, CVT transmissions, as well as ATVs v a gearbox and clutch transmission setup.

Here is a perform of ATVs that space shaft-drive:

Brand and modelTransmission typeDriveline
Can-Am Outlander seriesCVT belt-driveShaft and axle drive
Can-Am Renegade seriesCVT belt-driveShaft and also axle drive
Polaris Sporsman Series*CVT belt-driveShaft and axle drive
Polaris Scrambler SeriesCVT belt-driveShaft and also axle drive
Polaris ACE series*CVT belt-driveShaft and also axle drive
Yamaha Kodiak seriesCVT belt-driveShaft and axle drive
Yamaha Grizzly seriesCVT belt-driveShaft and also axle drive
Honda Fourtrax RinconGeared transmissionShaft and also axle drive
Honda Fourtrax Foreman seriesGeared transmissionShaft and also axle drive
Honda Fourtrax RancherGeared transmissionShaft and axle drive
Kawasaki Brute force seriesCVT belt-driveShaft and also axle drive
*Non-youth models only

What ATVs space not shaft-driven?

ATVs that use a metal chain instead of metal shafts to transport power indigenous the gearbox come the wheels are chain drive and not tower drive.

Here is a list of ATVs that room not shaft-drive:

Brand and modelTransmission typeDriveline
Can-Am DS series (youth)CVT belt-driveChain-drive
Polaris Outlaw series (youth)CVT belt-driveChain-drive
Polaris Sportsman 110 (youth)CVT belt-driveChain-drive
Polaris ACE 150 EFI (youth)CVT belt-driveChain-drive
Yamaha YFZ 50 (Youth)CVT belt-driveChain-drive
Yamaha YFX 450Geared transmissionChain-drive
Yamaha Raptor seriesGeared transmissionChain-drive
Kawasaki KFX series (youth)CVT belt-driveChain-drive

Why room some ATVs shaft-drive and also others chain-drive?

All drive solution come with their re-publishing of pros and also cons.

Effectivity and also weight

Chain-drive equipment weigh significantly less than shaft-drive systems. This makes them the preferred alternate in many racing applications, where weight saving is crucial.

Also, you get an ext engine strength to the wheels v chain-drive over pillar drive. Depending upon its design, a tower drive system deserve to bleed as lot as 10-20% engine power due to all joints and also moving gears. Chain and also sprocket based systems have a transmission strength loss of just 1-4%.

Racing quads require every horsepower to the wheel to success the race, which pipeline chain and also sprocket the wanted alternative.


The main advantage of a chain-drive mechanism is a significantly lower initial expense due come its straightforward design. This, in addition to load savings, is the key reason why numerous youth models come with chain-drive.

Reliability and also Maintenance

Shaft-drive is considered an ext reliable in the lengthy run 보다 chain-drive. This is mostly because of a an ext straightforward maintenance schedule.

The chain and also sprockets in a chain-dive device wear down over time and eventually need to be replaced. Replacing the sprockets and also chain is miscellaneous most house mechanics deserve to perform on their own, but the parts’ cost adds up over time.

Regular maintenance through cleaning and also relubricating is compelled to ensure longevity.

The replacement interval relies on exactly how hard and in what problem the quad is ridden. Racers should replace the chain and sprockets far much more often 보다 the casual to chat rider.

Driveshaft systems are not maintenance-free however require much less maintenance 보다 a chain drive.

Some ATVs have u-joints that demands to it is in greased now and then, and you have to replace the oil in the diffs on given intervals.

Driveshafts perform not wear as a chain does. You might need to replace components such together u-joints or CV axles every various other year, however that’s about it. A shaft

Off-road capabilities

The chain and also sprocket space exposed underneath the bike, leave them delicate to affect damage or jammed debris once taking a chain-drive ATV off-road.

Shaft-drive offers far better ground clearance and can take more of a beating without leading to issues.

Why perform some ATVs usage belt-driven transmissions if others use geared transmissions?


Geared transmissions v an auto or hand-operated clutch are normally considered an ext reliable 보다 a belt-driven CVT transmission.

If a CVT belt overheats or is moved too hard, it might shatter right into a million little pieces, leaving girlfriend stranded on the trail. Big mud wheels or tracks are notorious for destroying belts. A CVT transmission can be upgraded using a clutch kit to make it much more likely come handle large wheels, but it still has it’s limitations.

If a CVT belt it s okay wet for part reason, it will not have the ability to drive the ATV forward. If you press too hard prior to the belt has dried up, it may start slipping, i m sorry may destroy the belt.

While you can replace a broken CVT belt top top the trail, it commonly requires an ext work than replacing the belt top top a snowmobile. Girlfriend would additionally need to carry a spare belt at all times.


CVT belt transmissions space considered more straightforward and cheaper to manufacture 보다 geared transmissions.

This is most likely the main reason why most ATVs in today’s market come with this layout of transmission.


A geared transmission requires the sometimes oil change. Various other than that, it’s mainly thought about maintenance free.

CVT transmissions require slightly more maintenance to run reliably.

The rubber drive-belt wears out over time and needs to be replaced. The replacement interval varies depending on factors together as how much strength the ATV has, if you pull heavy loads or if you operation oversized wheels.

A CVT belt replacement cost around $50 come $100 plus job if friend don’t want to do the task yourself.

The CVT clutches may get dirty over time, resulting in belt slipping and other issues. Expect having to clean the clutches every various other year.

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During the lifespan of an ATV, friend may also run into concerns such together belt deflection needing adjustment and clutches comes you that alignment. A mechanic normally performs these species of adjustments.

Related concerns

Are every ATVs belt driven?

The majority of ATVs in today’s industry uses a belt-driven CVT transmission however does not usage a belt to transport the strength from the gearbox the end to the wheels. To attain this they either use a chain or a shaft and axel driveline. The ATVs the don’t use a belt-driven CVT transmission offers a manual, semi-automatic, or hands-on gearbox through gears and also clutches.