We’ve all done it. You’re on that tight, technical trail, slipping the clutch on a hill-climb, and then a nasty, thick smell rises up from between your feet. That pungent smell of a burning clutch is one we can distinguish from a mile away—and that means it’s most likely time to give your ATV some love. Symptoms of a worn-out clutch can range from chattering under power to climbing revs without increasing speed. We have seen a stick get wedged between the frame and brake pedal during a race and the clutch get absolutely destroyed in a single lap, but most clutches will last years depending on use and oil-change intervals. So if it’s time to change yours, save this article as a quick how-to booklet on changing your plates. We performed the clutch-plate surgery on our resident YFZ450, but most of the popular sport quads are very similar in design.
STEP 1: Either drain the quad’s oil or tip it up on its side. The clutch is bathed in oil and will leak everywhere if you don’t do either of these steps. If you’re putting the quad up on its side like we did here, make sure to turn the gas petcock off. Remove the clutch-cover bolts and place them on the side in order. Also, take the new plates out of the box and soak them in a bag of fresh oil.
STEP 2: Remove the pressure-plate spring bolts. This YFZ has six, and they are 10mm heads. Remove all the bolts and springs and set them aside.
STEP 3: Once the pressure plate is removed, you’ll see the friction disks around the inner hub. There is a small bearing and rod in the center of the hub that you can remove and set aside for now so it doesn’t fall out, but make sure you install it just like it came out when you’re done before you reinstall the pressure plate. This is called the throwout spacer and bearing.
STEP 4: Start removing the friction discs and the drive discs (steel plates that mate with the inner hub), stacking them aside. The ones on our YFZ weren’t worn badly, but we are installing a high-performance clutch for a high-horsepower build in the future. If you can’t reach with your fingers, use two flathead screwdrivers to lift the plates out.
STEP 5: Once all the plates are removed, you can see the bare basket and inner hub. Take the new oil-soaked plates you’re going to install and set them in the basket one by one. The first friction disc on this YFZ is smaller to clear the black spring washer around the inner hub. Alternate between friction disc and drive disc until all the plates are used up.
STEP 6: Now, install your pressure plate. We are using an aftermarket one from Barnett that has a trick steel ring bolted to it to decrease wear on the pressure plate. We also installed stiffer Barnett springs using the stock bolts. The YFZ calls for 5.8 foot-pounds of torque on the spring bolts, so we installed them with a torque wrench.
STEP 7: Replace the clutch cover, ensuring your gasket isn’t damaged. We torqued ours to 7.2 foot-pounds on the YFZ. Start it up and go ride!