Contrary to popular belief, the Honda FourTrax 250 did not start in 1986 – it was a year before that. But because that same year had the Honda “Big Red” ATC250R dominating the scene, few people noticed the small wheeler. It was not until the industry began shifting to four-wheeled machines that the FourTrax line made a buzz with consumers. Continue reading this article and get to know more about this underdog.
The 1985 Honda FourTrax 250 was a sport/rec quad that came before the “ATV of the Century” – the 1986 Honda TRX250R. This 4×4 featured a powerful 246-cm3 engine, front-and-rear cargo racks, and rugged styling. It also set the groundwork for Honda’s line of top-notch utility machines.
Incredible agility, predictable handling, and reliable power delivery are only a few of the good stuff the vehicle has to offer. So much so that the four-wheeler is highly sought-after even to this day. Stick around, as this guide lets you in on the specs and praiseworthy characteristics of the 1985 Honda FourTrax 250.
About the 1985 Honda 250 FourTrax™
Unknown to many, the 1985 Honda FourTrax 250 was behind the celebrated 250-cc FourTrax series (or TRX250R/X). This small, rack-equipped ATV laid the foundation for the FourTrax™ run and, essentially, Honda’s ongoing line of sport-rec utility vehicles. While most off-roaders are only familiar with the 1986-1989 models, only true-blue enthusiasts would be able to point to the ’85 version as the beginning of the TRX250R/X era.
Featuring the same 246-cm3 air-cooled power mill, rear suspension, and 20-hp power output as the ’86 version, the 1985 Honda TRX 250 was initially more popular with farmers than with adventurers. In a way, it seemed to have served as a guinea pig for the former, aimed at going against the then industry-leading Suzuki Quadracer.
But as soon as the vehicle launched, Honda realized it was premature to compete with the pure-sport Quadracer. So, for the succeeding FourTrax 250 year models, Honda focused on improving the hybrid functionality of the machine that ultimately led to its success.
Despite taking a backseat to Suzuki’s frontrunner, riders used the Honda FourTrax 250 predominantly for racing in the ’80s and early ’90s. This resulted in the boom of parts businesses throughout North America and pushed the Japanese firm to make further enhancements to future releases. While there were no changes to the 1985 Honda FourTrax 250 plastics, upgrades were evident in the 4×4’s brake system, lighting position, and drivetrain components.
1985 Honda FourTrax 250 Specs & Features
The FourTrax 250 engine’s OHC design delivers an easy-to-use powerband, despite being a detuned version of the iconic ATC250 powerplant. Its carb size of 27 mm is slightly smaller than the 1986 model’s 34-mm carburetor, lending to its lower top speed rating of 53 mph. Everything else about its engine configuration did not seem to change – even for later-year Honda TRX250s.
|Engine Brand Name, Type||Keihin, 4-Stroke OHC|
|Cylinder Arrangement||Single cylinder, inclined 20°|
|Cylinder Compression||12.5 ± 1.0 kg/cm2 (178 ± 14 psi)|
|Carburetion System||27-mm dual-valve carburetor x 1|
|Engine Cooling||Air cooling|
|Engine Fuel & Capacity||10 L/2.6 US gal (reserve – 2 L/(0.5 US gal) of unleaded gasoline of at least PON 86 or RON 91, containing MTBE (Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether), < 10% ethanol, or < 5% methanol w/ appropriate cosolvents and corrosion inhibitor|
|Bore x Stroke Ratio||74 x 57.3 mm (2.9 x 2.3 in)|
|Displacement||246 cm³ / 15 in³|
|Valve Clearance Cold||0.08 mm (0.003 in) – intake/exhaust|
|Horsepower||19.3 hp/19.6 PS (14.4 kW @ 7,000 RPM)|
|Maximum Torque||19.9 Nm (2.03 kgf-m, 14.7 ft-lb @ 6,000 RPM)|
|Top Speed||53 mph (85.3 km/h – owner’s claim)|
|Starter System||Forward kick start mechanism|
|Lubrication||Forced pressure (wet sump)|
|Engine Oil & Quantity||2.5 L (2.6 US quarts) of SAE 10W-40 4-stroke engine oil w/ an API grade of SJ Alternatives: SAE 5W, 10W-30, 20W-40, 20W-50 w/out graphite or molybdenum additives and meeting JASO T903 MA, MB|
The 250-cc wheeler transfers power to the wheels through a 5-speed semi-auto transmission with a reverse gear and a super-low 1st gear – perfect for light- to medium-weight loads. Additionally, a gear-driven counter-balancer and a ball-and-race-bearing steering system make for the quad’s excellent handling and power delivery.
|Clutch||Wet multi-plate, semi-automatic, centrifugal type|
|Transfer, Transmission Type||5-speed constant mesh w/ reverse|
|Gearshift Pattern||Left-foot-operated return system (Forward: N-S/L-1-2-3-4; Reverse: N-R)|
|Drive System||Chain and Sprocket 13:39, 520 O-ring chain|
|Primary Reduction Ratio||2.407 (65/27)|
|Final Drive Ratio||5.684|
|Transfer Gear Ratio||S/L – 4.083 (49/12) / 1st – 2.389 (43/18) / 2nd – 1.609 (37/23) / 3rd – 1.179 (33/28) / 4th – 0.906 (29/32) / Reverse – 5.397|
A fully transistorized regulator powered by a YTX12-BS battery (view on Amazon) complements the FourTrax’s kick-start system. A push-button electric starter actuated with the throttle also comes with the wheeler, but the former proves to be more reliable, especially during cold weather.
|Ignition||CDI (Capacitor Discharge Ignition)|
|Ignition Timing||13° B.T.D.C @ 1,400 RPM ± 100 – idle; 31° B.T.D.C @ 3.500 RPM – full advance|
|Spark Plug||NGK DR8ES-L or NIPPON DENSO X24ESR-U w/ 0.6 – 0.7 mm (0.024 – 0.028 in) gap Tightening Torque: 15-20 Nm (1.5-2.0 kgf-m, 11-14 ft-lb)|
|Generator||Transistorized, non-adjustable regulator|
|Generator Max Output||13 – 15V 200 W @ 5,000 RPM|
|Fuse||20 Amp (main); 15 Amp (receptacle, sub-fuse)|
|Battery||12V (12 Ah)/10 Hr, YTX12-BS format|
|Battery Dimensions (L x W x H)||6.00 x 3.44 x 5.12 in (150 x 87 x 130 mm)|
Tires & Brakes
The 1985 Honda FourTrax 250 had Ohtsu® tires on all fours. The front tires (AT21 x 7-10) are especially difficult to come by nowadays. Conversely, aftermarket knobbies that perfectly match the AT25 x 12-9 rear tires (view on Amazon) are readily available online. In case of front tire wear or damage, you may opt for slightly taller tires as replacement. Depending on your choice of tires, you may need to get a lift kit and change your wheels, too.
|Front Tire, off-road/road air pressure||Ohtsu H-trak R/T 101 AT21 x 7-10, tubeless|
20 kPa (0.20 kgf/cm2, 2.9 psi)
|Rear Tire, off-road/road air pressure||Ohtsu H-trak P/V 701Z AT25 x 12-9, tubeless|
15 kPa (0.15 kgf/cm2, 2.2 psi)
|Rim Size (F/R)||5.5 x 10 DC / 9.25 x 9 DC|
|Front Brake Type||Hydraulic-operated, leading/trailing shoe|
|Rear Brake Type||Cable-operated, leading/trailing shoe|
Among the key features of the 1985 Honda FourTrax 250 is its class-leading suspension system, which is impressive given the vehicle’s built. Rear suspension boasts of a remote damper reservoir, plus adjustable rebound and compression. Overall, the quad’s suspension setup provides operators stability at high speeds and a good steering feel.
|Caster, Trail||8°, 42 mm (1.65 in)|
|Toe-in||0 ± 7.5 mm (0 ± 0.30 in)|
|Turning Radius||1.5 m (5 ft) – unverified|
|Ground Clearance||160 mm (6.3 in)|
|Front Suspension Type, Travel||Dual A-Arms w/ 5-way preload-adjustable Showa Shocks, 200 mm (7.9 in)|
|Rear Suspension Type, Travel||Single compression rebound & preload-adjustable Showa shock w/ Pro-Link linkage, 231 mm (9.1 in)|
Dimensions & Capacities
The FourTrax 250’s vehicle load limit is 180 Kg – 30 Kg lighter than the capacity of the 1986 model. The vehicle’s dry weight is also 5 Kg less than its successor. For a small ATV, its trailer capacity is notable at 850 pounds, endearing the 4×4 to ranchers and anyone else intending to use the wheeler for work.
|Overall Dimensions||1,875 x 1,080 x 1,020 mm (73.8 x 42.5 x 40.2 in – L x W x H)|
|Seat Height (Unloaded)||765 mm (30.1 in)|
|Wheelbase||1,235 mm (48.6 in)|
|Track (F/R)||800 mm (31.5 in)|
|Dry Weight||212 Kg (467 lbs)|
|Rack Capacity (F/R)||30 Kg (66 lbs) / 60 Kg (133 lbs)|
|Vehicle Load Capacity Limit||180 Kg (400 lbs)|
|Tongue Weight||14 Kg (30 lbs)|
|Maximum Trailer Weight||383 Kg (850 lbs)|
Exterior & Lighting
The FourTrax is composed of a steel frame and plastic body panels available only in Honda’s signature red color. It comes standard with utility racks, a front brush guard with a winch-ready tab, footpegs, and a vinyl seat Throttle and brake levers are located on the right-hand grip, while the rest of the controls and switches are on the left. An ELING Multi-Functional Speedometer with Backlight (view on Amazon) is a great accessory to have on the quad since it falls short on instrumentation.
|Engine Stop Switch|
|Ignition Switch / Start Button|
|Headlight Dimmer Switch|
|Headlight||Hi-lo beam, 12V 45/45 W x 2|
|Taillight||12V 3.4 W x 2|
|Indicator Lights||12V 3 W (reverse, neutral); 12V 3.4 W (engine oil temperature)|
1985 Honda FourTrax 250 Value
We can presume the original list price of the ’85 Honda FourTrax 250 to be close to $3,697 (which is the cost of the 1986 model). In truth, looking for the MSRP of the 4×4 online can prove difficult, as there are little to no resources or marketing materials available indicating its price.
As for resale values, the amount could be anywhere from $200 to $1,055 – depending on overall vehicle condition and accompanying accessories. Since it can be challenging to spot a TRX 250 in mint, near-stock condition on auction and trader sites, you are more likely to score a good deal by visiting Honda forums.
1985 Honda FourTrax 250 Problems
Although small in number, the issues associated with this legendary wheeler are worth probing. After all, knowing what to expect is always an advantage – especially if you are pondering on spending hard-earned money on a secondhand vehicle. That said, here are parts and components of the 1985 Honda FourTrax 250 known to develop issues:
The 1985 Honda FourTrax 250 rear differential can become faulty due to blown seals, shot rear bearings, or complications from defective rear brake components. This type of wear usually happens if the quad is often submerged in water or used for heavy mudding.
Water and moisture can seep through the back-end and damage these components. Additionally, the condition of the washers and flange nuts and whether or not the axle itself is rusty also affect the rear differential’s functionality.
Owners with no mechanical inclination would be better off employing the services of a professional. However, highly skilled riders can do a back-end rebuild by themselves, as the rear is quite forgiving and the 1985 Honda FourTrax 250 parts bolt on easily.
Another known problem with the four-wheeler is the float needle sticking. Initially, it could manifest as sporadic running and flooding. As it worsens, you may see fuel coming out of the air filter and pooling in the under-seat box or large quantities of fuel mixing with the engine oil. Many owners assume that the cause of the problem is a mere grimy carburetor, a leaking float valve, or a malfunctioning petcock. They attempt to fix the issue by replacing the needle on the carb float and polishing the needle seat.
The only way to resolve the said dilemma is to do a carb rebuild and ensure you give that 1985 Honda FourTrax 250 carburetor a thorough cleaning. Remember not to use carb spray cleaner on any rubber parts (including the float needle tip). For non-rubber areas, make sure to blow them out with compressed air after using carb spray.
Pay mind to the choke enrichment valve, as it is known to seize if the quad has sat for long periods. If you have ridden your quad and discovered fuel in your engine oil a long while after, check on the condition of your rings – they are almost guaranteed to be worn.
Firing problems fall under issues typically expected from any all-terrain or off-road vehicle. But while this may be a fact (due to the nature of applications these wheelers are utilized for), this problem is often a result of vehicle neglect or misuse. It does not mean we should instantly rule out a fouled plug or weak spark. But even these concerns are partly driven by rider behavior.
Some owners advise checking on the idle screw to see if it is according to spec, as this affects the vehicle’s performance at idle (which can be confused with misfiring). But if you know your quad has taken a good beating (going beyond what’s permissible), you might as well change the spark plug entirely.
Honda Motor Company Ltd. was founded in 1946 by Soichiro Honda as a producer of motorized bicycles with surplus engines. Over time, the Japanese firm transitioned from supplying piston rings and automating aircraft propellers to manufacturing off-road and motorsport vehicles, hydrogen-powered transport, and therapeutic machinery. At present, the 1985 Honda FourTrax 250 maker is a forerunner of the ATV industry and leads the global market in commuter and dynamic sports motorcycle production.
Conclusion – 1985 Honda FourTrax 250 Review
It took 40 years for general consumers to realize the worth of the 1985 Honda FourTrax 250. No longer underrated, this classic 4×4 is now considered by many to be a collector’s quad – with its superb handling, practical features, and ergonomics. Prestigious, compact, and outdoorsy, this four-wheeler has everything you need to enjoy a day out on the trails or sand.
Kris is an avid off-roader and outdoor enthusiast who loves to brave the elements and take on challenging terrain. He also enjoys sharing his passion and knowledge with others so that they, too, can appreciate the ride.