UTVs take quite the beating. We run them through the roughest terrain. We use them for work. And push them to their performance limits. While all the engineers do their best to build a bullet-proof machine, they all need to be maintained. Below are some basic UTV maintenance steps to keep your machine running like it should.
Deep Clean & Wash
One of the best and easiest ways to maintain your UTV is to keep it clean. That doesn’t mean you should never hit the mud holes. But it does mean that you should do your best to spiff it up once you are done conquering them for the day. Dried mud, sand and debris not only looks bad, it can also be damaging. It can lead to rust, stains and engine damage.
Take the time to plug up your exhaust, cover your air intake and cover your battery before you start washing. Then give your UTV a nice pre-rinse to knock off as much of the loose gunk as possible. Next, use a soap to help break down and loosen any of the stuck stuff. Old fashioned elbow grease may be needed to scrub away any stubborn bits. You can also use a degreaser on the engine and exhaust to help remove grime. Rinse the machine again to remove the soap and debris. If using a pressure washer, be careful not to remove paint and decals. Also try not to spray directly on any seals or electrical connections. Hand drying or using forced air will help prevent water spots from forming.
Clean/Replace Air Filter
As you know, riding off-road can create a lot of dust. Side by side air filters must work overtime to keep all that dust out the intake. That dust builds up and can greatly impact the performance of your UTV. Lack of airflow from a clogged air filter will reduce your horsepower. The engine won’t be able to get the air it needs to keep the proper air/fuel mixture. Check your air filter at least every time that you change the oil. Do it more often if you ride in dusty and muddy condition.
Foam air filters need to be washed by hand in a cleaning solution. There are many kits available to perform this job. Follow the kit’s instructions to wash the foam filter. Let it dry completely and then soak it with a filter oil. Squeeze out the excess and let it air dry for a few hours. Paper filters can simply be brushed off or hit with some compressed air to remove the debris.
If you notice any rips, tears, holes or deformities in the filter, it’s time to replace it with a new one.
Grease Joints & Fittings
Greasing is easily one of the most neglected maintenance tasks. It’s not something you can easily see to be reminded of it. But once a component fails because of lack of lubrication, you will certainly remember that you forgot to do it. Periodically hitting all the grease points will ensure that your components are moving smoothly. Most of these components have Zerk fittings to make greasing with a grease gun an easy job. Consult your manual if you are unsure of where these grease points are located. Pivot points and bearings are areas that require grease. This includes your a-arms, sway bars and driveline connections.
Just like your car or truck, your side by side needs to have its oil changed regularly. This is especially true if you submerge your machine in mud and water. Water and oil mixed together create a sludge that can ruin your engine. Changing the oil is easy insurance against internal engine component failure. If you are an average rider, simply follow your manual’s frequency recommendations. More aggressive riders should consider changing their oil more frequently. Be sure to use a new oil filter each time.
Check/Change Spark Plugs
It’s not a bad idea to check your spark plugs every so often, even if your side by side seems to be running just fine. Inspecting your plugs can give you a clue on how the engine is performing. A good spark plug will look slightly brown or gray. Wet plugs can be a sign of flooding. These can be wiped clean and used again. Fouled plugs will either have carbon build-up or oil deposits. Carbon fouled plugs can indicate a dirty air filter, a rich air/fuel mix or even running the engine at low rpm for too long. Oil fouled plugs can indicate worn pistons, piston rings or valve guides. These issues should be addressed immediately. Dry, white plugs can indicate a lean condition, engine overheating or the wrong heat range of plug. Change your plugs if they look anything other than normal and address the issues that are affecting the spark plugs.
Check Drive Belt
Blowing a belt is never fun. It can be dangerous and can ruin nearby components when it lets go. You can help prevent this from happening by periodically checking your UTV drive belt for wear and tear. Inspect the belt for cracks, flat spots, missing chunks, missing drive cogs and glazing. A glazed belt will appear shiny and hard along the sides. Glazing is caused by slippage and will prevent proper power to be transferred. Replace your drive belt if any of these abnormalities are present. Also inspect your clutches to determine if they were at fault for premature wear.
Check Coolant & Brake Fluid Levels
It’s not a bad idea to quickly inspect your coolant and brake fluid levels every now and again. If you are hard on your UTV, you should do it more often. Having these fluids maintained is an easy way to prevent serious damage to you and your machine. Follow your manual’s recommendations on changing frequency as well to keep each system working properly.
Properly Inflate Tires/Check Tire Condition
Riding on a low tire can be dangerous as it can lead to it coming off the bead or popping from overheating. Checking tire psi is one of the easiest tasks you can do and should be done before each serious ride. Properly inflating your tires before storage will also help prevent flat spots and cracks in your tires. Be sure to also look for any missing lugs, rips or punctures. If these are present it’s time for new UTV tires.
An unused battery is a dying battery. Batteries will slowly discharge over time if not recharged or put on a float charger. Once a battery is fully discharged, it can lose its ability to be recharged fully or even at all. A Battery Tender or any float charger is a great way to maintain your battery. Their ability to float once charged allows you to set it and forget it. There is no worry of overcharging. The cost of these chargers is minimal compared to multiple replacement batteries.