All-terrain vehicles have evolved over the years from just another means of transportation to all-around workhorses. The concept of multitasking, it seems, has hit the ATV head on. Many farm and small-acreage owners see them as an alternative to a small tractor, especially with the myriad attachments and implements available for them.
The list includes lawn mowers, snow blowers, cultivators, corn planters, fertilizer spreaders, buckets, blades and graders. Darin Hubscher, sales manager and former owner of the Quadivator line of ATV implements, says the market for these products has really taken off in the past few years. In fact, he says, after his Quadivator (a cultivator designed to be pulled behind an ATV) appeared in a 1997 issue of Grainews, it spawned the birth of the company, which now produces a varied line of attachments and implements. “My phone started ringing off the hook,” he says of the reader response. Since then, the company has developed and tested a wide variety of attachments.
That company is not alone in the marketplace anymore. Look through any magazine focused at hobby farming, and there are more than a few advertising their own line of implements. So has the ATV done the small tractor out of a job?
In some circumstances, it has, says Hubscher, but make sure your particular ATV is capable of handling the implement or attachment you want to use.
Many new ATV models on the market have an engine displacement of 500cc or more, so most have ample power to do the job. “You only need 300cc,” says Hubscher. In trials done by his company, ATVs with engines of that size or larger had enough muscle to use the attachments his company markets.
And when it comes to traction, two-wheel drive usually gets the job done, but four-wheel drive may make a difference and ensure your ATV will pull implements in tougher conditions, particularly in soft soils or on ice.
LIQUID COOLING IMPORTANT
Even more important than horsepower, the factor that will decide whether your ATV is suitable for a little tractor-like work is its engine cooling system. “The main thing you need to consider is liquid cooling. You’re not moving fast enough for air cooling,” says Hubscher. Air-cooled engines work well when you’re blasting down the trail, but plodding through garden rows with a heavy load is another story.
The line of products his company offers is now being sold through a variety of dealers across the Prairies, including Arctic Cat dealers. That company has field-tested its ATV models to ensure they are capable of handling implements without damage. That said, Hubscher says he has never had a complaint from an owner of any other brand of ATV, either. In fact, websites for some other brands also offer implements and attachments.
But even if an ATV is capable of handling the load, can it do the job as well as a tractor? That depends. You need to take a close look at the work you want to do and the results you expect to achieve, Hubscher says. For example, an ATV’s tires can tear up turf on sharp turns, so you wouldn’t want to use it to mow grass on heavily manicured lawns or golf greens. A dedicated lawn mower with proper turf tires will be the best bet there. But for cutting grass around farm buildings or along laneways, it can easily do a good job.
Unlike attachments made specifically for tractors, snow blowers or mowers made for ATVs need their own engines. And some attachments require a power pack to raise and lower them. Power packs are electric-hydraulic arrangements that take 12-volt power from the ATV’s battery to run a hydraulic pump. You can buy independent power packs to use with several different implements, so you only need to buy one, which reduces the cost when purchasing multiple implements.
With the added cost of engines and power packs, power attachments for an ATV will cost more than attachments for a tractor. But the upside is that you don’t need to take a wrench to your ATV to modify it, which could void a warranty. All you have to do to use most attachments is just hook up and go.
ATTACHMENTS FOR UTVS, TOO
With the UTV (side-by-side utility vehicles) gaining popularity, manufacturers are taking notice and offering attachments for them as well. Because UTVs have larger engines, implements made for them are much bigger than those built for ATVs. Hubscher’s company is introducing a six-foot, three-point hitch cultivator, two-bottom plow and 12-foot harrow for UTVs this summer. There will even be a four-row corn planter available. These sizes make it possible to really ramp up the amount of work done in a day, compared to ATV implements.
So while the multitasking ATV may not have driven the small yard tractor into extinction just yet, the wide variety of ATV and UTV attachments on the market now certainly has created competition for it.
If you are interested in taking a closer look at ATV or UTV implements, websites like www.quadivator.com,www.swisherinc.comor www.worksaver.comwill give you a good idea of what is currently on the market.
Scott Garvey specializes in writing about tractors and farm machinery technology for publications in Canada and Great Britain. He’s also a former affiliate member of the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). He farms near Moosomin, Sask.