The perfect pre-ride checklist to ensure that your UTV is in good working order before you find out when you’re stranded the side of the trail
Winter is coming!!! Yeah, we know the Game of Thrones finale season is still a ways away, but cooler temps in the desert mean that riding season is upon us for those that live in the Southwest. You can now wheel your UTV out of your trailer or garage without fear of the tires melting on asphalt that’s as hot as the surface of the sun. Before you head out on your first trip, you need to think about when the last time you had your servicing done. Is your engine oil fresh? Did you forget about that random grease spot you kept reminding yourself to check in the offseason? We’ve got a great 10-point checklist that should ensure your machine is in tip-top form for your first trip of the season.
If you’re lucky, you might live somewhere that you can ride year round but unfortunately that isn’t the case for most. This means that your toys get stored away after the last ride of the season and don’t get thought about until the next trip. A lot can happen to your UTV in that amount of downtime. From fuel going bad, rodents making nests in your air box and even shock seals drying out allowing fluid to drain out and puddle up on your floor, you’ll want to get your machine checked out early so you have time to get necessary repairs done before it’s too late and you have to bail on a fun time out with family and friends.
If you drive your UTV in dusty conditions like this, It’s in your best interest to make sure that your air filter is in top shape. If not, you can expect costly repairs.
1. Air Filter Maintenance: Whether you’ve got an old single-cylinder Rhino 660 or a fire breathing 900cc turbocharged Can-Am Maverick X3, the air filter is the only thing in the way of abrasive dirt particles that would wreak havoc on every bearing surface and cylinder walls of your engine. We’ve heard horror stories about rodents making their way into the filter systems to use the material for a new den and the owner only found out after they started up the engine and sucked all of the filter material and anything else the inhabitants packed in there. A quick inspection can give you peace of mind and the opportunity to change a dirty filter out if you hadn’t done so already. Need to get a filter ordered? We’ve got you covered with OEM filters or you can even upgrade to a reusable filter, like one from K&N. Want an increase in performance and filtration? We even have upgrades for your intake system like this Performance Intake System from K&N.
Brands like Can-Am and Yamaha offer their own oil change kits like this for their most popular UTVs, but you can piece your own together with many of the high-quality oils and filters we sell at BikeBandit.
2. Engine Oil/Filter and Coolant: When it comes to changing out your engine oil and oil filter, we recommend changing both after every weekend trip. This ensures that you have the best possible lubrication protecting your engine at all times and if you have one of the newer model turbo-charged high HP engines, it’s even more important. Companies like Yamaha and Can-Am offer their own factory oil change kits that are good, but we offer huge option of conventional and synthetic oils from brands like Maxima, Motul, Bel-Ray, Motorex and more that even have UTV specific oils. We also have high quality oil filters that filter the finest particles out of your oils for maximum protection. Don’t forget when doing this maintenance, you’ll also want to change out the transmission fluid as well.
When it comes to your coolant, we suggest not only changing it once a year but doing an actual flush of the cooling system to get rid of any calcium buildup in the system that can cause restriction in the system. We have a terrific how-to video that goes through each step of flushing out the coolant system on a motorcycle that works just the same for a UTV. The only difference is that you’ll need more fluids than you would with a motorcycle. This process also gives you the opportunity to check and see that the radiator fan kicks on when it’s supposed to so you know that you’re covered when the temps get hot.
If you’ve got a carburetor feeding fuel to your UTV and you’ve let it sit for a long time, It’s a good possibility that the premium fuel you had is now premium varnish clogging up your jets and air passages.
3. Carburetor and/or Fuel System: With the quality of fuels getting worse and worse, it’s not uncommon for that premium fuel to have turned into varnish after sitting for a few months untreated. If you dumped a bottle of Sta-Bil or some other sort of fuel stabilizer, you’ve got less to worry about. If you’ve got a newer UTV that has fuel injection, your chances of having problems are less than if you had a carburetor since the high pressure system can usually eliminate any restriction in the system. If you’re running a carburetor, you’re not going to be as lucky and can fall victim to clogged carburetor jets and air passages that will cause your UTV to run poorly if it’s capable of running at all. If this is the case, all you need is some time and a good quality carb cleaner to remedy the problem. If you’re not sure on what you need to do, we’ve got a great blog on how-to clean your carburetor.
If you drove your UTV into your trailer or garage, it’s unlikely that you’ll find this behind your clutch cover. If you don’t take the time to inspect your belt for signs of wear, you just might see this as you’re stranded in the desert.
4. CVT Belt and Clutch Components: One component that takes the most amount of stress and punishment is the CVT drive belt. The CVT drive belt is used to deliver the power from the motor to the transmission on almost every UTV on the market and really takes abuse under hard driving conditions, heavy loads or even when modifications are made such as increasing tire size. If you’ve ever been driving and caught the smell of burning rubber, it’s a good chance that your belt has been slipping and its integrity has been compromised. You’ll want to check for any rips, tears, cracks and shiny hot spots on either side, and honestly it’s not a bad idea to do this after every trip. If the belt shows any of the described signs or heat damage, you’ll want to replace it immediately because It can break when you least expect it and potentially do damage to other components like transmission seals when it lets go. We offer plenty of aftermarket options from brands like Gates, EPI, Moose Racing, Dayco, QuadBoss and more when it comes to replacement belts, but after doing some research on the internet and various owner forums, a majority of owners seem to favor the OEM CVT drive belts over any other. Either way you want to go, we can get you taken care of with some of the best prices you’ll find on the internet.
While you’ve got the cover off, it’s not going to hurt to check the other clutch components like the secondary and primary clutch and their components like rollers, weights and springs. You’ll want to make sure that weights aren’t seized, rollers don’t have any flat spots and springs aren’t showing any signs of cracks. If they do, we can get you taken care of with any OEM parts you need and in some cases you can even upgrade your clutch for increased performance with kits from Dalton Industries, EPI, High Lifter and QuadBoss.
For stock applications, OE braking systems are fine. When you start adding on larger tires, heavier cages and a plethora of accessories, you will increase the wear on your brake pads. You can upgrade your pads to handle the increased demand with many of the brands that we carry.
5. Brakes: UTVs from the factory weigh quite a bit and when you start adding weight with aftermarket cages and accessories on top of increasing tire diameters by up to 5” taller, you can really start straining the brake systems beyond their intended capability. This is why it is imperative that you inspect your brake pads before every trip to make sure that you have adequate brake material on all pads and that they aren’t glazed, which can cause decreased stopping power. Furthermore, you may even want to consider upgrading your brake pads to a better compound for increased brake feel and better bite. Companies like Galfer, EBC, DP and many others have compounds to meet the increased braking demands.
Additionally you should flush out your brake fluids on a yearly basis to maximize your brake feel and even upgrade the fluid to one with a higher boiling point since the system gets put under extreme demand and that can help to reduce brake fade. If you’ve never done a brake bleed, we’ve got a great how-to blog on brake maintenance and brake bleeding to guide that will help you get the job done.
Working on CV joints is probably one of the messiest jobs on a UTV, but if you don’t take care of them you could end up like this guy on your first ride.
6. Axles, CV Joints and CV Boots: When it comes to putting power to the ground, your axles and CV joints take a serious amount of abuse and it’s not uncommon see failures in these parts on high performance UTVs that are driven hard. You really don’t think about it when you’re blazing through deep whoops at 70 MPH or higher or landing from big jumps, but when you’re hard on the throttle you need to remember that every time a wheel comes off the ground, it’s under an enormous amount of stress and torque when it’s spinning and making contact again. Be sure to jack your UTV up and make sure that there isn’t any binding or clinking, which could mean early stages of CV joint or axle failure. Also check to make sure that your CV boots aren’t torn allowing the grease to get flung out so those CV joints aren’t running dry.
Our recommendation if you do run your car hard, is to consider replacing your stock axles with aftermarket heavy duty axles from brands like QuadBoss, Dragonfire Racing or Motor Master. If you don’t want to replace the entire axle and just want to fix the bad items, you can order all of the individual pieces from the OEM manufacture or save yourself the time and order a rebuild kit from Moose Racing which has everything you need.
Having a ball joint fail on you isn’t only inconvenient, but it can also be dangerous if it happens at high speeds. If you take the time to inspect them before you head out, you can catch a simple repair before it turns into a huge problem.
7. Ball Joints and Shocks: Because of the pounding many of these UTVs are taking, whether it be blasting through the desert or crawling over rock gardens, ball joints on the a-arms seem to be a weak point for many of these machines. Since you’ve already got the front or rear end off the ground to inspect the CV joints by checking for unusual movement or clicking coming from the joints. Unsure of how to properly inspect ball joints? We found a great video from an automotive site that takes you through the steps of checking the ball joints for wear and indicators of when they need to be replaced. Since UTVs are very much like cars in their design, this is a perfect how-to for you to follow along. In the video, they also touch on inspecting the tie-rod ends, that when worn can cause a sloppy feel in your steering. If you do find that your UTV has worn out ball joints, you can get OEM replacements if they’re available or even find aftermarket options from QuadBoss, All Balls, EPI and Moose Racing that offer the same performance usually at a fraction of the cost. Just note that on some applications you may be required to replace a control arm to replace the ball joint.
Again, since the car is off the ground you’ll want to give your shocks a quick once over as well. Give them a shake at the base and upper mount to make sure that the bushings aren’t worn and also look over the shaft and bodies to make sure that there aren’t any leaks from potential damaged or dried out seals. If you find a problem with the shocks on an older UTV, your only option may be to replace the entire shock. Many current high-performance UTVs come from the factory with high-end shocks that can not only be fine-tuned for performance, but are also capable of being rebuilt by a qualified technician.
8. Tires and Wheels: The wear of your tires is pretty obvious from when you first set eyes on your UTV. It’s fairly easy to judge whether or not your tires are in good condition or if you’re on the verge of running racing slicks for your first off-road trip of the season. Even if your tires look good we always recommend doing an inspection of both the inner and outer bead to make sure that they’re properly seated on the rims. If you have a bead that isn’t properly seated and it happens to come off in the middle of a ride, it can really ruin your day. This also gives you the opportunity to check to make sure that your air pressures are all correct and if you notice that one tire may be lower than the others, you should check for leaks from a puncture. Be sure to inspect the valve stem to make sure that no debris has gotten in the Schrader valve that can cause a slow leak.
If any of the straps on your stock seatbelts or harnesses look like this, you need to replace them ASAP. If you don’t there is a great risk of component failure when you need it most.
9. Seats and Safety Equipment: I’d consider ourselves irresponsible if we didn’t suggest inspecting your seat belts, seats (including the bases) and roll cage for any unusual signs of wear or improper operation. Starting with the seat belts. If you’ve still got the traditional 3-point seat belts, be sure to check the operation of the buckle and latches. Make sure that they release properly when you press in on the button and that they don’t release when you don’t want them to. Also inspect the straps for any cuts, tears of fraying. If you see any signs of this, be sure to get them replaced ASAP. If you’ve already upgraded to a safer and sportier 4 or 5-point racing harness, you’ll want to do the same with the latches and webbing, but you’ll also want to inspect the mounting points for this type of restraint system. Many aftermarket harnesses are SFI certified for racing purposes and per SFI requirements should be replaced 2-years after their production date. PRP, a company known as one of the leaders in racing seats and harnesses has a great detailed blog as to why this should be done in this timeframe. You can read all about it here.
When it comes to the seat, you’ll want to give it a good shake to make sure that you don’t have any excess play in it. If you do find that it does, you could be looking at signs of a failing seat base of wearing seat mount. Pull the seat out and give the seat and base a thorough inspection and replace necessary parts before you even consider taking that unit out for a ride.
10. Tie Down Points: Our last inspection tip not only covers your UTV but we also suggest inspecting the tie-down points on your transportation rig as well. On your UTV, you’ll want to make sure that your tie-down points are uncompromised (read bent) from overtightening of tie downs. This is where you also want to check the anchor points of your hauler to ensure they are solid and show no signs of wear or cracking. This is a great opportunity for us to recommend our favorite way of transporting UTVs and that is with the use of wheel nets that go over the tires and anchor into the floor. This ensures that your UTV stays planted regardless of suspension action that can allow regular tie-straps to loosen during transportation.
There you have it. A perfect 10-point inspection checklist for you to follow as you get ready for your first ride of the season. Did we miss anything? Do you have a suggestion to add or replace an item on our list? Be sure to let us know in the comments. Till then just remember that anything you need for your UTV, old or new, we’ve got you covered at BikeBandit with our Best Price Guarantee and some of the fastest shipping in the industry. If you’re looking for some good upgrade ideas, you’ll want to check out our buyers guide for top UTV accessories. Here’s to safe riding and a great trip!