ATV Goes into Gear But Won’t Move? Here’s Reasons & Fixes!

It’s certainly off-putting when you can go into gear, but the ATV, being stubborn, does not move a hair. These can mean a variety of problems with your quad.

Your ATV may fail to move when shifting gears due to issues such as a slack clutch cable, damaged clutch plates, a torn drive belt, or malfunctioning brakes and wheel bearings. Make proper adjustments to the linkage, check and replace the drive belt, and free up jammed brakes and wheel bearings to fix this issue.

With that being said, in this guide, we’re going to explore the possible reasons behind this ATV difficulty and how to fix it. So, without further ado, let’s dive right in.

Troubleshooting and Fixing an ATV That Won’t Move When in Gear

There are multiple reasons why your ATV can shift gear but don’t budge from its spot. Mostly, you can easily read the issues with careful observation.

But before attempting any fix, check the transmission fluid first. If the oil level is low, it will not provide enough pressure. Hence, the ATV will refuse to move even if it goes into gear.

1. Adjust the clutch cable

In order to move the ATV, the clutch must engage or disengage when required. When the cable or the linkage is too loose or too tight, it cannot function properly. 

Hence, the ATV does not move even if it goes into gear. Adjusting the linkage will fix the issue. Here are the steps to adjust the clutch cable on an ATV:

  • Take a nickel and place it between the clutch lever and the clutch assembly.
  • Tighten the cable until it feels snug.
  • Pull the nickel or coin out.
  • Tighten up the clutch assembly nut.

Remember, the gap between the clutch lever and assembly should be about the thickness of a coin. This will employ perfect tension and make the clutch work perfectly.

2. Replace Clutch Plates

Clutch plates wear out or can break after a prolonged period. As a result, they fail to make proper grip and stop the vehicle from moving. It’s a common scenario.

Pop off the clutch cover and check the status of the plates. If they are broken, just replace them. It will definitely restore the ATV. 

3. Replace the Belt if it’s Broken

The drive belt wears out over time. It breaks or gets shredded, therefore. 

While out on a trail, if you smell something burning and the ATV is jammed in gear all of a sudden, chances are the drive belt is cooked.

Go ahead and remove the seat, and ATV shrouds to gain access to the belt. Remove all nuts and bolts to remove the clutch cover. The size of the screws will vary depending on the vehicle model.

Now, if the belt is damaged or all twisted up due to wear, replace it with a new one.

4. Unfreeze the Brakes

Breaks can all seize up, and the ATV refuses to move an inch thereafter. This essentially jams the wheels. So, they cannot move freely. 

To make sure that the brakes are behind the ATV and are not moving, lift the front and back one by one and try to play the wheels from top to bottom. 

If you feel resistance, this could be because the brakes are all seized up. Do a visual inspection as well.

Get your quad off the ground. Remove the front or back tires to access the brakes. If you see any dirt or oxidization, clean it up. Check whether the issue is resolved.

If not, go ahead and replace the brakes.

5. Free Up the Wheel Bearing

Wheel bearings can jam or wear out, causing the ATV to stagnate even if you can change gear.

Put the ATV off the ground on a stand. Jiggle the tires back and forth from top to bottom. If they feel too loose, it’s because the bearing is giving in. 

Get a new bearing and install it. Once the process is complete, you should be able to get your ATV up and running on the trails again.

6. Replace the shifting fork

When the Shifting fork wears out, the ATV will not move even if it goes into gear. The worst-case scenario is that gear shifting will stop. Shifting from 4th to 5th may not work, for example.

As a temporary solution, however, put your hand on the shifter and slap it hard into the drive position. This is annoying and inconvenient, but gets the job done. But ultimately, you have to replace the shifting fork.

7. Replace the stripped axle

The axle gets stripped or broken when the ATV crashes or struggles in mud at full throttle. Tires get stuck, and you hear a sound that indicates the axle is out of place. With that, the ATV does not move. No matter what you do.

The C-clip that holds the axle in place stops working, making a scratching sound every time you try to move the ATV.

In this case, replace the stripped axle. Install a high-quality one if you torture your ATV too much.


When you are not an expert, a lot of questions swirl around your head. Looking into the ATV being stuck while it’s able to shift gear, here are some critical questions that can peek into your mind.

Is the ATV Manual or Automatic?

ATVs in general come with automatic transmission (CTV). The only exceptions are the racing four-wheelers. They have manual transmission, which provides superior control.

What Kind of Motor is an ATV?

ATVs come in two variants, in terms of motor type — two-stroke and four-stroke engines. Almost all modern ATVs sport four-stroke engines. These engines produce higher torque at a lower RPM. Also, four-stroke engines are eco-friendly and consume less fuel.

Can You Shift an ATV Without a clutch?

You can shift without a clutch only on manual or Semi-Manual ATVs. These models do not have any clutches to begin with. In these models, just use the throttle and shift up and down with the foot shifter.

Final Thoughts

When you come across this, start off with the basics first, then work your way up. Try to push the ATV when it is in Neutral. Then check the clutch, brakes, wheel bearings, and others. 

Don’t take any steps based on assumptions. Always do a visual inspection and try to read the symptoms. Take necessary steps based on that.

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