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Keeping up with the maintenance on a UTV can be something that is easily missed and can cause lots of problems and shorten the life of your ride in the long run. You want to keep your UTV performing at its very best at all times to maximize the life and get the job done without any problems. Staying on top of a maintenance schedule is the key to having a pristine ride that has little to no mechanical errors.
Most new UTVs will have a warranty and will be serviced by the dealer that you bought it from but after that period of time is up, you need to be religious about your maintenance schedule to get the most bang for your buck and keep that UTV riding for as long as possible.
These tips don’t have to be done every ride but a quick walk around before you go out for a trip to your favorite riding spot can hit most of these areas and alleviate any damage from happening if you just catch something before it turns into a larger problem.
Just like your UTV, you need to make sure that you are protected and are keeping yourself as good as new. Proper gear is essential for maintaining a safe riding environment and will drastically lower your chances of getting injured while enjoying yourself on the trails. Check out my recommended gear page to see all the products I have personally owned or done tons of research to determine the best choice.
1. Check Your Engine Oil Before Each Ride
It is a very good habit to get into to check your oil before every ride. If you are a racer or you ride very hard then it is paramount to check the oil every time but as a weekend warrior it can’t hurt either. The benefit of checking the oil before every ride is to see if the level of the oil is in a suitable place. If it isn’t then it doesn’t take much to top off the tank and keep the inner workings of the engine lubed up to prevent excess heat and friction from damage critical engine parts. It may seem like a burden to check the oil before every ride but it can be very costly in the long run and diminish the value and performance of your UTV and it’s engine.
Changing the oil in a UTV is all about the long game. If you want your UTV to perform its very best then you need to get on a schedule and change the oil at regular intervals. Your service manual will give you the guidelines for when to change the oil because it can differ from model to model but the general consensus is that you need to change the oil AND the oil filter about every 50 hours. Riding hard or racing will normally shorten the time between oil changes because you are putting your engine through more combustion cycles and making the oil dirtier, faster.
2. Check Your Tires Before Each Ride
Checking your times each ride is another one of those maintenance tasks you need to keep up with. While not as critical as the engine oil, the tire pressure and the tire tread can play a big part in your UTVs performance and handling. Invest in a small tire pressure gauge and keep it with your vehicle so it becomes easier to just pop of the stem cap and check the pressure because tires can lose that pressure over time.
If the tread on your tires is too low then it won’t grip the terrain and make for a much rougher and harder to handle ride. Be sure to check the wear pattern as well and that will let you know if your tire is over, or under inflated. If you followed the first step in checking your tire pressure each ride then you should have no problems in this area.
3. Use High Quality Fuel
UTVs, ATVs, and other off road power sport vehicles run their best on high octane fuel. If you don’t know about what happens to gas when it sits then check out the section about servicing the fuel system in this article I wrote about winterizing an ATV. If gas sits too long it can cause problems and it is best to add a fuel stabilizer when the fuel sits for a month or more. Fuel is stored for long periods of time before it even gets to the pump at the gas station, so it is always a good idea to go ahead and add stabilizer every tank of gas.
4. Check Your Coolant Level
Coolant does the job of keeping the hot components on your UTV cool, imagine that. Most manufacturers recommend changing your coolant completely by flushing the system and putting fresh coolant in every 2 years but if you ride hard every season then you may want to think about changing it every year instead.
When you are checking your coolant levels, go ahead and take a peak at all the fittings and lines to check for wear, cracks, or leaks. Check the radiator itself to make sure there is no damage or foreign material stuck in between the cooling fins.
Pull the radiator cap off and make sure it has not been damaged and makes a tight seal when reinstalled.
5. Inspect Electrical Wiring
Your electrical wiring is protected by the outer coating most of the time but damage can occur from wear, impact, or improper routing of the wires. If your electrical components stop working then you will most likely not be able to run your UTV. Now if it is the headlights you may not have such a huge problem but catching these electrical problems early WILL save you in the long run.
If you find any damage it is best to take your UTV to your local authorized dealer and have them take a look to determine the best course of action.
6. Check Your Spark Plugs
Spark plugs are the fire for your gas. Now let’s get technical, spark plugs are what ignites the fuel/air mixture inside your cylinder and causes the combustion to give your engine power. If your spark plugs are not working correctly, then you UTV will ride rough, or maybe not run at all.
On a pre ride walk around inspection, you may not be able to get a good look at these but it is recommended you get the spark plugs and spark plug wire changed at regular intervals (100 hours) to keep your ignition system performing at the highest possible levels. This is a fairly inexpensive maintenance item and is essential for a smooth running engine for years to come.
7. Don’t Forget The Grease
Keeping your moving parts lubricated well will enhance and extend the life of all your joints and keep friction and heat to a minimum. Friction is the resistance against the motion of one object and another, making the molecules move faster to cause heat. Heat and friction will wear down parts prematurely and greasing and lubricating your equipment regularly helps fight wear. Grease protects from friction by providing a barrier between two parts
It’s also a good idea to check your high wear items like ball joints, bushings, and bearings. When parts start to wear out, it can negatively affect the performance of your machine. Inspect your lube points and perform lubrication steps as needed to avoid these problems.
8. Your Cables Can Rust
Your various cables can get moisture inside them and cause the housings to seize up or be very stiff. Cables such as your throttle cable, clutch cables, idle cable, and brake cables can start to form rust without you even knowing at first glance. Invest in some cable lube to keep these parts free of rust and extend their life.
Check that your cables are routed properly throughout your UTV as well. A kinked cable can cause huge problems too. When your cables are kinked they do not function properly according to the inputs you supply from the controls and can cause disastrous results. Imagine Your brake cable is kinked and you can’t apply the proper amount of braking force. It could cause an accident causing you or someone else to get injured. If you find any kinked cables, it is best to just get them replaced because the kink will pose integrity issues if you try to just straighten it and keep riding.
9. Change Or Clean Air Filters Often
Air filters are what help your engine breath. If your engine can’t breathe then it is not performing to its maximum capacity and is robbing precious horsepower and fuel economy. If you have paper disposable air filters then you should replace them every 50 or so hours, sooner if you ride in very dusty conditions.
Buying high performance, reusable air filters is common practice and normally costs less in the long run. Just pull out the filter and wash it according to manufacturer specifications, let dry, and reinstall. If you want to see a list of UTV mods, I cover that in another article here.
10. Look At Your Transmission Oil
Transmission oil is not as common a task to check or change as the engine oil but it still is an important thing to service at the recommended intervals. If you ride hard, same as everything else, it would be prudent to perform this service early as well. As with any other oil, grease, or lubrication, frequent changes keeps the oil clean and maximizes the ability for the oil to protect against heat and friction which robs your transmission of power and cause premature wear.
11. Inspect Your Drive Belt
The drive belt on a UTV is what supplies the power to the transmission from the engine. Drive belts are susceptible to cracks and breakage but with a little maintenance and periodic inspection, it should not be something that catches you by surprise.
Check for cracks, flat spots, missing teeth, or any breakage that will cause the belt to fail. If you notice some significant wear just be aware that once there is significant wear, the belt will start to wear out more quickly. Damage or wear to the drive belt will cause some unintended feedback in the way your clutch is performing. Amazon has a great selection of drive belts.
12. Look At Your Clutch
The drive belt connects to your clutch so go ahead and inspect the clutch housing while you are down there. Make sure there are no foreign objects or debris that will cause damage inside the housing and prematurely wear out the sheaths. Inspect your sheath housing carefully for any wear or damage as well. There are air filters that bring cool clean air in to cool off the clutch so make sure those filters are clean as well.
13. Keep An Eye On Your Brake System
Going very fast is definitely the most fun part of driving a UTV but when it comes time to stop, you want to have piece of mind that your brakes will do the job they are designed for and STOP YOU! I personally check out the brake system every time I ride because a brake system that fails you can end up hurt you or your pocket.
The first and simplest thing to check is the brake fluid level. Make sure your fluid level is topped off so the brakes can function properly.
Second is to check the brake pad thickness and make sure they are not excessively worn. Brake pads lose thickness over time because they rely on friction to stop the vehicle so if they are smaller than when they were installed it is not that big a deal. Just make sure they aren’t too thin.
The brake cables should be securely attached to the UTV and should not have any kinks or too much wear on the outer cable housing. If you see any wear, knicks, or holes in the cable housing, be sure to look for anything that could have caused it and try to reposition both the cable and the offending part or remove the piece of debris.
Most manufacturers recommend changing out the brake fluid every 2 years but with each model, be sure to check your service manual.
14. Check The Juice In The Battery
I have not always been as good about battery maintenance as I have been lately but I always kept a charger handy. I used to take a portable battery charger with me wherever I went just in case my battery died but now I make sure it has a proper charge before I head out for the day.
An easy way to ensure your battery always has a good charge is to get a drip or a smart charger like a Battery Tender. This supplies charge to the battery if it falls below full but does not overcharge it. I keep my battery tender hooked up any time I am not out riding because batteries lose charge over time. It is also good practice to use a drip charger when winterizing your vehicle. You can check out what I wrote about that here.
15. Front And Rear Differential Fluid
Having clean and new fluid in your UTV is nothing new and keeping clean fluid in your front and rear differentials is just as important as fluids anywhere else. Checking the fluid levels periodically is a part of a good maintenance schedule and is not something to be forgotten or looked over.
Riding in mud or water that can creep into the diffs will mean you need to change the fluids more frequently than the one year that most manufacturers recommend and is great for slowing down part wear and isn’t a very hard procedure. It is actually almost identical to an engine oil change, minus the oil filter which makes it a bit simpler.
16. Inspect CV Joints, Boots, And Axles
CV joints, axles, and boots are the most common areas of failure on UTVs especially for vehicles with longer suspension used for mudding. Torn CV boots from improper installation or failure to grease them properly or enough cause complete failure. You CV (constant velocity) drive system is what moves the wheels by transferring power from the engine. Any kind of rip in the CV boot that holds the grease can cause it to seep out and cause the joints to heat up from extra friction due to no grease and will end up breaking either them or the axles.
17. Pay Attention To The Spark Arrestor
The spark arrestor prevents sparks from flying out of the exhaust onto flammable materials such as dry grass or leaves which can cause a fire.The spark arrestor can become clogged with carbon deposits which will cause back pressure that ends up diminishing engine performance.
Follow your service manual recommendations on inspecting, cleaning, and replacing. Do not remove the spark arrestor just to get rid of it from your vehicle. It is there as a safety precaution and is part of the factory original equipment required by law to be installed.
18. Wheel Bearings Can Get Gunked Up
Inspect your wheel bearings periodically and make sure they don’t get a bunch of debri or sludge built up inside which can rob them of efficiency and eventually cause them to fail. Wheel bearings also need to be greased periodically and it is a good idea to wipe any particles of dirt or debris off them and give them some new grease when you notice it.
If you have a newer UTV you will most likely have a sealed bearing and you will not need to grease these but you should always check for excessive wear or damage regardless of the type of wheel bearings you have.
19. Check The Overall Condition Of Your Suspension
The suspension on a UTV takes a beating every time you go out because it soaks up every bump and hole in the trail. Suspensions degrade as time goes on as soon as they are used for the first time. This degradation is caused by debris, water, and heat. Heat is an enemy to all parts because it will wear them down, even with proper lubrication. Lubrication slows the process and ensure a much longer life of any system.
Manufacturers recommend having your suspension serviced every 50 hours for most models and keeping that system serviced will keep it riding like new for a long time. Subtle changes to the ride aren’t noticed by most people if they don’t get their systems serviced as they should so they don’t think anything is wrong. It is crucial to inspect every part of a UTV at timed intervals to ensure the integrity of the parts.
20. Make It Sparkle
Just because a UTV rides around in the dirt and mud all day doesn’t mean it needs to stay dirty all the time. Keeping a clean machine will not only enhance the aesthetic look but it will also help keep the dirt, debris, and water from creeping into your components over time and causing serious damage. It also gives you a sense of pride having a nice, new looking UTV after YEARS of proper maintenance and cleaning.
21. Perform Scheduled Maintenance
Scheduled maintenance is an important part of keeping your UTV healthy and keeping it in the best condition possible. Engineers at manufacturers know when certain parts will start to break down or need inspection because of their years of working with these machines. Making sure you follow their recommended guidelines for scheduled or periodic maintenance will ensure that you get your money’s worth out of your ride.
Below is an example of all the scheduled maintenance items that are critical to get taken care of on a Polaris RZR UTV.
Polaris RZR Periodic Maintenance Checklist
|Engine oil change||25 Hours||500||Oil & filter change every 50 hrs.|
|Brake pad wear||10 Hours||100||Inspect periodically|
|Battery||25 Hours||250||Check terminals, clean, test|
|Air filter||25 Hours||500||Replace filter. Earlier For Dusty Environments|
|Engine breather filter||25 Hours||150||Inspect Filter. Replace If Needed|
|Throttle body air intake/ducts||50 Hours||300||Inspect duct for proper sealing|
|Lubrication||50 Hours||500||Lube fittings|
|Throttle pedal||50 Hours||500||Check for free movement|
|Shift linkage||50 Hours||500||Inspect and adjust|
|Front Suspension||50 Hours||500||Lubricate|
|Rear Suspension||50 Hours||500||Lubricate|
|Cooling system||50 Hours||500||Inspect coolant, pressure test|
|Oil lines, fasteners||50 Hours||1000||Inspect for leaks & loose fittings|
|Front gearcase fluid||100 Hours||1000||Change with demand drive fluid|
|Transmission oil||100 Hours||1000||Change main gearcase oil|
|Fuel system||100 Hours||1000||Check entire system for leaks|
|Spark plugs||100 Hours||1000||Inspect, replace as needed|
|Radiator||100 Hours||1000||Inspect, clean external surfaces|
|Cooling Hoses||100 Hours||1000||Inspect for leaks, chafing|
|Engine mounts||100 Hours||1000||Inspect|
|Exhaust muffler/pipe||100 Hours||1000||Inspect|
|Wiring||100 Hours||1000||Inspect, apply dielectric grease|
|Clutches||100 Hours||1000||Insp., clean, replace worn parts|
|Drive belt||100 Hours||1000||Insp., clean, replace as needed|
|Shock Seals||100 Hours||1000||Inspect shock seals|
|Front wheel bearings||100 Hours||1000||Inspect, replace as needed|
|Coolant||Two years||n/a||Replace Coolant|
|Brake fluid||200 Hours||2000||Change fluid every two years|
|Spark arrestor||200 Hours||2000||Clean out w/solvent|
|Spark plugs||500 Hours||5000||Replace, torque to specification|
Here Is A List Of Several Manufacturers Service Manual Pages For Reference
22. Loading Your UTV Properly
If you do all the proper maintenance on a UTV and you don’t load it properly to be transported, all that hard work goes to waste when your UTV falls off the trailer into the middle of the road. If you want to know how to properly load and strap down a UTV, I cover that in another article I wrote about ATV loading. Many of the same principles apply so go check it out.
Make Sure You Have All The Right Gear!
If you want to go see what gear I personally recommend then hop on over to my recommended gear page. It is growing and changing with new products that I find and purchase so be sure to keep checking back for updates.