If you are anything like me and like to be prepared for any situation that could POSSIBLY happen out on the trail or at the dunes, then you probably pack way more items than you need and go overboard on modifications to make sure you don’t encounter any surprises. I like to call people like me “Offroad Doomsday Preppers” because we are preparing like the end of the world is about to happen soon.
Being over prepared is not a bad thing, sometimes, because if you are riding with other UTVers then you are also helping to prepare for them as well because if they break down, it also means you have to stop, unless you are that one person that just leaves their friends in the dust.
Let’s face it, not everyone prepares for a day out on the dirt as well as us so the burden is on the preppers to make sure the day goes as flawless as possible so we can spend more time slinging dirt.
As a prepper, you want to have the absolute best modifications and the highest quality parts to see to it that you aren’t the one broke down trying to fix your ride. Sometimes even your high quality gear breaks so lets go over some of the top mods and what to pack for a day offroading to be prepared for anything.
Upgrade Your Tires
Tires are the very first upgrade that I do on any off road vehicle I purchase. I did it on my ATV and have recommended it to anyone who purchases themselves a vehicle for the dirt. All in all stock tires can get the job done but I want a better tire that will perform well AND suit my needs for riding.
Your choice of tire will depend on your terrain but I like to go with tires that have tread patterns that produce the best grip and have good thickness. The thicker the tire ply, the more resilient they are to large limbs or shard rocks puncturing them.
Another thing to consider is a larger diameter tire. This will lift your UTV off the ground and give you more clearance allowing you to navigate larger obstacles. With larger tires comes more weight and you will need to add more horsepower and torque the more weight you add.
You can check out the tires that I prefer for almost all trail conditions by heading over to my recommended gear page and having a look.
Purchase A Set Of Beadlock Rims
Beadlock is a term for a device that holds the tire in place on the rim of your UTV. It uses tire pressure to push the bead of the tire up against the wall of the rim or wheel and they rotate together. Amazon has a nice selection of beadlocks in inventory so go check them out here.
Beadlock rims are a great addition, especially if you are already adding new tires to your machine. Offroading presents you with all kinds of obstacles, small and large and hitting one at the right angle and speed will pop a tire right off the rim if it were a regular rim. If that happens, your day is pretty much done for unless you happened to be a super off-road prepper and brought something to pop it back on like this guy!
Add Some LED Lights
LED lights are an awesome, and usually simple mod to perform on a UTV. You can usually mount LED light bars to the front frame, run your wires, hook them up, and be done. Not only does this add more illumination for you to see the trail around you, others will have a clear view as well which makes the safety aspect of this mod twofold.
You can also install LED light bars in other places to use as brake lights or turn signals so you everyone knows your intentions while driving, just kike cars on the highway. You can put so many LED light bars on your UTV that it will seem like daytime no matter what time it is.
You can also purchase LED light kits to run under the UTV and around the frame to give your ride a sweet underglow that matches your personality. My wife wants a UTV with purple LED lights on it, go figure.
Upgrade That Factory Roll Cage
If you are going to be riding at any kind of speed or with multiple passengers, then think about upgrading to a higher quality roll cage than the one that comes stock. Sure, those roll cages will protect you in a small rollover but I personally want the peace of mind that if I have a nasty tumble and all that weight is sitting on top of me, that the roll cage will hold up.
Most roll cages are made from lower quality steel that only hold around 2000-2500 lbs of pressure but I want the ones that are higher quality DOM steel with seamless welds and a weight capacity of 4000 lbs or better. I want to be able to feel safe if my family and I take a tumble one day.
Install A Performance Air Intake Filter
Installing a performance air intake filter will help your UTV suck in more air to increase the fuel air ratio and maximize combustion in the engine. A performance air filter is normally one of the cheaper mods you can perform if you just want to get a fast filter or a K&N filter.
These filters replace your stock filters and provide more airflow and produce more power. They also are reusable so all you have to do is wash them out and use them over again which keeps you from having to buy disposable ones every time and saves money.
K&N also has a full intake kit that will replace your factory intake and it guarantees more horsepower due to its sealed design.
When purchasing an intake, go ahead and think about the next step that is needed and start researching some full exhaust systems.
Think About Getting A Full Exhaust System
I talked about adding tires and wheels a bit earlier and how if you kept adding weight you would need to add power to compensate. Well an exhaust system will boost that horsepower up and allow you to turn those wheels better with those heavier rims and larger tires.
The less work your engine does, the less stress that is put on your UTV. If you add just an exhaust system you will not be maximizing the performance because you are taking the same amount of air in and trying to expel it at an increased rate. This will cause inefficiency and is the reason why you need to also install a performance intake filter at the same time.
Lots of companies make aftermarket intake filters and exhausts for your ride so make sure you choose the right ones and you get your ride tuned by a professional once everything is installed.
If you want the most ground clearance possible to get your UTV up over those large obstacles think about combining those larger diameter tires I told you to buy with a lift kit. Lift kits will add several inches to your ground clearance and make your machine a rock climbing, log hopping animal.
You can expect to spend about $150-$300 on a basic lift kit that will get you around 3 extra inches and are made of quality steel. Lift kits are not mandatory to make your UTV perform better but it will allow you to venture in more places than if you have much less ground clearance.
If you like going on long rides and exploring new trails and areas or often find yourself lost in unfamiliar woods with no sense of direction then getting a GPS navigation system is a must.
You can customize a UTV to mimic a car in almost every way and there are some in dash systems for UTVs that integrate all kinds of features like GPS, bluetooth functionality, and rider group positioning and location. You can even buy radios and speakers to hook up and listen to as you cruise.
UHF/VHF radios are similar to the old CB radios that you saw truckers using all the time to communicate. UHF/VHF radios are 2 way radios that allow you to talk to other riders in your group and is a great way of communicating whether you have 2 or 20 riders in line.
You can buy in dash radios with a handset and install them in your dash right below your GPS navigation system and keep an open communication line just in case something happens or you need to make the other riders aware of anything. They are a handy little addon for almost any UTV enthusiast.
Shocks are the next upgrade you want to consider. New shocks will absorb more of the impact from the bumpy terrain to keep that impact from reaching you and will provide an overall smoother ride and will make riding over rough terrain much less uncomfortable.
Brand new shocks are not the cheapest mod but you can minimize the price by revalving your current setup to gain a little more performance and not break the bank to do it.
New Suspension Seats With Safety Harness
There are a lot of seat options out there for UTVs but the best option has got to be suspension seats. Suspension seats are called that because they suspend the driver in position with a harness of some sort
Stock seats and seat belts allow the riders to slide and bounce around and will cause body fatigue over time. Suspension seats will hold you in place and ensure maximum comfort allowing you to ride longer and traverse farther while minimizing body aches and pains from fatigue.
Quality suspension seats are not cheap, usually $400-$800 per seat but will provide comfort and safety.
Having 4 or more points of security with a harness is much safer than a regular seatbelt and will help protect you in rollovers from flying out of the vehicle.
Put Some Skid Plates On Your UTV
Skid plates are large pieces of steel, aluminum, or UHMW plastic that are installed on the undercarriage of your machine to reduce the chance of your vehicle getting damage from objects striking that area.
I never put skid plates in my ATV and I wish I had because have several large dings and areas of damage that could have been avoided had I installed a set.
UHMW is more durable, lightweight, and flexible making it the best material but it comes at a steeper price than aluminum or steel plates.
Install Side And Rear View Mirrors
Now you may be thinking “How the heck are side and rear view mirrors going to help?” Well, just like a regular car, mirrors let you see behind you and can be the difference in causing a crash when riding with friends. You can see where they are and if they are trying to pass.
Another plus is that mirrors are requirements if you want to make your UTV street legal.
Install Half Or Full Doors
Doors are a safety feature and will make you feel secure when riding but they also look cool. You can have them custom painted or put your favorite stickers in them to give your UTV a personal touch.
Most doors are made using aluminum sheet metal and aluminum tubing designs. They tend to add very little weight to the car, and that’s a good thing.
Upgrade To Heavy Duty Tie Rods
Don’t be the one to break down on the trails with a broken tie rod. Replace your factory tie rods with heavy duty ones to be sure this won’t happen to you. As you move to larger tires and more difficult terrain you will need something stronger than the stock rods. Even general wear and tear can spell the end of your stock steering linkage can take its toll over time.
Install Bumpers For Added Protection
Installing an aftermarket bumper can really enhance how your UTV looks and offer a bit of protection as well. Some bumpers do offer a bit of protection for your lights or radiator, and you can attach a winch or sway bar to some models of bumpers.
What To Pack In Your UTV
You always want to be the one prepared for anything and just having the right mods won’t be enough. The trails can be an unforgiving place and a UTV is perfect for stocking all the extra parts you will need in case something goes wrong. Below is a list of common parts that are broken because of the harsh conditions we put our machines through and the tools for any job that may arise.
I am a stickler for riding gear and this should never be neglected even if you ride in an enclosed UTV. Check out the gear I really like over on my recommended gear page.
Extra UTV Parts
The first thing to consider are the actual parts that are attached to your UTV. With all the bumps, jumps, and vibrations we put our machines through, there is something that is bound to break sooner or later. I would rather be over prepared for any situation than under prepared.
CV axles are commonly broken and your day will be done if you break one without a replacement. You can have a damaged axle boot and that will cause water, dirt, and other contaminants to get inside the joint. The grease can also leak out. No grease in the axles and contaminants like dirt or water are a sure sign of failure and you want to be able to replace them in the likelihood that you do mess one up.
Tie Rods And Tie Rod Ends
Tie rods can go bad due to normal wear and tear and with harsh terrain. When riding off road there are tons of holes, bumps, and jumps and can shorten the life of tie rods and tie rod ends. These conditions can damage the tie rods and cause the lubrication to leak out causing the part to fail and break.
Ball joints are a very important part of a UTVs suspension and should one of your fail then you will be driving on 3 wheels trying to get your machine home. If you notice uncontrollable steering to either side or excessive vibrations then you may have a bad ball joint. It is good practice to keep an upper and lower with you just in case. Nothing is worse than being a few hours out into the trail and having one of these breaks and have to be towed back.
Take stock of all the different nuts and bolts throughout your machine and build up a small stockpile of them because during repairs these things grow legs and walk away. It is always nice to have extra for your friends as well.
UTV Tool Kit
Now that you have the most common broken parts packed up and ready to go, let’s build ourselves a tool kit to take with us as well. Bringing these tools along will help you install any of the extra parts you brought and will generally help you throughout your trip to the trails.
A jack is a crucial part of any tool kit unless you want to go old school and use limbs and logs and leverage your UTV into the air. You can buy a jack that will do everything you need AND has a small footprint so you can store it easily. Be sure to get a jack rated high enough to lift your UTV with all the gear loaded on it. You also might want to bring a piece of 2×6 wood that you can put the jack on if you are a soft surface like sand or dirt.
This isn’t a tool you can actually pack up unless you decide to bolt it on anytime you need it, but this is a great piece of equipment to have and I consider it a tool. A winch will help you out of many different situations and make getting stuck not so worrisome as long as you use good techniques. I cover how to get unstuck with and without a winch for ATVs in this article and the same principles apply to UTVs as well.
So you have a broken tie rod out on the trail and you go to remove the old one and i stall the new one. The first thing you are going to reach for are your tools! If you don’t have a small toolbox the go ahead and pick one up and stock it with all the tools you would need for the different repairs you might encounter. This might include grabbing a whole set of wrenches just to be safe but if you know your machine in and out you may just need to grab a handful to get the job done.
Portable Battery Charger
A portable battery charger is a life saver anytime your UTV needs some juice. Portable battery chargers can pop a charge on the battery if it went dead for some reason. They are small enough that they won’t be in the way and you can store one easily.
A fire extinguisher is a precautionary item you need just in case. You may not ever use it but is good to have one anyway. Engine fires can happen if your engine gets overheated.
Bring several different straps with you because you will need them. Bungee straps to hold down gear, ratchet straps to hold down parts and secure the vehicle while towing it, come alongs to aid recover if a winch is not available, heavy duty fiber straps for towing a downed rig. Anything can happen and all of these straps can serve a good purpose.
Go ahead and grab some fresh oil, enough to completely fill your oil if it were empty. You never know what will happen and you may have to use it all. Springing an oil leak could be deadly to your UTV and keeping your engine topped up while trying to get back to your truck can be the difference between a little money spent and a lot of money.
For the same reason as the oil, you want to have some extra coolant for those “what if” moments. Keeping your engine cool is crucial to preventing damage that can cost a lot of money.
The Round Up
At the end of the day you need to put the Utility in Utility Terrain Vehicle. There is always one guy that goes out with way too much stuff until someone actually needs it. It may cost a little extra money to be as prepared as this but it will save money and a lot of hassle in the long run.
We had a guy that used to ride the dunes with us that brought a trailer with a full snap on tool box full of tools and a bunch of extra parts that normally break. He was always the guy that ended up saving the day when we weren’t prepared for our ATVs to break down.
Now that you know all the mods, parts, and tools to set your rig apart, it is time to show everyone that you are ready for anything the trail throws at you.