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How Does ATV Power Steering Work & Do You Need It?

If you’re an ATV enthusiast, you’ve probably heard about power steering and wondered what it’s all about. In this article, we’ll delve into the origin and mechanics of ATV power steering, explore its benefits, and revisit the inner workings of this groundbreaking technology.

How does ATV power steering work? ATV power steering, whether integrated or via an aftermarket kit, combines hydraulic and electric components. Sensors and an ECM collaborate to aid steering. Meanwhile, the mechanical assembly amplifies rider input from the handlebars for efficient, responsive control and comfort.

Of course, there’s more to this technology than this simplified definition — and that’s precisely why we’ve prepared this guide! Whether you’re curious about ATV power steering or seriously considering installing it, this article will provide valuable insights.

People Riding ATV Quad Bikes in Sand

What Is ATV Power Steering?

ATV power steering is a technology that eases the steering process for riders. It comes in hydraulic and electric forms, utilizing sensors and computer modules to gauge rider input and adjust steering force. This system enhances precision and minimizes rider fatigue, improving the overall riding experience on various terrains for recreational ATV riders and enthusiasts.

There are five main types of power steering systems applicable to four-wheelers, as briefly explained below:

  • Hydraulic: A system that utilizes hydraulic fluid pressure to assist in steering, often found in larger and heavier ATVs. It offers reliable and robust assistance but can be less efficient than electric alternatives.
  • Electric (EPS): This system employs an electric motor to aid riders in steering. It’s a common choice in ATVs due to its efficiency, precision, and ease of integration with sensors and computer modules.
  • Electro-Hydraulic: Combining hydraulic and electric elements, it offers the benefits of both power steering systems. However, it’s less common in ATVs than in pure hydraulic or electric variants.
  • Direct Link: A type of EPS where an electric motor directly connects to the steering mechanism. It’s often used in ATVs for its responsiveness and accuracy in translating rider input into wheel movement.
  • Non-Direct Link: This term refers to power steering systems where the electric motor doesn’t directly link to the steering mechanism. It can involve additional components that transmit the motor’s assistance to the steering column, resulting in slightly different steering characteristics.

Of these five, ATVs predominantly use a direct-link EPS system due to its advantages in off-road environments. It provides precise, immediate response for enhanced control in rugged terrains, simplifies mechanical components involved in the steering system to reduce wear, is energy-efficient (perfect for an ATV’s limited electrical resources), and is well-suited for an ATV’s compact chassis.


Early Experiments and Patents (1876-1903)

In 1876, an inventor named Fitts made a trailblazing move by installing a power steering system on an antique car, marking one of the earliest recorded instances of such a technology. However, concrete information about this development is unfortunately scarce.

A more documented milestone came in 1900 when Robert E. Twiford, an American from Pennsylvania, secured a patent for the first all-wheel drive system, which included a power steering component. Notably, the archives of Popular Mechanics reveal the installation of an electric motor-powered power steering system in a 5-ton Columbian truck in 1903.

Francis W. Davis and Vickers Co. (1926-1951)

Francis W. Davis, working in the heavy vehicles division at Pierce-Arrow, devised a concept similar to modern power steering systems in 1926. Initially offered to General Motors, his groundbreaking idea was declined on the grounds of being too expensive for mass-market vehicles.

However, the tide turned when he presented the innovation to Vickers Co., a British engineering firm already active in the defense and heavy machinery sectors. Vickers Co.’s involvement was pivotal in advancing power steering technology, particularly during WWII, when it found application in military vehicles, enhancing maneuverability.

Commercial Adoption and Beyond (1951-1985)

In 1951, Chrysler introduced the Chrysler Imperial, featuring a power steering system called “Hydraguide,” partly based on the expired patents of Francis W. Davis. GM followed suit a year later, incorporating their version of power steering (which they previously rejected) into Cadillac models. This shift marked the commercial adoption of power steering in the automotive industry, transforming driving experiences worldwide.

A significant milestone in power steering technology occurred in 1985 when Japanese OEM Toyota introduced the Cressida model, equipped with a pioneering computer-controlled power steering system, further revolutionizing how vehicles were controlled and steered.

ATV Adaptation (2006-present)

Like most groundbreaking technologies, power steering wasn’t adapted into all-terrain vehicles until much later — specifically in the late 2000s and early 2010s. The system was originally offered as an optional feature when it was first incorporated into ATVs and only made standard at least a decade later.

There are two ATV manufacturers — both Japanese — in contestation for being the first to introduce electronic power steering in the ATV market in 2006. For Yamaha, the feature was incorporated into its Grizzly 700 model, which turned into a huge selling point for the flagship ATV. In this announcement, Honda made a similar claim for its product offerings in the same year.

How It Works

As explained earlier, an ATV power steering system or ATV power steering kit operates through a combination of hydraulic and electric systems, with sensors and a computer module working in harmony to assist in steering. The system’s mechanical assembly amplifies the rider’s input force, making steering more efficient and responsive while also managing external forces to maintain control and rider comfort.

If this explanation seems oversimplified, let me break it down for you by explaining how each of its components and systems work:


The handlebar is a critical component of the ATV, directly interacting with the rider to determine the desired steering direction. As the rider turns the handlebar, they provide the initial input that guides the machine’s movement. Essentially, the handlebar serves as the primary interface for the rider to exert control over the ATV’s steering system, making it a pivotal and responsive component in ensuring rider control.

Steering Column

The steering column is a critical linkage between the handlebar and the power steering assembly. It transmits the rider’s input from the handlebar to the power steering assembly. This mechanical connection ensures that the rider’s steering commands are efficiently relayed to the system while allowing for the physical manipulation of the front wheels.

Power Steering Assembly

The power steering assembly encompasses various components, with the electric motor being the most significant. When the rider turns the handlebar, the power steering assembly interprets this input and, through the electric motor, applies force to assist in steering. It effectively amplifies the rider’s input, reducing the physical effort required to maneuver the ATV, particularly in challenging off-road conditions.

Tie Rods and Tie Ends

Tie rods and tie ends are essential components that physically link the power steering assembly to the front wheels. When the power steering system applies force, these components transmit it to the wheels, enabling the ATV to change direction smoothly and responsively.

Computer Module/ECU

Serving as the brain of the power steering system, the ECU collects data from sensors that monitor various aspects of the ATV’s operation, including the position of the handlebar and the level of torque applied to the steering column.

Using this data, the ECU calculates the precise amount of assistance required from the electric motor in the power steering assembly. This real-time adjustment ensures that the ATV responds accurately to the rider’s input, enhancing control and safety during rides.

How to Use ATV Power Steering

Whether your ATV has factory-installed power steering or you’ve added it as a feature, it shouldn’t change your handling techniques. When using this system, maintain your steering approach as you would on a non-EPS quad, but remember to consider the following tips:

Prepare for the Ride:

  • Get acquainted with your ATV’s power steering controls, usually located on the handlebar. These controls may include buttons or a switch to activate or deactivate power steering assistance.
  • Start the ATV’s engine according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Ensure it’s in neutral, and engage the parking brake.
  • Before setting out, activate the power steering system if it’s not already enabled. This is typically done by toggling the designated switch or pressing the appropriate button.

Riding with Power Steering:

  • Hold your four-wheeler’s handlebar grips firmly but comfortably. Maintain an even hand placement on each grip to maintain balance.
  • As you ride, initiate steering input by gently turning the handlebar in the direction you want to go. The power steering system will assist in making the steering process smoother.
  • Pay attention to how much force you need to apply to the handlebar. The power steering system will dynamically adjust the steering force based on your input and the ATV’s speed.
  • When navigating rugged terrain, maintain a responsive riding style. Use subtle handlebar movements to guide the ATV, allowing the power steering system to assist in maintaining stability.

Additional Considerations:

  • In some situations, such as when loading or unloading the ATV from a trailer or during maintenance, you may choose to deactivate the power steering system. This prevents unintended steering movements.
  • Keep in mind that the power steering system utilizes electrical power. Ensure your ATV’s electrical system, including the battery, is in good condition to support power steering throughout your ride.
  • Pay attention to the feedback you receive through the handlebar. The power steering system will provide resistance and assistance as needed, allowing you to make adjustments for a smoother ride.
  • While power steering enhances control, always ride your ATV safely and within your skill level. Follow recommended safety guidelines, including wearing appropriate safety gear and adhering to speed limits.
  • Regularly inspect the power steering system as part of your ATV maintenance routine. Ensure that all components are in good working order and address any issues promptly to maintain optimal performance.

EPS vs. Non-EPS ATVs

The need for power steering on your four-wheeler ultimately depends on individual preference and specific circumstances. Similar to older cars without this feature, you can operate ATVs solely with killer driver instincts and sheer muscle strength. Many riders have used non-power steering quads for years and continue to do so without issues. However, there are scenarios where power steering becomes more than just a luxury:

  • Physical Limitations — If you have physical handicaps or weaknesses that make it challenging or impossible to ride an ATV without steering assistance, power steering becomes a vital necessity.
  • Convenience — While most riders can manage without ATV power steering, many enthusiasts find it among their top preferences. Much like a robust engine, variable traction modes, or adjustable suspension, EPS or ATV power steering kits enhance the overall riding experience.
  • Complex Maneuvers — If you frequently tackle challenging trails that demand complex maneuvers, power steering offers a considerable advantage. It simplifies navigation and control, making your rides more enjoyable.
  • Market Trend — The ATV market (even the used vehicle segment) tends to favor power steering-equipped models over standard ones. Especially if you have budget constraints and need to make trade-offs, opting for a smaller-displacement ATV while prioritizing power steering can significantly enhance your comfort without compromising safety.
  • Fatigue and Injury Prevention — Power steering is invaluable for averting fatigue and preventing injuries, especially during long rides on rugged trails or when planning to install larger tires or tracks. It’s a practical choice for riders who prioritize health and comfort.

In addition to the above points, here are other worthy considerations for having ATV power steering:


  • Minimized kickback and efficient dampening
  • Decreased steering effort, especially at low speeds
  • Enhanced cargo control when carrying heavy loads
  • Reduced pressure on the handlebars (view on Amazon)
  • Improved handling, especially with oversized tires
  • Reduced fatigue during extended rides on challenging trails
  • No-fuss setup of aftermarket power steering kits
  • Enhanced resale value


  • Heftier price tag
  • Added weight to the ATV
  • Potential reliability concerns
  • Increased purchase and maintenance expenses
  • Inferior driving skills resulting from less-authentic ATV riding
  • Little to no difference in handling during shorter rides

Are EPS Upgrades Feasible?

If you’re wondering whether or not you can put power steering on an ATV or not, you can! Nowadays, any owner can almost always purchase and install an ATV power steering kit like the SuperATV EZ-STEER Power Steering Kit (view on Amazon) on their machine. On average, these kits cost between $500 and $800 for most types of ATVs (sans labor fees if you plan to have a qualified technician take care of installation).

Opting for a machine with a stock or factory-installed power steering system — like a Honda Rancher 420, Polaris Sportsman XP, Suzuki King Quad, or Can-Am Outlander DPS — is often preferred due to the added assurance of a warranty and the convenience of being factory-installed. However, this shouldn’t deter you from installing an ATV power steering kit on your weekend warrior yourself. Especially for plug-and-play variants, the process is relatively straightforward and involves basic part and wiring installation.

Conclusion — ATV Power Steering

ATV power steering is a technology that significantly improves control, comfort, and responsiveness when riding off-road. While it may not be essential for every ATV rider, it’s a game-changer for those who tackle rugged terrain or spend hours exploring the great outdoors. With that, consider your riding style and preferences to determine whether ATV power steering is a must-have on your beloved four-wheeler.