Why is My ATV Slipping Out of First Gear?

Rick Sosebee
by Rick Sosebee
The ATV AnswerMan looks into a problem clutch

Why is my ATV slipping out of first gear when I accelerate? This is what one of our readers is looking to find out after having some trouble with his Arctic Cat 500 ATV.

This is exactly what the reader asked the ATV AnswerMan, followed by his answer:

I have a 07 AC 500 manual shift ATV that is now slipping out of 1st gear into either neutral or second gear when I accelerate or push snow. I know the machine is aging so what is your prognosis?


Jamie In Maine

Well Jamie,

This is something you may or may not want to hear. It is now time to spend some money on the old Arctic Cat and bring back the life you have been losing over the last 10 years. Pushing snow is tough on your ATV and there are some things that suffer dearly, one of those being the transmission.

This manually shifted transmission has a dual clutch style engagement system. I know you are thinking “Dual Clutch? No one ever told me that I had two clutches in there.” Well it’s true. This technology is not new, but has been slightly improved on over the years.

Arctic Cat 500 Dual Clutch System

This is an illustration of Arctic Cat’s dual clutch system.

The term Dual Clutch refers to the pair of clutch packs that are similar to what you will find in a dirt bike and a wet clutch pack that rides in a clutch housing. These share the transfer of power or distribution of power to the rear wheels from the transmission. The clutch pack has a combination of five steel plates and six fiber plates as well as springs and these can wear over the years of use as they rub together. The wet clutch rides in a round steel housing, it has four large pads that are spring loaded. These pads expand outward when the throttle is pressed and engage the drum to turn the secondary clutch pack mentioned above.

As you engage a gear and begin to push the large plow or tow a heavy load either of these two can slip. They can and will slip some under normal activity with the quad, but as the loads increase the slipping increases. After years of stress the pads on the wet clutch as well as the fiber plates in the clutch pack will wear away and allow the transmission to begin a big time downward spiral. Once the transmission gets to a point, as yours has, where it is slipping in and out, I would heed the warning and either park the machine and fix it or get it to a shop to have the clutches replaced.

It is my suggestion to replace them as a pair or team because if one has gone down the dark road it will not be long before the next follows suit. Your transmission oil will also tell you things are going sour by the burnt smell or discoloration.

Good luck!

Rick Sosebee
Rick Sosebee

Whether he is in Mexico covering the Baja 1000, building ATVs for local racers, or out enjoying the trails, Rick’s passion shows in his stories. Learning to wrench his own machines from his grandfather, Rick also has an undying appreciation for the mechanics of off-road vehicles. Do not let the dirt and mud fool you, though, as Rick also has a deep love for street cars.

More by Rick Sosebee