ATV/UTV Exhaust Silencer Points to Consider
Hunters and outdoors enthusiasts have been using ATVs and UTVs for decades. The fun and utility that these tools have to offer is incredible, but sometimes, the noise isn’t. These can be loud, rumbly, and for hunters, can even spook distant game animals. But an ATV or UTV exhaust silencer can help mitigate that.
ATV/UTV Exhaust Silencer Pros And Cons
According to Offroad-Ed, in some states, factory-produced exhaust systems cannot be louder than 96 decibels when measured on the A scale. An exhaust silencer further reduces that. Even so, there are pros and cons of implementing one.
“For the rider, it keeps the noise down and makes the ride itself more enjoyable,” said Tom Sullivan, owner of The Silent Rider. “For hunting purposes, it keeps the noise down so the hunter can ride in closer without disturbing game without wear and tear on themselves, carrying gear, etc.”
It doesn’t come without negatives, though. One is a slight, but mostly unnoticeable loss of performance. “We’ve measured that to be less than a 5% reduction in horsepower,” Sullivan said. “What that means to the rider is, when they are accelerating to top speed, it results in a 1- to 2-mph drop in top speed.”
This minimal reduction in power is a result of engine restriction. “When you install a silencer, that puts restriction on the engine, just like any other muffler or device would,” Sullivan said. “The good news is we don’t violate any warranties. The manufacturers know we’re out there. It doesn’t do damage to the engine. We’ve been doing this for 22 years now and never had a claim or issue that way.”
That said, those who reside or recreate at high elevations have additional steps to take. “The downside, of course, if you’re putting that restriction on there, if going to a higher altitude where there’s less oxygen in the air to combust inside the engine, we must adjust our silencers, so the engine won’t be starved of oxygen or power,” Sullivan said.
Obviously, for most hunters and general ATV enthusiasts, a slight reduction in power is a great tradeoff for a ride that’s approximately half as loud as it would be without an exhaust silencer.
How Do Exhaust Silencers Work?
An exhaust silencer is built upon technologies that reduce the audible output of decibels by an ATV or UTV. “It is taking the current noise reduction of the existing muffler on the vehicle, and it’s enhancing that by quieting the exhaust coming out of that even further,” Sullivan said. “It takes the exhaust and runs it through their muffler system, which essentially captures that noise, and retunes it to a lower-pitched rumble.”
Essentially, it drops the tone of the exhaust output, and even takes down the tone of it in octaves—much like music—to a lower frequency. “It carries less effectively in the air,” Sullivan said. “So, the lower pitch doesn’t travel as far. It’s also less annoying to the ear. It lowers the overall decibels that you hear on the vehicle by 5 to 9 decibels. That’s measured approximately 10 feet, and up to 50 feet, from the vehicle. We measure it two ways.”
Some might initially think that a reduction of 5 to 9 decibels isn’t that much, but it is. Decibels are measured on a non-linear scale. Rather, it’s a logarithmic scale. “Let’s say the vehicle produces 80 decibels at 10 feet,” Sullivan said. “We reduce that by 5-9 decibels. So, you go from 80 to 71 decibels. That’s not a drop of 15%. It’s a drop of 50%.”
How To Choose An ATV/UTV Exhaust Silencer
Some might wonder if all exhaust silencers are universal for all ATVs and UTVs. The short answer is, no. However, some are designed to be as universal as possible. When deciding what is best, ask a couple questions. First, what silencer will fit onto a vehicle with relative ease? Secondly, will the technology work on the entire set of engines on the ATV market?
“We make two types of silencers using the same technology,” Sullivan said. “One is a custom fit. If you take a very specific model, such as a 2021 Honda Rancher, we will fit it exactly to where, when you mount the silencer into the exhaust tube that is in the muffler system, the hangers will line up at a very specific spot on the rear rack of the vehicle. We have clamps that clamp right on there so it will look nice and level with a clean installation. If that installation takes more than 15 minutes, you’re taking too long.
There is another option on the table. “The second type of silencer we offer is a universal fit,” Sullivan said. “You’re taking the same technology, but you’re able to adapt it to almost any vehicle.”
Other ATV- and UTV-specific factors matter, too. Where the exhaust is placed. The size of the exhaust tube. What type of exhaust tip it has. How far it’s recessed under the bed. How far it sticks out from the bed. These are things to consider when determining if a given silencer is right or not.
“The universal lends itself to adaptation to a variety of different models,” Sullivan said. “We designed a system that is adaptable to that. In other words, you have a kit with instructions, and can very easily tell the customer how and where to mount it. We have different methods of mounting it to the vehicle. So, we make it as adaptable as possible in one kit.”
These include different clamps, hangers, or even bolt-on applications. As for the silencer itself, the technology is virtually the same between the custom and universal models. It’s the adaptation and mounting that might vary.
“It works on anything from a 100cc engine up to a 1,000cc engine,” Sullivan said. “It’s universal to all those types of engines. The one area where our system doesn’t work with the system it’d be placed on, is when, for instance, John Deere makes a golf course application, which is outside of hunting.”
That application uses a centrifugal clutch. Obviously, most hunters and outdoorsmen will use a standard gear transmission. “When you have a centrifugal clutch, it makes a lot of racket, and there is nothing we can do to help that,” Sullivan said. “We’re quieting the engine, but still hearing the racket from the transmission. So, as a system, we can’t work with that. But that’s a very rare example. We can quieten 99.9% of the market.”
Other ATV/UTV Exhaust Silencer Considerations
Certainly, there are additional things that might be encountered and addressed. “We have a series of custom exhaust silencers,” Sullivan said. “Of course, we cater those to the widest breadth of the market that we can efficiently. You’re making these for a specific variety of models.”
Therefore, the first consideration is ease of installation. If you can’t get a custom silencer for your vehicle, it’s vital to have ease of installation. “That’s where we try to design a universal fit that fits as many as possible, but as easy as possible,” Sullivan said.
The second consideration, of course, is how quiet it can be. How effective is the device on the ATV or UTV? “When we started in this market, we found that there were five or six different players,” Sullivan said. “That was back in 2001. Now, there are just two of us out there, and we are the most effective in the marketplace, based on testing and ratings that are published by each competitor. So, effectiveness is extremely important.”
Obviously, overall, people want to know that they can easily, effectively install the silencer. They also want to know that it works, and that it achieves what they need and want it to. When buying an ATV or UTV exhaust silencer, these are certainly the most important considerations.
Final Thoughts On ATV/UTV Exhaust Silencers
Selecting the right silencer boils down the make, model, and geographical location. Of course, price is a factor, too. But quality is equally important, and it’s crucial to balance those two things.
“We started in the U.S. as a small mom and pop operation,” Sullivan said. “We’ve grown that into a nice-sized company. We do a lot of volume and build great products. The assets that we are most proud of are our people. And we are building this here in the U.S. No one in the industry can say that anymore. Everything is built overseas. Our quality shows, but more importantly is that we provide jobs for folks here—my neighbors in the U.S. The people who live in my community. That’s the thing I’m most proud of. When it comes to choosing a silencer, and the way I shop for things, I will give anyone a chance. But if it’s made here in the states, I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt.”
Finding the right ATV or UTV exhaust silencer is like any other purchase. Look at the offerings available on the market. Study their benefits and drawbacks. Gauge their effectiveness compared to competitors. Study the price point and determine if it’s within the budget. Then, make the call.