6 Easy Steps To Locate Your UTV Center Of Gravity
A strong core is vital to your body’s stability — your sports coach likely told you that to improve your athletic performance. Staying low to the ground helps you maintain your balance. You can apply similar logic to your utility task vehicle (UTV).
UTVs are fun to drive and get the job done on the worksite. But where is the center of gravity located? How does it differ from off-road machines and cars on the street?
What Is the Center of Gravity?
An object’s center of gravity is its balance point or the location where its weight is balanced. For example, your center of gravity is in your core. Research shows the body’s center of gravity is 56% up your body, measuring from toe to head. In other words, it’s about an inch below your belly button.
You can’t see it, but the center of gravity is integral to your physical movement. You can better manage your balance and lean from side to side if you have a low center of gravity. A high center of gravity means it’s easier for someone to push you over.
Think about the center of gravity in basketball terms. The guards are typically the shorter members of the team. However, their center of gravity is lower, meaning they have better balance and are less likely to fall over when trying to get rebounds. The forwards and centers are taller, meaning theirs is higher up. The higher center of gravity means they’re more prone to falling over and succumbing to players with a lower one. The same logic applies to your car, truck, SUV, UTV and ATV.
What Is a UTV’s Center of Gravity?
UTVs have a low center of gravity, making them relatively stable on the road. It’s difficult to tip them over and they likely won’t fall despite outdoor elements like the heavy wind. Your UTV’s center of gravity is low because the payload is lower than the top of your tires.
The low center of gravity means the UTVs are safer to drive and have different monthly insurance rates than their ATV counterparts. UTV insurance costs about $20 to $30 monthly, while ATV premiums can exceed $100, depending on the model.
How Does It Compare to ATVs?
The center of gravity is much different on an ATV. Driving a four-wheeler or dirt bike means less stability because the center of gravity is at your chest. Imagine driving an ATV and how your body impacts the movement. Leaning one way or another significantly influences your direction and can lead to tipping over if you’re not careful. The center of gravity is higher when adding a passenger or supplies to the back.
Conventional wisdom says adding weight to the back would even out the ATV. However, it only makes the vehicle more unstable. Have you ever tried driving an ATV with a passenger on an uneven slope or a sharp turn? It’s not as fun as you may think. The high center of gravity means you must slow down and anticipate the turns and hills.
How Do UTVs Differ From ATVs?
ATVs and UTVs are helpful for off-road navigation, but they have more differences. First, ATVs are typically for one person. Think about riding four-wheelers and other recreational vehicles — you can take your family of four on a UTV. They may be able to fit on a four-wheeler, but you’d be hard-pressed to try.
You can use ATVs and UTVs on rough terrain, but ATVs require low tire pressure. The low psi helps with traction and increasing downforce when on unconventional roads. Another difference is the maximum speed you can drive. ATVs are smaller, narrower and capable of reaching higher speeds with relatively larger tires.
Where Is a Car’s Center of Gravity?
Now consider conventional vehicles like cars, trucks and SUVs. Most vehicles’ centers of gravity differ, but you can typically find them ahead of the central point. Many machines have a center of gravity near the engine. In fact, 70% of the vehicular weight is on the engine sink. If you drive an SUV, your center of gravity is higher than most other vehicles. Their height makes them easier to roll over when in accidents.
Conversely, sedans have a much lower center of gravity. You don’t need as much weight transfer among the tires, giving you much better traction on the road. An SUV and a sedan approaching the same sharp turn must be careful, but the SUV driver must be extra cautious due to the instability.
The logic for cars and humans comes together through gravity. The lower you are to the ground, the harder it is to lose balance. The vehicles closest to the ground have the most downforce and are much less likely to tip over. Formula One drivers don’t race UTVs, but they have similar levels of stability using this logic.
Think about professional racecars. Stock cars — like those in NASCAR — have minimal distance between the fenders and the ground to maximize downforce and reduce drag. The low center of gravity keeps the car stable and provides grip, even when conditions don’t provide traction. However, there’s always a chance another driver spins you out because they’re mad at you.
Can You Calculate the Center of Gravity?
You can talk about the center of gravity, but it’s not necessarily tangible. However, it’s possible to use mathematical formulas to calculate it. Think back to your physics and calculus classes and break out the calculator for this one.
NASA uses the center of gravity for rocket rotation and their formula applies to other scenarios. Start by averaging the weight and volume of your object. Multiply that value by the distance, then multiply it by the volume divided by the weight.
Calculating your UTV’s center of gravity is challenging, but there are multiple ways to find it. For example, you can determine the center of gravity’s height by multiplying the wheelbase and the change in front weights — front-weight raised minus front-weight level. Take that number and divide it by the total weight multiplied by the tangent of the angle. You can calculate tangent by dividing the height raised by the adjacent side.
How Can You Change Your UTV’s Center of Gravity?
Your UTV is among the most useful vehicles on your property. It’s excellent for towing up to 2,500 pounds, depending on the make and model you buy. You may want even more stability in your UTV. Luckily, there are a few ways to alter the vehicle in your favor.
Lowering the suspension is the most direct way to affect your UTV’s center of gravity. Adjusting the height brings your UTV closer to the ground and gives you even more control when driving.
Start by looking at your preload adjustment. This mechanism alters your shocks and springs, and changes the suspension where you want it. Add more pressure to the springs to get more downforce in your drive — doing so results in a more rigid suspension to handle your weight better.
Another adjustment you can make is swapping to smaller tires. Wheels with a smaller diameter lead to a lower center of gravity. You’ll accelerate better when coming out of a turn and have a better grip in narrow corners. Tires also impact your fuel mileage. According to the Department of Energy, small tires are ideal if your UTV frequently starts and stops because you won’t need much power.
Smaller tires lower your center of gravity, but there are shortcomings compared to oversized tires. For example, bigger tires are better for comfortable riding on rough terrain. Tires 32 inches and up will make bumps feel much less burdensome. Though, larger tires mean more weight and strain on your engine because you can reach higher top speeds.
You may need to turn to unconventional sources if you desire a lower center of gravity. For example, consider ballast. This family of materials may include iron, sand, gravel and other substances. Your UTV likely uses ballast for the headlights to control the brightness, but adding it to your floor increases the weight near the bottom of the UTV and lowers the center of gravity.
Using ballast is relatively common in racing — motorsports teams use ballast to improve handling. You may also see it in airplanes, ships and other forms of transportation. The way to get a lower center of gravity is to transfer as much weight to the bottom, giving you more control.
Finding the Center of Gravity
Finding the center of gravity (COG) on a UTV (utility terrain vehicle) is important for ensuring the vehicle is stable and balanced. Here’s how to find the COG on a UTV:
- Locate the UTV’s approximate center: To start, determine the approximate center of the UTV. This can be done by measuring the distance between the front and rear axles and then dividing by two. The result will give you an approximate center point.
- Lift the UTV: With the help of a lift or jack, lift the UTV off the ground so that all four wheels are off the ground.
- Hang a plumb line: Hang a plumb line from a fixed point above the UTV, such as a sturdy tree branch or ceiling beam. The plumb line should be long enough to hang below the UTV and touch the ground.
- Mark the plumb line: Once the plumb line is hanging straight down, mark the point where it touches the ground with a piece of tape or chalk.
- Repeat: Repeat this process for the front and rear of the UTV, making sure the plumb line hangs straight down each time.
- Locate the COG: The point where the three lines intersect is the center of gravity of the UTV. Mark this point with tape or chalk.
It’s important to note that the UTV’s COG can vary depending on various factors such as the weight of the driver, passengers, and cargo. Therefore, it’s recommended to check the UTV’s COG regularly to ensure it remains stable and balanced.