How to Load an ATV Into a Truck

How to Load an ATV into a Truck

You’re nearly ready to head off for a weekend getaway. Your friends have all their gear packed, and the only thing left to do is to load the ATV into the back of your truck.

What’s the best way to load an ATV into a truck? This question is more complicated than it may seem if you don’t have any of the relevant hardware. You can’t merely lift the ATV onto the truck bed and gently place it in the center.

Likewise, you can’t rely on a shoddy improvised ramp to drive your ATV onto the truck. If you aren’t careful, you’ll smash the rear window of your vehicle with an overzealous ATV — not to mention bending the fender of the ATV.

In this article, we’ll explain how you should go about loading your ATV onto your truck so that you won’t need to damage any of your favorite playthings. By the time you’re done reading, you’ll be ready to load ATVs without risking any damage or injury.

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Why You Shouldn’t Just Wing It

Before we begin our discussion of how to load your ATV onto a truck, you may be tempted to wing it and load your ATV spontaneously rather than develop a plan. After all, how difficult could it be to load an ATV onto a truck if that’s the primary way that people transport their ATVs?

For the purposes of our discussion, we’ll consider “winging it” to be any form of improvising the process of loading an ATV onto a truck which does not use a dedicated ATV ramp, specialized securing lashings, and a basic game plan for the driver of the ATV to move the vehicle onto the truck bed.

Winging it has a few advantages which probably stand out to you, including:

  • The speed
  • The low costs
  • The difficulty of planning

We strongly encourage you not to wing it when it comes to loading your ATV onto a truck, however.

When you load an ATV onto a truck without adequate planning, you’ll face the following risks:

  • Damage to the ATV’s lights and fender
  • Damage to the ATV’s engine
  • Damage to the truck’s rear window and body
  • Damage to the truck’s bed area
  • Damage to your ATV ramp
  • Damage to your truck back gate
  • Serious injury to the ATV driver
  • Serious injury to bystanders
  • The detachment of the ATV during transit

Repairing damage to your ATV will probably cost a couple of hundred dollars. Damage to your truck could be as expensive as a thousand dollars, depending on how many things you damage. Paying for a hospital bill for someone injured will probably cost far more than either.

These risks are not worth the cost of a little preparation.

What You’ll Need

To load your ATV onto a truck, you’ll need a few pieces of hardware other than the ATV and the truck.

This hardware includes:

  • A basic toolbox
  • Chains
  • Securing lashings
  • An ATV-rated ramp
  • A helmet
  • A large piece of styrofoam

Most of the hardware has a distinct purpose, but you may be confused by the piece of styrofoam. The point of the styrofoam is to act as a backstop which protects the rear of your truck from the force of the ATV if you are a little overzealous on the gas while loading the ATV.

The styrofoam won’t protect your truck from a serious slam from the ATV, but it will absorb the shock from a lighter hit, protecting both the ATV and the truck.

You should also have a friend with you when you try to load your ATV onto your truck for the first time.

The ATV Transport Protocol

Now that you have all the materials you’ll need to load your ATV onto the truck, and it’s time to get started.

The basic plan for loading the ATV is as follows:

  1. Gas up the ATV
  2. Position the truck
  3. Place the truck in park
  4. Lower the ramp
  5. Setup the backstop
  6. Line up the ATV’s wheels with the ramp
  7. Don the helmet
  8. Drive the ATV up the ramp
  9. Secure the ATV to the truck

We’ll walk through each of these steps in more detail, so don’t worry if you aren’t sure how to get started.

Loading the ATV

First, position the truck so that there is plenty of space on all four sides. Five feet of spare space on the front left, and right sides will be sufficient.

Make sure that there is additional free space at the rear so that there is room for the ramp to extend down without impeding the run-up and maneuvering space that the ATV needs.

Most ATV ramps are about eight feet in length, so you should have around 20 feet of space behind the truck to be safe.

Next, set the truck into park and unfurl the ATV ramp. Most ATV ramps lock into the back of your truck’s gate so that they are sturdy. Then, put the styrofoam board or backstop at the rear of your truck bed, preferably at the height of the ATV’s bumper.

Now the fun part begins. Drive the ATV so that the wheels are facing the wheel tracks on the ramp. Ensure that the ATV is roughly 5 feet back from the start of the slope.

The game plan here is for you to mount the ATV and drive it up the ramp and into the far back of the truck in one smooth motion.

You need to drive the ATV up the ramp and into the back of the truck in one motion because resting the ATV on the ramp will cause a lot of stress on the hinge of your truck’s back gate.

Likewise, you can’t let the ATV stop at the very top of the ramp because its weight will still be resting on the hinge of your truck’s back gate rather than on the truck bed.

The challenge is that the speed you need from the ATV is higher than it would be otherwise because the ATV needs to climb the ramp which may be inclined by as much as 45 degrees.

You can’t simply gun the ATV’s engine and hope for the best for two reasons. First, the ATV may fly upward at the end of the ramp rather than loading cleanly. If the ATV flies upward, there is a high chance of injury to the rider as well as damage to the ATV’s suspension.

If you run the engine, but the ATV doesn’t fly from the ramp, there are still problems in your future. When the ATV is moving too quickly, it can’t brake and decelerate before smashing into the back of the truck.

In summary, you’ll need to provide enough power to the ATV’s engine to get it up the ramp quickly and smoothly, but not so much that the ATV goes flying or smashes the back of the truck. Put on your helmet, mount the ATV, and give it a go.

When in doubt, try using less power than you think you may need. It’s preferable for the ATV to drive up the ramp slowly and cause a small amount of stress on the truck’s rear gate hinge if the alternative is for someone to get hurt or something to get acutely damaged.

Securing the ATV

Once you’ve driven the ATV up the ramp and safely onto the truck, you’ll need to secure the ATV to the truck using its lashing system as well as your toolkit and some chains. Be sure to turn the ATV off and activate its parking brake.

The securing systems will vary from ATV to ATV, but a few best practices apply. You want your ATV to be secured by heavy chains to the bed of the truck via at least four mounting points.

Similarly, lashings for the ATV should secure it to the rim of the bed of the truck rather than the cab of the truck. Securing the lashings to the cab of the truck would cause the ATV to buck forward into the cab during an accident potentially.

You should also consider using several parking wedges to lockdown the ATV even further, though using wedges is not strictly necessary.

Finally, don’t forget to close the rear gate of your truck. If your ATVs are too large to secure the rear gate of the truck, you’ll need to secure the gate so that it doesn’t snap forward and back when you accelerate or decelerate on a hill.

Make sure that your friend checks your work so that you won’t get a nasty surprise when you’re on the highway.

Unloading the ATV

When you’ve driven the ATV to your destination, you can prepare to unload it.

The procedure for unloading the ATV is somewhat more straightforward than the procedure for loading it. Follow the same process for loading the ATV to position the vehicle and the ramp.

Release all of the latchings and disconnect all of the chains. Be careful not to hit anyone with the lashings if they are coiled tightly.

Then, start the ATV and flip it into reverse if your ATV is capable of reversing. Apply a very small amount of pressure to the gas so that the ATV rolls backward down the ramp, working with a friend as a spotter to ensure that the wheels are aligned with the ramp.

Most ATVs don’t have the ability to back up. This means that you’ll need to flip the ATV into neutral and gently walk it backward while holding the steering bar perfectly straight. Try to clear the ramp and the rear gate promptly.

Start to apply the brakes gently as you are beginning to roll backwards down the ramp, then apply them firmly as soon as both sets of the ATV’s wheels are off the ramp.

Congratulations, you’ve unloaded your ATV from your truck! Now you can park the truck in a better spot and get ready for some off roading fun with the ATV.

Riding Off Into the Sunset

Now that you’re competent at loading your ATV onto your truck with a friend, you’re only a few runs away from being ready to load and unload it without any help.

Remember that loading an ATV onto your truck without a plan is a risky endeavour, and be sure to clear the top of the ramp promptly to avoid causing stress on your truck’s rear gate.

Finally, ride safely, and always wear a helmet when you’re using an ATV. Have fun offroading!

Brett Gordon

The engine behind editing at DigMyRide and the brains behind its build. During the day, Brett is a thirty-something dude from SoCal climbing the corporate ladder, but by night, he spends his time contributing to the online world of automotive tech & trends.