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

  • By: Kevinsmak
  • Date: September 15, 2022
  • Time to read: 5 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 air intake extension that allows your ATV to breathe while it’s submerged in water. It’s a handy attachment if you need to cross deep water often.

You can purchase a snorkel kit for your specific model of the four-wheeler.

While a snorkel will allow you to go deeper into the water, it’s still crucial to be careful. If you’re unsure about a particular crossing, it’s always best to err on the side of caution and find another way around.

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

Your ATV’s air filter is responsible for keeping dust and other particles out of the engine. The air filter can become wet and clogged when you ride through the water.

This can cause your engine to overheat and eventually fail. Be sure to check your air filter after riding through any water crossings.

Getting Stuck

This one is pretty self-explanatory. If you go too deep, your ATV will become stuck, and you’ll have to find a way to get it out.

This can be difficult and dangerous, especially if water moves quickly.

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 know the risks, it’s time to learn about the measures you should take if you find yourself in a situation where you need to drive your ATV through the water.

Assess the Depth of the Water

First and foremost, always assess the depth and current of the water before attempting to cross. If you’re unsure, it’s better to find another route than risk getting stuck or swept away.

Drive Slowly

If you do decide to cross, take it slow. Driving too fast will increase the chances of water getting into the engine and other components. It can also make it more difficult to maintain control.

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

If possible, put your ATV in low gear before crossing water. This will help to reduce the chances of water getting into the engine and other components.

Wear Appropriate Clothing

Wear clothing that will protect you from the cold and wet. This includes a good pair of boots, gloves, and a waterproof jacket.

Have a Plan B

As they say, always have a plan B. If possible, bring along a rope or another ATV in case you need to be pulled out. And make sure you have a way to contact help if things go wrong.

ATV and Water FAQs

Can ATVs go in the water?

Yes, ATVs can go in the water, but it’s not recommended. Driving through deep water can cause serious damage to your ATV.

Are ATVs waterproof?

No, ATVs are not waterproof. Water can damage the engine and other components.

Can rain hurt the ATV?

Yes, rain can hurt the ATV. A lot of rain will cause the engine to overheat. When driving through the rain, make sure to slow down and take it easy.

Accelerating and braking will take longer in this situation.

Can I wash my ATV with water?

Yes, you can wash your ATV with water, but make sure to use soap and avoid getting water in the engine.

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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