Winter is officially over and all around the country there are many us that are crawling out of our hole of hibernation for the winter. If the cold and icy conditions of winter have given you withdrawals from being away from your machine and the trails, we have compiled a great checklist to make sure that your UTV is ready for nearly everything that you can throw at it this spring!
First, we’re going to assume that if you’ve left your ride sitting and collecting dust for several months, that you winterized it. Gasoline deteriorates over time. Products like Sta-Bil work great to keep fuel fresh, especially today’s ethanol blends. Bad fuel will play havoc on both fuel injected and carbureted systems. Options for draining a tank of bad fuel are limited. You can remove the tank or you can attempt to disconnect lines and use the fuel pump to get most of it out, but since fuel pumps use liquid fuel to keep them cool, you run a high risk of burning up the pump.
Take your UTV out and wash it. Few things suck more than working on a dirty machine. Hopefully you washed your machine before you put it away for the winter, but we know plenty of people who don’t. Caked on mud seems like it can turn into concrete over time. Give your SxS a good pre-soak and then if you have a pressure washer, we love the Fasmov Foam Cannon available from Amazon. Combine the foam cannon with the Chemical Guys Tough Mudder Offroad Heavy Duty Soap and it will make quick work of even the nastiest of jobs and even has a release agent built into it that helps the clean up job be even faster next time around.
Check your filters! UTVs see the harshest of conditions and regular filter maintenance is important. Remove your air filter and tap it against a hard surface to get most of the dirt out of it. If your machine has a paper filter, do not blow it out from the inside of the filter. The CFM output from most compressors will be too much for a paper filter to handle and will likely damage it. A lower volume vacuum attachment is generally safe to use however. If your air filter looks damaged at all, then don’t take a change. Replace it now. Even small amounts of foreign particles in your engine can cause damage over time. If your vehicle is equipped with pre-filters such as Frogskinz, now is the time to check them as well. Remove them and clean them inside and out, along with any intake tubes going to the engine.
If you have a Polaris RzR XP1000 or XP Turbo, we highly recommend the S&B washable filter, which has both better efficiency and flow rates versus the stock air filters. We also recommend the premium Donaldson filters for both Polaris and Can Am. It has a higher efficiency than the standard filters for both models, however slightly lower flow rates. We have not noticed any deterioration in performance for the tiny difference though. We do not recommend oil activated air filters. Testing has continually shown that while they do increase flow rates, they also have lower efficiency rates.
Grease all the things! Grease is the lifeblood of most external moving parts. Unless you are using special polymer bushings which are self lubricating, most everything should get at a minimum a dab of grease and some things such as wheel bearings and prop shafts should get multiple pumps of grease from a grease gun. Taking off your shocks and dabbing a bit of grease around the o-rings of the shock mounting points helps keep them quiet. Sway bars should be lubricated. Your prop shafts (otherwise known as drive shafts) should be a regularly lubricated item. Most importantly, your wheel bearings need to be packed with grease as well. Packing usually means dismantling the entire hub assembly to remove the bearing, but various companies offer wheel bearing grease tools to make the job much easier. These are available for Polaris RzR 800, 900, XP1000 and XP Turbo models, among other Polaris models. Can Am Maverick X3 owners are in luck because a bearing greaser tool is available for those models as well. If you see any play in the wheels before taking them off, it is too late and you will need to replace your wheel bearings.
Check and change your fluids. Just as grease is the lifeblood of your external parts, oils and lubricants are even more important to your internal parts. Manufacturers require service intervals on engines, transmissions and differentials. There will be two values given for each one. There will be a service mileage and there will be a service time frame. Even if for some reason you only put a mile on your vehicle in a year, you should still change your fluids within the service time frame. Many different factors can come into play that can degrade the lubricants. The reaction of oxygen in the air and molecules in the motor can lead to less increased oil viscosity. Antioxidant additives present in modern motor oils help slow the rate of oxidation, however they are only designed to be effective for the service intervals recommended by the manufacturer. Your UTV also is constantly being subjected to your fluids being contaminated by the natural water in the air. Water is constantly being mixed with oil and running your vehicle regularly will allow the oil to evaporate and exit through the exhaust system. Leaving your machine stored for long periods of time or only running it for short periods without the engine warming up completely can lead to moisture building up sludge. Full service kits for oil, transmissions and differentials can be purchased and save you money versus buying the products individually for Can Am X3s, the Polaris XP 1000, XP Turbo. Check and service your coolant system as well.
If it’s made of rubber, it breaks down over time. Check your tires, coolant hoses, CV boots, drive belts and any other components on your UTV for signs of aging and cracking. Catching problems early can help save big money later on. If there are cracks starting to form, it means that the original strength of the product has significantly decreased. Replace anything that looks questionable. Your CV boots are what keeps grease in the axles while keeping contaminants and water out. If they are cracked or cut, then they need to be replaced. On your drive belts, you will also want to look at the fabric within the valleys as well. If the fabric is broken in these valleys, it is a sign that your belt is getting ready to fail. Replace the belt as soon as possible and keep your old was as a last resort trail spare if needed.
Tighten all your nuts and bolts. The extreme environments and vibrations of riding can loosen critical components over time. Thread locker is your friend for anything that shouldn’t back off, so make sure everything is torqued to factory specs in your UTV service manual. Nothing is worse that breaking parts that cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars because of a 25 cent bolt. Make sure the only loose nut is the one behind the wheel!
Speaking of loose nuts, the performance of these machines is a thing that those of us lucky enough to own them are continually amazed by. Going fast in the dunes, woods and wide open desert brings a smile to all our faces. That smile quickly disappears when we can’t stop though, so be sure to check the often neglected braking system of your machine. You should check for the thickness of the pads and examine for breakdown of the materials as well. Just because they look thick doesn’t mean that they’re safe. Old brake pads can crumble. Also, check your rotors for irregular wear and replace if you see grooving in them. Brake fluid can reach high temperatures with aggressive driving, so if you notice darkening of the fluid, then you will need to replace and service the system. Finally, check all of your brake lines and make sure there are no cuts or kinks in them. Also check the routing of all lines and make sure there are not any sharp edges that can potentially cut them or points that can pinch them causing kinks.
Finally, check your spark plugs. Over time the electrodes will deteriorate or become contaminated from things like carbon, oils and other conditions that can foul your plugs. If your plugs are fouled, address the condition that is causing them and replace them with new ones. Also make sure that your plugs are properly gapped to factory specifications.
Following these tips sounds exhausting, but they will all lead to a more reliable machine. A more reliable machine leads to more time on the trails instead of being in the garage wrenching or expensive repairs at the shop. A little preventive maintenance now can save you big money and headaches later!