Can ATVs Go in Water? (Does It Ruin Your ATV?)

  • By: Kevinsmak
  • Date: January 12, 2023
  • Time to read: 6 min.
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You can ride your ATV in water, provided the water does not go above the footboard level or footrests. Anything deeper than that, and you’re risking getting water into places it shouldn’t go and ruining your ATV, especially if you don’t haven’t snorkeled your ATV. I would recommend a water level below 14 inches for any water crossing.

ATVs offer a great deal of freedom when it comes to exploring the outdoors. But that doesn’t mean you should take unnecessary risks, like riding through deep water.

Not only could it damage your ATV, but it’s also dangerous for you and any passengers. So, play it safe and stick to shallow waters when crossing your ATV.

How Deep Can an ATV Go in Water?

The safe depth to which your four-wheeler should be submerged is roughly 14 inches (35 cm) if you haven’t snorkeled your ATV. Some models can go a little more into the water.

It’s crucial to keep your quad bike above the water line and to pay attention to the air filter. Vehicles equipped with snorkel attachments can reach a depth of roughly 3 feet (1 meter).

What is a Snorkel?

A snorkel is an accessory that may be attached to your ATV’s air intake to ensure that it receives oxygen even when submerged in water. If you frequently have to wade into deep water, this is a useful addition to your gear.

A snorkel kit tailor-made for your make and model of a four-wheeler can be purchased.

With a snorkel, you may explore deeper water, but you still need to be careful. It’s better to err on the side of caution and choose an alternate route if you have any doubts about a crossing.

What Are the Consequences of Going Too Deep?

If you take your ATV too deep into the water, you are at risk of experiencing the following:

Engine Damage

Water in the engine can cause corrosion and other problems. Getting your ATV serviced as soon as possible is essential if you think water has entered the engine.

It can get into the air intake and cause the engine to hydro lock. When this happens, the engine will no longer be able to turn over, and you’ll be stuck.

Electrical Issues

Water and electricity don’t mix well. If water gets into any of the electrical components on your ATV, it can cause a short circuit. This can lead to all sorts of problems, including fires.

If you think any water has entered the electrical system, get your ATV to a mechanic as soon as possible.

Air Filter Damage

The air filter on your ATV traps debris like dust before it can enter the motor. If you drive through water, the air filter may get soaked and clogged.

Overheating the engine can cause it to break down. After passing through any water on your bike, you should always check the air filter.

Getting Stuck

Hopefully, you can figure out what this means by yourself. Too much depth and your ATV will get stuck, forcing you to figure out how to free it.

If the water moves swiftly, it can be very challenging and dangerous.

Being Swept Away

If the engine were to stop while you were driving across a river with high currents, your ATV might easily turn over or be washed away. But even when the water doesn’t reach the footboards, getting carried away is still possible.

That’s because your ATV’s braking ability reduces as soon as its brake pads and discs come into touch with water. Fast-flowing water might make it difficult for you to maintain control and send your quad into deeper depths.

Loss of Traction

If your ATV has a drive belt, submerging your vehicle might cause the belt to become wet and cause traction to be lost. A drive belt completes the drive clutch attached to the engine.

The drive clutch employs friction to transmit power from the engine to the wheels through the drive belt.

Two ports on the clutch and belt housing help to a balanced air temperature. One port draws in cool air while the other removes warm air from the protective casing.

Water will enter the clutch and belt housing if it rises over the port that sucks in cool air. A wet belt and clutch will generate less friction.

These components might lose their friction depending on how wet they are.

Power delivered to the wheels is greatly decreased by reducing friction. No matter what gear you tried switching to, your ATV still won’t go.


This one goes without saying. If you’re not careful, taking your ATV into deep water can be incredibly dangerous and lead to serious injuries or even death.

Measures To Take When Driving Your ATV Through Water

Now that you are aware of the dangers, it is time to learn about the precautions you need to take in case you ever need to drive your ATV over water.

Assess the Depth of the Water

Check the water’s depth and current before you try to cross it. Finding an alternate route is preferable to becoming stuck or carried away if you are unaware of the conditions.

Drive Slowly

Cross at your own pace if you must. Driving too quickly increases the likelihood that water will enter the engine and other components. Furthermore, this can make it harder to sustain command.

Be Wary of Hidden Obstacles

Water can conceal all sorts of obstacles, including rocks, logs, and other debris. If you hit one of these at high speed, it could cause serious damage to your ATV.

Use the Right Gear

To avoid damaging your ATV’s transmission, shift into low before crossing any water. With this in place, the likelihood of water entering the engine and other parts is much diminished.

Wear Appropriate Clothing

Prepare for the rain and cold by donning waterproof gear. A solid set of boots, gloves and a waterproof coat are all essential.

Have a Plan B

You should always have a backup plan, as the old adage goes.

Bringing a rope or an extra ATV in case you get stuck is a good idea. And make sure you have a mechanism to get in touch with people in case something goes wrong.

ATV and Water FAQs

Final Thoughts

ATVs can go in the water, but it’s not recommended. Driving through deep water can cause serious damage to your ATV. If you do decide to cross, take it slow and be aware of hidden obstacles.

And always have a plan B in case things go wrong. You can also check out my other ATV article, “Do ATV Tires Have Tubes.

Please be careful and use at your own risk
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