When we shop around to purchase the off-road vehicle of our dreams, there is a multitude of choices. Selecting and sorting out all of the possible options is really a gymnastic feat, and it requires decision-making based on our preferences and on the usage the new vehicle will be operated.
Aside from the color choice and accessories that will dress our new purchase, electric power steering (EPS) is an option that makes the buyer consider both sides: is it really worth spending the extra money or not?
A bit of history …
In 2006, for the first time on the ATV market, Yamaha introduced electric power steering on its new Grizzly 700 EPS. The Grizzly’s electric power steering system action varied according to the vehicle speed and engine RPM, so the ATV rider benefited from increased assistance when needed at low speeds and in tight cornering.
Electric power steering was a huge selling point when introduced to the ATV industry. This feature was marketed as a small revolution for unparalleled ATV handling. But still today, you will find many models not equipped with EPS. Nevertheless, if you are undecided between buying a model equipped with this option or not, we will list its main advantages and disadvantages so that you can make a fair opinion.
Do you really need power steering?
It’s hard to say if you absolutely need power steering. Like cars without power steering a few decades ago, they were fully drivable with only good old muscle strength. Many have been using their ATVs for years without electric power steering and many are still doing so. If, on the other hand, you have handicaps or weaknesses that make it difficult, if not impossible, to ride an ATV without steering assistance, you can say that you really need power steering.
Most of us can get by without EPS, but after driving ATVs with and without EPS, a majority of fans seem to agree that this is a preferred option. The same goes for features such as a powerful engine, a variable traction mode, an adjustable suspension, etc. You could do your rides without these features, but they make them a little easier and much more enjoyable.
What are the benefits of power steering?
The value of extra money spent on the power steering option largely depends on how you use it with your machine. Let’s take a look at some features and in what situation it is nice to have the EPS option available.
1- Reduce the kickback
The most important benefit of having power steering on your ATV may not be what you think. Although the system significantly reduces steering effort particularly at low speeds, in sharp bends and on rough terrain, the main advantage is that it effectively dampers the handling from the rough terrain conditions.
Without it, the kickback you get when you hit a rock, or a root stump can really be brutal. The EPS will have the same effect as a steering damper and may prevent your ride from ending with a broken thumb or the handlebars sunk deep into your gut.
For this reason, the power steering option on your vehicle should be considered as an additional safety feature. The system does not completely eliminate the kickbacks to the handlebars, but it reduces them a lot and will make your driving more enjoyable.
2- When carrying a heavy cargo
Whether you handle heavy loads around the farm, transport construction materials, or load your ATV after a successful day of big game hunting, there may be more pressure felt on the handlebars. By adding power steering, you’ll have full control of your cargo and at the end of the day, you can be sure your arms will thank you.
3- Riding with oversized tires or a set of tracks
You love your vehicle’s features, but you want to increase its traction capacity by adding oversized tires? These tires, designed to increase the possibilities of crossing highly hostile areas, require additional steering force. Ask the mud riders, they’ll tell you. To have the ability to cross muddy holes, power steering is not an option to overlook.
If you are also considering installing a set of tracks on your vehicle, there is really no alternative. You need power steering to tackle the snowy trails otherwise your ride will turn into real torture for your arms.
4- Make long rides
In the case of short rides, you will probably have no problem suffering all the big and small blows that are transferred between your arms and your upper body. But after countless hours on rocky or more technical trails, stress will eventually turn into fatigue. In addition, when you add a passenger, your work becomes even more difficult. Again, the addition of power steering will allow you to practice your activity for hours and to feel keen and alert to your final destination. The power steering benefit is even more obvious for people with shoulder problems or similar health problems; the pleasure of driving, and especially the following days, should be much more enjoyable.
5- Second-hand value
The majority of buyers are now looking for power steering equipped ATV. This means that resale could be much easier if your machine has the right equipment, as dictated by the market. The value depreciation will likely be similar and proportional on both vehicles, with and without power steering, but at least you will not be stuck with a machine that will be less appealing to a potential buyer.
What are the potential disadvantages of power steering, if any?
As we mentioned above, you may not need power steering to drive your ATV, but the consensus among those who have been testing it for a while seems to be that it is a really useful function. Many even think it’s the best innovation since fuel injection. But are there any real disadvantages to consider?
The system will add unwanted weight to your machine. This may seem an insignificant inconvenience, but in a market where manufacturers are trying by all means to produce versatile and maneuverable vehicles, this addition adds a few pounds to your ride.
It can be said with certainty that EPS is just another thing that can break down and that will eventually need maintenance. While this is true, today’s factory-driven power steering system is very reliable and rarely breaks down. The system mainly comprises only three components: an electric motor, a gear, and a controller unit. The electronic and mechanical part of the system is quite simple and is relatively very reliable.
3- Cost of purchase and maintenance
Opting for power steering adds $600 to $1,000 or more to an already expensive purchase. The cost of an aftermarket set will be in the same price range. In addition, if you are unlucky and the systems break after the end of the warranty, you may be charged a pricey repair bill.
In what situations is there no real use for power steering?
In the first place, some die-hard enthusiasts prefer the authenticity of ATV riding without EPS. They prefer to feel every rock and every bump of the terrain they are riding on and feel that it gives the pilot a better steering control. It is plausible to believe that the most experienced riders who have never tried the EPS may still believe it is superfluous and unnecessary. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and if you belong to this group, the EPS is probably not your best option.
Second, if you’re just going for simplistic rides, such as shorter trips on uncrowded trails, or just occasional trips around the farm, you may not find much difference if you drive with or without power steering. Only when you find yourself in slightly more challenging driving situations will you really discover the difference between the two configurations.
Financially, the uncompromising purists will have the argument that the addition of a superfluous electric gadget will probably have a lifetime that will one day find its peak. Eventually, an expensive repair will be at the expense of the owner, because the vehicle will probably be out-of-warranty when it will break.
But do you need EPS? If you’ve never had it, you’re probably not going to need it. Is it worth it? It will cost you some money, and like everything else, it will probably break if you abuse it for a long time. But still, if you can afford it, we say it is worth it.
We believe that the extra convenience easily outweighs the inconvenience of having the power steering on your ATV. The market also seems to agree with our reasoning. If your budget is tight and you have to make compromises, it might be a good idea to exchange some power by opting for a smaller engine, to gain comfort and safety thanks to the power steering. Your driving experience will probably be improved.
Undeniably, power steering is worth its weight in gold. The majority of ATV owners say they would not do without this option after owning a power assisted ATV. This feature is especially useful for avoiding fatigue and injury, if you do a lot of rides on rocky trails all day or if you plan to install larger tires or maybe a set of tracks. If you have health problems that prevent you from comfortably driving an ATV without electric power steering, it would be a good idea to take advantage of it. You might think it’s a luxury that you do not really need, but if you can afford it, go for it.