Does your ATV exhaust reverberate off trees and mountains, and echo across lakes and swamps? Do you get a ringing in your ears every time you go ATVing? Never see any wildlife? You need to learn how to quiet ATV exhaust noise so you can enjoy it even more.
There are several ways to quiet the excessive sound of an ATV. Adding a quality aftermarket silencer or installing a DIY exhaust, insulating the engine compartment, and using the right grade of fuel are just some suggestions. Most are cheaper than paying a noise violation, too.
In this article, we look at why ATVs are loud, the decibel ranges of some ATVs, why quiet is better, different noise ordinances, how to quiet the noise, plus we review five top aftermarket silencers. By the time you’re finished reading, you’ll have a better understanding of ATV noise, how to control it, and what to look for when you buy or make a noise-canceling system.
Why are ATVs so Loud?
Whether chugging through the woods, racing down a trail, or flying along local streets, ATV exhaust noise can leave you with a ringing headache. It can also irritate those around you. Manufacturers design and build machines for global markets and have to meet certain minimal noise requirements. Aside from that, their goal is to minimize cost and vehicle weight.
The results of design and cost minimization are the reasons why ATVs are loud. The exposed engines, the short exhausts, and the type of engine all contribute to the abrasive cacophony.
The exhaust configuration contributes to the enjoyment of the ride. It affects horsepower, sound, appearance, and overall weight of the machine. More noise doesn’t mean more power. Controlling the amount of backpressure and removal of combustion noise, debris, and fumes are the purpose of the exhaust. Giving up a couple of horsepower by tuning down the backpressure for a quieter ride for hunting or daily urban use, or increasing the pressure and noise for more climbing or racing power are two possibilities.
A single exhaust configuration has one tailpipe, while a dual exhaust has two. The dual also often has two mufflers or silencers, so greater weight, and cost. The dual system may look better, but it interferes with the backpressure and exhaust performance and is often louder than the single.
No Engine Insulation
The high-performance engine of an ATV is almost fully open and exposed to the air. There is no insulation or shielding to baffle or absorb the combustion noise and subsequent vibrations. Cars have insulated engine compartments that mute combustion and other sounds.
Most ATV stock mufflers are simple, light-weight, and do little to mute noise. They easily allow between 10 to 15 decibels (dB) more than necessary, even when idling. Some ATVs idle between 85 and 90db, which can cause hearing damage. As you rev the engine, the sound level increases too.
Shortened Exhaust Systems
The distance between the exhaust manifold on the engine and the tip of the tailpipe on a quad isn’t very long. The backpressure generated in the exhaust system doesn’t have the travel distance or residence time within the exhaust to dissipate the sound and energy. ATVs often have short straight exhaust pipes that do little to cancel sounds.
There are two types of ATV engine – the quieter 2-stroke utility workhorse or louder high-performance sport 4-stroke. Most ATVs built after 2006 have 4-stroke engines, which means they have 4 piston movements for each rotation of the crankshaft. So, when you rev the engine, the screaming pitches of the 4-stroke rips through the neighborhood.
How Loud Are Your ATV Decibels?
Loud ATV exhaust noise has become an issue both medically and environmentally. The threshold of permanent hearing damage, as set by the OSHA, is 85 dB. A gas-powered lawn mower produces 85 dB. The snowmobile industry cannot, under U.S. law, exceed 78 dBs at full throttle, and since 1979 motorcycle manufacturers must stay between 78 and 84 dB. However, most ATVs are between 85 and 100 dBs, which has led to concerns by both riders and non-riders about excessive noise.
It is possible to test the sound level of your ATV. Purchase a sound level meter for $35 to $60 or use an App on your cellular device. Test the sound level between 3000 and 4000 rpm for most 4-stroke engines. Hold the meter about 20-inches from the exhaust at a 45° angle, but parallel to the exhaust flow. Do the test in an open area, so the sound doesn’t bounce around. An extra pair of hands is helpful too.
Why Should You Silence Your ATV?
There are many reasons to mute some of the ATV exhaust noise. Damaging your hearing is one, but the loss of access to public and private lands is even greater. In 2011, the National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council (NOHVCC), which represents ATV activists from across America, identified that loud ATVs are taking away access to trails and lands.
The high-performance 4-stroke was intended initially for closed competition tracks; it is now in mainstream use. They have better emissions ratings but are much louder than the old 2-strokes engines.
Protect Your Hearing
Different organizations and regulatory bodies have weighed in on what noise levels are acceptable, and when hearing damage begins. NIOSH, CDC, and OHSA identify 85 dB as the maximum acceptable for 8-hour daily exposure. However, irritating sounds as low as 70 can also cause damage.
Every 3 dB inversely affects the exposure time acceptable before auditory damage occurs. So, 88 dB is 4-hours, 91 dB is 2 hours, jump to 100 dB, and damage occurs within 15 minutes. Thirty seconds of exposure at 115 dB will cause loss, and 120 dB will cause immediate damage. With ATV stock mufflers producing between 85 and 100 dB and some after-market exhausts pushing 110 dB, hearing damage is a big concern.
ATV noise can affect hunting success. Much depends on where you hunt, though. Hunting in areas where there are working farms with equipment in use on the fields seems to acclimatize animals to machine noise and smell. However, if you hunt in heavily forested or mountainous areas, a loud ATV can make game scarce. It may just be a matter of slow and steady versus fast and aggressive ATV operation, but there’s always someone in a hurry. A muffler or silencer and spark arrestor may make a difference.
ATV Noise Polluting
Excessive noise can ruin outdoor pleasure for both riders and non-riders. Being outdoors is a pleasure many take seriously. The fresh air, birds, and the possible glimpse of deer or moose is there for everyone. So, when the sound of ATVs ripping up trails, old roads, and track-beds interferes, it can ruin it for everyone. Noise pollution from ATVs is a concern. Whether there are noise restrictions or not, when the noise disturbs the enjoyment of others, complaints and restrictions are sure to follow.
Noise complaints aren’t just from bystanders. Search and Rescue workers, trappers, hunters, rural and urban riders often complain about ATV noise. Most are simple riders out to enjoy and explore, not mechanically inclined speed demons that soup-up their rides for weekend races. So why are ATVs so noisy? Not all ATVs are excessively loud, and most are reasonably muted at lower speeds, which means it’s the operators as much as the machines that create the disturbance.
Private landowners and those who use public lands don’t appreciate the noise. I’ve been a mile or more from a trail and heard ATVs screaming along it. I guess they hope the noise will keep them from running into a moose. The thing is, though, I’m not going to see any wildlife either.
Excessive, disruptive noise leads to complaints, which in turn, become enforceable noise restrictions or land closures that affect all riders.
Local ATV Noise Ordinance
Different States, Departments of Natural Resources (DNR), Forest Services, Parks, Conservation Areas, and even communities have developed noise ordinances for ATVs and UTVs. So, depending on where you’re planning to ride, check the noise maximums. Some restrictions are time of day, some are seasonal, but all are there because of complaints. Many local noise ordinances limit day time use to 60 dB and night time to 50 dB, both measured at 75-feet.
Oregon’s Sand Lake Recreational Area limits 4-wheeling noise to 97 dB, and the Dunes Recreational Area is 93 dB, the rest of the State is 99 dB. Public lands that are open to ATVs in Maine, Massachusetts, and California limit sound to 96 dB at 20-inches of the exhaust. Silver Lake in Michigan is 92 dB, and the Goldendale MX track in Washington allows 99 dB for their quad competitions.
New Mexico restricts ATV exhaust noise to 96 dB. The maximum operating noise for an ATV in Vermont is 82 dB, measured at 50-feet. Maryland and most other States require effective noise suppression or muffling devices to prevent excessive or disruptive noise. Some also require a spark arrestor to minimize fire risk. Fines usually are in the $250 range. Some trail organizations, however, ban riders who have been fined, hoping to prevent trail closure to all riders.
How to Quiet ATV Exhaust Noise
A day of riding that leaves your ears ringing or gives you a headache isn’t how you want the day to end. If you use your quad to get around town, hunt, explore trails, or just want to hear what a passenger says, a stock exhaust may not be quiet enough. Damaging your hearing or facing noise citations are spoilers too. Stainless steel is heavier than aluminum but more durable. Make sure to purchase components that have full welds, not rivets or spot welds. They will withstand vibration and high-pressure better. Here are 10 suggestions on how to quiet ATV exhaust noise.
1. Install Quiet Aftermarket ATV Exhaust Muffler Silencer
Aftermarket ATV silencers attach to the existing exhaust system between the muffler and tip. The silencer acts like another muffler and is filled with baffles and sound insulating material. They should help reduce idle noise by 6 to 8 dB, and mid-range revving by 10 to 12dB. However, it will depend on the quad’s make and model.
Remember, an increase of 3 dB doubles the noise level and halves the safe exposure time. So, a 3 dB of reduction will halve the intensity, which means a 12 dB reduction will decrease it by 4 times.
2. Use DB Killer Noise Eliminator
DB noise eliminators are that slip-on or in the end of the muffler-tailpipe. Some have built-in spark arrestors, sound-cancelling packing, or are hollow. Most DB Killers are removable too.
The Eliminator will tune your exhaust noise and may increase back pressure some.
The amount of volume it cancels will depend on the make, model, and muffler.
3. Buy a Turndown for the Muffler
Adding a to the tailpipe or muffler extends the exhaust length, residence time, so that it will reduce the noise by a couple of decibels. It also aims the noise flow toward the ground, helping to cancel some of the reverberation.
The stainless steel extension slips on and bolt-tightens into place. Available in chrome or black, most have a 24-month warranty.
4. Install A Spark Arrestor
A spark arrestor is mandatory in the U.S. for ATV use on public lands. It is a fine steel mesh that may be flat or bowl or pouch shaped. They help to prevent wildfires by catching red-hot particles of carbon.
can be mesh inserts that fit into the tailpipe or muffler tip. They can also be built-in components in silencers or mufflers too. If built-in, a note is usually embossed on the muffler. Some mufflers have discs that the exhaust passes through to catch sparks, and some older ATVs have centrifugal style arrestors.
The spark arrestor should reduce exhaust noise by 2 to 3 dB. The mesh collects particles and may restrict some airflow, but not enough to affect horsepower. The bowl or pouch-shaped screen allows better airflow than the flat screen.
The arrestor can also improve backpressure and thus performance. Removing it may improve high-end power by a horsepower, but you may lose that at the lower end. After each ride or a set number of miles or hours, it is advisable to clean the arrestor to maintain airflow.
5. Repack Your ATV Silencer
ATV exhaust silencers are commonly a perforated pipe wrapped in high-temperature fiberglass or stone wool insulation, and housed in a metal cylinder.
Over time, the insulation becomes dirty, and the ATV silencer will become louder.
Instead of replacing it, take it apart, clean it, and repack it with . This works best if the silencer is assembled with rivets or screws instead of welds. Some riders repack yearly, after so many hours or miles, or when it gets noticeably louder.
6. Pack The Muffler with Insulation
Packing or repacking a muffler will save money over the life of the quad, and keep it running quietly. The packing absorbs vibration and noise. The process, however, depends on the type and style of muffler.
Removing the inner works to wrap them in heat-resistant insulation, or popping an end to stuff the insulation into empty spaces or replace what exists is easier with screws or rivets than welds.
Some riders suggest steel wool instead of insulation. Although the wool isn’t normally flammable, the heat and fuel residue will make the steel fibers brittle and red-hot. The fibers can escape and create a fire along a trail.
Additionally, the steel will get dirty and burnout more quickly than the insulation, plus it can accelerate rust-out of the muffler. It also doesn’t damp the noise as well over time. Building insulation is better than steel wool, but fiberglass OEM mats are best.
7. Install Quiet Core Insert for Exhaust
A is designed to fit some HMF exhausts to decrease noise by 3 to 6 dB for use in areas with sensitive or lower noise allowances.
Made of TIG-welded 201 stainless steel, it slips into the pipe easily.
It is inserted into the muffler by removing the cone-tip cap. A spark arrester is recommended to trap hot particles and decrease vibration.
8. Use the Right Gas
Check the operator’s manual for the recommended gas to use in your machine. Ethanol blends are not recommended as it can damage engine components. Higher octane may be more expensive but often doesn’t contain ethanol. Most 4-stroke ATV engines today are high-performance.
The correct fuel will improve performance, the life of the engine, and reduce operating noise. 2-stroke engines use a gas-oil mixture at a specified ratio. The use of recommended oil and fuel protects the engine and helps keep it operating at peak performance.
9. Add an Extra Car Muffler
Adding a car muffler to the end of the ATV exhaust instead of a silencer is another way to quiet a quad. Welded or clamped into place, they should be supported to prevent damage to other exhaust components.
Select a muffler that will fit the available space and has good ratings-reviews. It should decrease exhaust noise between 10 and 12 dB.
10. Repair Exhaust And Muffler System
Keeping the ATV exhaust and muffler in good repair will also keep the noise down. Replace damaged or rusted components with OEM parts. Tighten clamps and bolts, and seal seams and leaks with thermal tape or caulk.
Other Ways To Reduce Noise Of Your Quad
Not all ATV noise is exhaust generated. Replace narrow OEM tires with wider ones. Fatter tires with thicker sidewalls will put more rubber on the ground and absorb more road and trail impact, making less sound.
Welding pipes together instead of using clamps will eliminate some loud ATV exhaust noise. Use exhaust extenders, high-temperature, or metal flexible hose or conduit to lengthen the exhaust system. The extra length increases residence time and will decrease noise.
Changing the oil regularly, cleaning the spark arrestor, and making sure transmission fluid is clean and full can also make a difference. Ensure that all accessories are securely fastened and use rubber absorbers wherever possible to cancel vibrational noise.
Different quads produce unique noises, so identify where and what is generating the sound and determine if it’s fixable. While helmets, earmuffs, and earplugs protect your hearing, they don’t solve excessive ATV noise. Using less throttle near residential areas, though, may help.
Adding side shields to the engine area and using self-adhesive automotive foam sound insulation can mute 3 to 6 dB or more of noise. Keep in mind that air-cooled engines require airflow, while liquid-cooled ones don’t need as much.
Check your carburetor jets can handle any added backpressure from modifying the ATV exhaust system. Re-jet it if necessary. Don’t be cheap, spend a bit more and get quality parts.
Best ATV Silencer
Selecting the best of anything is always a matter of opinion. Choosing the best ATV silencer or exhaust isn’t any different. Much depends on the quad make, model, and engine size as to which will produce the best results. Here are five that will quiet ATV exhaust noise.
1. Universal 1.5-2″ Inlet Slip On Exhaust Muffler With Removable DB Killer
A stainless steel comes with an adaptor for 1.5-inch to 2-inch pipes. Easy to install, it just slips on ATV exhausts and can be clamped or welded into place. The durable 3.7-pound unit also comes with two springs and hooks, and a rubberized metal support clamp. The 12.8-inch long body and tip of the 14.4-inch Silencer is wrapped in a carbon fiber vinyl cover.
The Muffler can be used as an ATV exhaust silencer added after the muffler in the exhaust system. It will further decrease exhaust noise and alter its tune too. The removable DB Killer makes it easy to alter noise level a couple of decibels for rides in more noise-sensitive areas.
The Muffler will fit most ATVs. However, a coupler-adaptor with or without a spacer-extension or elbow may be required depending on the make, model, and year of the quad. It may be a perfect fit or need some mechanically inclined assistance to mount. The result, though, is a quieter machine without loss of performance.
2. Kolpin Stealth Exhaust 2.0 with Heat Shield
is an exhaust silencer and is used with the stock muffler. It will reduce exhaust noise an additional 5 to 7 dB without affecting performance. The baffle design maintains high airflow by providing low resistance and has no packing to interfere with the flow.
The 12-1/4” long, 4-1/2” diameter cylinder has a protective heat shield, weighs about 10-pounds, and is available in stainless steel or black. Mounting straps and hardware are included with the instructions.
The Stealth Exhaust fits most 4-stroke ATVs with factory exhaust pipe diameters of 1-3/8” and 1-1/2”. However, it may require an adaptor for some brands or models with concave or flat stock mufflers.
Although there’s a disclaimer that the Stealth won’t fit most current Polaris Rangers, Honda Pioneer, John Deere XUV 550, or Yamaha Viking models due to larger exhausts, a little creativity can go a long way. It will take some welding and a few extra parts, but the results are impressive.
3. The Silent Rider ATV Silencer BT-12
The is a 14-gauge aluminized steel matte black silencer that can be added to the factory exhaust system. It’s easy to install and remove, weighs 6.5-pounds, and is 22.4”x10.3”x7.7”, and fits most exhaust pipe systems.
The Silencer is custom-designed to fit most major brands, makes, and models, like Honda, Polaris, Can-Am, Bombardier, John Deere, Yamaha, Kawasaki, Panda, Massimo, Suzuki, Cub Cadet, Coleman, Hisun, Arctic Cat, Armadillo, plus others.
It quiets ATV exhaust noise by 5 to 10 dB and decreases exhaust popping of 4-stroke engines without loss of performance or power. At idle, the Silencer brings the exhaust sound down to 69 dB and reduces running noise by up to 60%, making it a quiet ATV muffler for hunting or daily use.
An adaptor may be required for some models, but it can be bolted, welded, or slipped into place for most. The silencer has a heat shield, but can still be warm to bare skin. The Silent Rider will fit most dump-beds, hitches, and racks too.
4. KKmoon ATV Frosting Stainless Steel Exhaust Pipe Muffler
The can be used as a replacement muffler or added to the stock exhaust system as a silencer. The durable stainless steel conical shaped muffler is 15.7”x4.5”x4.3”, weighs 2.5-pounds, and fits most ATVs.
It slips on to 1.5 to 2-inch exhaust pipes and secures with hooks and springs, which are included. The heat resistant stainless steel is anti-corrosion and available in 9 color options.
The straight-through design minimizes airflow disruption and backpressure, so there is little to no negative effect on power or performance. The perforated core is wrapped in sound-absorbing insulation, and a DB Killer can easily be inserted to further mute and tune the exhaust noise.
The muffler will decrease exhaust disturbance between 5 and 10 dB.
5. Annpee Carbon Fiber Exhaust Muffler with Removable DB Killer
The fits 1.5 to 2-inch exhaust pipes and will work with most ATVs. It has a removable DB killer to alter the tone and intensity of the exhaust noise. The 14.5-inch long stainless steel muffler’s housing is wrapped in carbon fiber colored vinyl to more aesthetically blend with black or chrome pipes.
Slip the unit onto your existing system as a muffler or silencer, and secure it with the included springs, clips, and clamps.
The Annpee has an almost straight through perforated core, so has little if any impact on horsepower or performance. It produces a soft yet aggressive sound and works with 125cc to 1000cc engines. The sound and noise control will be different when installed on larger ATVs.
For use as a silencer, the purchase of some pipe extenders or angles may be required to fit your ATV. Additionally, an extra mount or bracket may need to be welded on for a more secure fit.
How to Test Your ATV Noise Level?
Many trails and parks require quiet mufflers for ATVs, and to preserve access to those areas; it’s best to check the noise level of your machine before arriving. Oregon Dunes has a current noise limit of 93 dB, Michigan’s Silver Lake is 92 dB, and Vermont has a limit of 82 dB at 50-feet. Some local ordinances restrict ATV exhaust noise within residential areas to 60 dB during the day and 50 dB at night at 75-feet.
Being able to check your ATV’s noise level is a responsibility of ownership. Worn or damaged equipment isn’t an excuse, nor is old insulation or packing in a muffler or silencer. There are several different ways you can check the sound a quad produces.
Download a noise meter app, split the cost of an analog or digital sound meter with another rider, or check if your local ATV club has one to loan. Some clubs hold clinics or offer sound checks for food-bank donations in an effort to keep trails open for ATV use.
It’s best to check the noise level at idle, mid-range, and high-range. So, basically, mid and full-throttle noise. If your quad has a tachometer that makes it easier, otherwise, get a vibrating reed tach to use. Some suggest testing noise between 3000 and 4000 rpm, others at both 2500 and 5000 rpm, depending on where and how aggressive you plan to ride.
It’s easier to check the noise level with a helper. Make sure the ATV is in neutral before beginning the test. Set the meter at “slow” response time, “A” weighting, and select the decibel range. Use a tape measure, so the meter is 20-inches from the end of the ATV exhaust system.
It should be parallel to the pipe opening direction and held at a 45° angle to the side. Check the reading at idle, and at the desired rpm to see if it meets the limits of where you plan to ride.
Readings will be slightly different in neutral than if the ATV was in gear operating at the set rpm or speed. To test at speed or load, set up a 300 to 400-foot runway in an open area with no trees or obstacles for bounce back noise – enough distance to run at speed and still stop safely.
Do a dry run and see where in the run you hit the desired rpm or speed. Measure off 50-feet perpendicular to that location, that’s where the sound meter reading is taken. Do several runs at the desired rpm to get several readings. If you have a quiet ATV muffler reading, you’re good to go.
DIY Homemade ATV Exhaust Silencer
Replacing a stock muffler with a quiet ATV muffler is one way to decrease exhaust noise. However, a DIY ATV exhaust silencer is less expensive and may even work better. Much depends on the quad, how the existing exhaust system is configured and attached, and how quiet it needs to be.
The other factor of any DIY project is the skill set you have or can access. If it needs welding or some metal fabrication, is it feasible?
Check the present noise level of the exhaust using a sound meter to determine how much quieter you want the quad. Measure the diameter of the end of the exhaust pipe to determine pipe size. Sketch out with accurate measurements of the hard points for securing the silencer.
Consider possible options – lengthening exhaust pipe, add an extra muffler, creating a silencer. Remember, you don’t want to increase backpressure by hindering airflow and decrease engine performance.
Increasing the length of the exhaust pipe with the same diameter threaded iron pipe will increase exhaust residence time and decrease noise. Sharp 90° elbows, however, interfere with airflow, increases backpressure, and can hinder performance.
Using a flexible thermal conduit or tubing adds length and uses gentle curves instead of sharp bends, so more residence time and better airflow. The downside may be securing it to keep the shape required.
Turning an automotive muffler into a silencer is a good solution. It may require some welding or straps and clamps, but the potential noise reduction could reach 60%. Having seen aluminum pop cans with one end cut open and the other stuck onto the end of the exhaust, there are better and more effective ways.
Manufacturing a silencer with a baffle or insulated core may not be in everyone’s skill set, but it is doable. A pipe that will thread or can be clamped to the existing system, perforated with holes and wrapped in sound-absorbing insulation, and covered with metal or a larger diameter pipe or metal can is another effective alternative.
After adding an extension, an extra muffler, or manufacturing a silencer, do a sound test to see how effective the DIY silencer works. There should be a 10 to 30% noise reduction (or better), and even an improvement in tone.
Run the quad through a workout to check performance and how well the silencer handles some active operation. Pinging and popping aren’t bad; a backfire when powering down isn’t good, though, and means some reworking is necessary.
Adding a silencer with a spark arrester and DB Killer is the best way to quiet a stock exhaust system. I’d recommend the Universal 1.5-2″ inlet slip-on exhaust muffler with removable DB Killer or the Silent Rider ATV Silencer BT-12. Do a sound test before and after installation for an accurate comparison.
Decreasing 120 dB by 10% is still noisy when compared to 100 dB reduced by 10%. A quiet ride is a future with open trails; a noisy ATV will result in closed trails and possible fines.
Hopefully, you have a better understanding of why quads are loud, and how to quiet ATV exhaust noise. Regular maintenance, proper fuel, and a good silencer will keep you and others riding the trails. If you enjoyed the article and found it helpful, pass it on to others. We appreciate your comments and suggestions too.