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Safety Tips for Loading and Unloading Your ATV Into and Out of a Pickup


Before you can spend an afternoon ripping through the trails or zipping around your compound, you need a way to transport your ATV. For most four-wheeler enthusiasts, it’s a quick trip from the ground into the bed of their pickup. The question is, are you practicing safe loading? Propping up a makeshift plywood ramp isn’t the answer; neither is popping a wheelie and goosing it into the truck bed. Bad idea.

It’s extremely important you make safety a priority when loading your ATV into a pickup (and unloading it later). Following the proper safety steps will ensure you avoid damaging both your truck and your ATV—not to mention keeping you safe. Pull up a couple of ATV loading fail videos on YouTube to see exactly what can happen when safety is an afterthought.

Use the right equipment

The most important piece of equipment you’ll need for safe loading and unloading is an ATV ramp. You’ll find many different kinds of ramps on the market—whatever you use should be sturdy, capable of withstanding the weight of your four-wheeler and made to the proper dimensions for the vehicle and the tires. We have a sizable selection of ATV ramps that will make it easier for you to safely load and unload your quad.

Take the proper precautions

Having a high-quality ATV ramp is only the beginning. The actual loading process is something every ATV owner needs to get familiar with and make sure they understand completely before attempting. Here’s an overview of the must-follow steps for safe loading and unloading of your quad into and out of a pickup truck.

  1. Make sure you’ve properly secured the ramp: Follow all instructions that come with your ramp for securing it to the vehicle. This will prevent the ramp from falling out from under you as you drive the vehicle up on to the truck bed. Ratchet straps are generally recommended, but any variety of tie down strap should be sufficient.
  2. Wear protective equipment: At the very least, wear an approved safety helmet whenever you’re loading or unloading the ATV. An accidental fall could result in severe head injuries if you’re not protected.
  3. Find proper alignment: The wheels should be properly aligned with the truck and the ramp before you start heading up, to avoid accidentally driving off the sides. The ramp should also be positioned in such a way that it’s perfectly aligned with where the vehicle is going. If you’re using multiple ramps, they should be lined up with the very center of the ATV’s tires.
  4. Use the proper gear: 4LO or an equivalent gear is your best option for going up the ramps nice and slow.
  5. Take your time: Go slow and steady, and don’t gun it up the ramp. Give it a little bit of gas and maintain a consistent level of pressure—don’t goose it. If you back off during the middle of your loading, you’ll have a hard time getting up the ramp. Conversely, if you throttle too much you’ll risk an accident. Once you get up on to the tailgate, continue to creep forward slowly until you are almost touching the very front of the bed.
  6. Park: Once you’ve reached the front of the bed, put the ATV in park and shut it off, and apply the parking brake for added stability. Remove the key from the quad and keep it somewhere safe during transportation.
  7. Remove the ramp: Remove the ramp from the rear of the truck and, if possible, close up the tailgate. Place the ramp in the truck bed or elsewhere for transportation.
  8. Secure the ATV: Use straps or tie-downs to make sure your ATV is properly secured in the truck bed. Ratchet straps are best used on the cargo racks, and will compress the ATV’s suspension while you crank them down. If you don’t have ratchet straps, make sure you’re pulling down on the ATV while tying to compress the suspension. This is a job best done by two people.
Black Widow 8’ Extra-wide Arched Dual Runner ATV Ramps
Black Widow 8’ Extra-wide Arched Dual Runner ATV Ramps

When unloading your ATV, simply follow this process in reverse. Again, it’s important you take it slow while backing your four-wheeler down the ramp in reverse—too fast and you may lose control of the quad. It doesn’t take much for a top-heavy ATV to flip up and over due to a misaligned ramp or an abrupt stop midway down the ramp. Ride the brakes if needed, and always wear a high-quality helmet. It can help to have a spotter on hand to give you directions, especially when unloading.

Follow these instructions and you’ll have no problem getting your four-wheeler into your truck and ready for transport to your favorite trail or campsite!

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