PROJECT UTV: WORKHORSE IN FORCE

Upgrades for every day By the staff of Dirt Wheels

This six-seat Mule Pro-FXT EPS has been modified to be an all-weather work companion for Horizon Mechanical. It also sees use around the company property and rare recreational use.

There isn’t much that sells better than a machine meant to get work done. We recently went on the hunt to help our friend John Gordon find the perfect UTV for his business. He spends hours on his ranch moving around equipment, towing small trailers, moving industrial pipe and boiler equipment, grading his property and transporting his crew on job sites. Occasionally, he likes to take his friends and family members on adventures around his ranch and the surrounding lands. There are many worthy machines out there from different manufacturers that could have fit right in with his needs, but we helped him choose the proven Kawasaki Mule Pro-FXT EPS, which we tested one in our August 2019 issue.

John was quite happy with the Mule’s characteristics. It does everything he requires from a working rig, and does it well. However, we have yet to find a vehicle that can’t be upgraded in some way to suit the wants and needs of the owner. So, our associate editor Collin Duffy, with the installation assistance of test rider Daniel Gonzalez, picked out and installed parts to enhance the daily use of the Kawasaki.

The Mule Pro-FXT EPS convertible bed allows you to drop the rear seat and push the bed front forward for more room. The roof hinges to all the hydraulic dump bed to operate in long-bed mode.

GET WHAT WORKS

Kawasaki’s expansive accessory lineup was a big factor in deciding upon the Mule Pro-FXT. Most of the additions on this project come straight from Team Green. The white color works well for John’s choice in work trucks, so he chose this white and black version of the Mule. This model doesn’t come with certain accessories that the higher-end models do. We added the missing ingredients.

The first installation was a full plastic roof that can be flipped up in the rear when you need to tilt the dump bed. Moving down, we put on a KQR full plastic windshield for the colder seasons. Kawasaki’s standard side mirror set includes two mirrors, which we mounted, that can fold inward and offer a great view while backing the machine up. We found an awesome Assault Industries Bomber convex center mirror that we couldn’t fit on a different project and mounted it to the Kawasaki. 

Standard for the Mule Pro-FXT EPS convertible bed is a short bed, but the Kawasaki bed extender is a handy way to get more cargo room while retaining six-person seating.

Tunes are a must-have for John, so we got an audio system from Kawi that includes four speakers and a head unit with all the needed wiring. The system was very easy to install with clear and concise directions. Only slight modifications were required. The big bench seat was looking lonely up front, so we chose a center console that has cup holders and a flip-open lid with extra storage space inside. We tossed in Kawasaki’s large under-seat storage cargo bin that nestles under the front bench. You will have to disconnect the center console from up front to get to the storage bin under the seat if you put it up front. We decided to relocate the center console to the rear of the machine so passengers in the back could have cup holders, too. 

The crew can expand beyond three employees on certain job sites, which means reduced bed space when the rear bench seat is up. Kawasaki offers a bed extender that mounts to the bed rails and can be placed in multiple positions, which includes a clear view of the back over the tailgate when it is folded down to allow more bed space. When the rear seat is folded up, the Horizon crew tends to load the cargo bed down with equipment, dirt and more. It gets difficult to lift the bed to tilt it at times, certainly if only one employee is doing the job. We fixed this issue by installing Kawasaki’s hydraulic cargo bed lift system that involves quite a bit of work to put together. One person can tackle the job alone, but expect up to six hours of work for an experienced mechanic. Once it is mounted up, all you have to do is push the newly installed lift button on one of the fenders and the bed tilts up and down on its own without causing stress to anyone. John added a back-up beeper for job sites, a horn and an accessory fuse box to round out the Kawasaki accessories.

A four-way draw bar stays in the hitch. Between the three sizes of tow balls and the heavy-duty hook, the Mule is prepared for anything that it needs to tow.

MAKE IT SUPER

This project doesn’t have a long list of add-ons, simply because they aren’t needed for a working machine that occasionally gets to go out and play. We did want more aggressive styling and other worthy features to keep the Mule from being a plain Jane. SuperATV has an expansive line of products for the Mule Pro-FXT, but the Pro Winch Ready front bumper really caught our eye. The main bumper portion is made out of diamond-plate steel with cutouts that make it ready to accept LED lights and a winch. It comes in multiple colors, which are black, black and black.

SuperATV’s 5000-pound capacity Black Ops UTV/ATV synthetic rope winch is destined to fit in the Pro winch bumper. We gathered the winch and a winch mounting plate kit to install onto the Mule. The instructions made the installation process straightforward, and it can easily be handled with two people or a bit of a struggle alone. The wiring was the most difficult part of the kit, since it was hard to decipher. However, it is in an inexperienced mechanic’s wheelhouse with some research and properly following the directions. We found a nice cutout on the Mule’s dash for the winch operation switch. A wireless remote comes in the kit.

When the Mule is used out of California, it has street lighting and turn signals for road use. The kit from Moose Utilities mounts unobtrusively in the heavy-duty SuperATV front bumper.

We outfitted SuperATV’s bumper with a set of their 3-inch LED recessed cube lights that fit perfectly in the pre-cut holes. Daniel somehow convinced John that there wasn’t enough light power with the stock headlights and the SuperATV lights that point down to the side rather than straightforward. Gordon ordered a 20-inch G4D LED light bar from GG Lighting to install on the top of the SuperATV bumper.

The only other needed modification to the front bumper came in six drilled holes to install the turn-signal lights for the Moose Utilities Street kit. John has a lot of family in Arizona, so he takes the Mule up there where it is legal to pilot on the streets in certain places. The Moose kit comes with a column-mount turn-signal switch, turn-signal lights for the front, a lighted license plate mount and wiring that connects to your machine’s stock taillights to turn them into turn signals. The kit was tricky to install and not recommended for anyone with little mechanical experience. We drilled holes in the SuperATV bumper for the turn signals, which you can also do in the plastic of your UTV. The Mule steering column did not readily accept the signal switch, so some modifications were required. We suggest looking at your vehicle’s steering column to make sure the signal switch would be easy to mount with the hardware included in the kit.

Sedona Storm wheels and Ripsaw tires upgraded the look and the performance of the Mule. They have already been put to the test at work in dry and muddy conditions.

KAWI BOUND

A set of 26-inch Sedona Rip Saw RT tires wrapped around attractive 12-inch Sedona Storm wheels rolled their way onto the Kawasaki. The Storm wheels added some needed style and provide a bit more width to the Kawasaki, thanks to their offset. This setup was the only handling upgrade we made to the Mule. Reliability is far more important for a working machine than increasing power or changing handling towards faster trail operation.

The Rip Saw RT tires have a much more aggressive tread design, with taller and heavier lugs compared to the stock meats. These tires slowed the machine down a bit since the whole wheel and tire package packs a few more pounds on each corner. We did notice that they grip better to claw through mud on rainy work days, and allow the Mule to slow down quicker. The wider-tread footprint and more aggressive lugs offer more traction in almost all conditions. The Rip Saw RT tires would be better suited for a higher-powered machine that travels trails in the backwoods, but we were impressed with their functionality in the dry Southern California desert climate.

The stock Mule Pro-FXT EPS is very capable for trail use, and the mods added only amplify that ability. That is especially true of the Sedona Ripsaw tires and the winch.

WORK GETS DONE

John’s crew digs all the upgrades made to the Mule Pro-FXT EPS. The roof and windshield keeps the sun off of them and blocks air during the colder months. The mirrors provide a clear view for backing up, and the extra storage space is perfect for holding tools, tie-downs and even lunches. Kawasaki’s hydraulic dump-bed upgrade saves the crew some strength to keep working hard through the day while listening to their favorite tunes through the sound system.

This handy Kawasaki center console is held in place by the middle seat belt. It usually goes in the rear seat, since the rear has no cup holders.

They have utilized the SuperATV winch on multiple occasions to pull the Mule out of some sticky spots on the ranch during after-work play time. The SuperATV LED lights and bumper-mounted GG Lighting G4D LED light bar brightens up the night when jobs run late. Gordon and his crew now have a work tool that goes above and beyond to help get the job done when they aren’t out having fun.

Kawasaki’s 812cc three-cylinder engine is smooth, strong, quiet and almost without vibration. It provides plenty of power for climbing and towing small trailers with equipment.

PARTS & CONTACTS

ASSAULT INDUSTRIES: (714) 799-6711, www.assaultind.com

Bomber convex center mirror $99.99

GG LIGHTING: (714) 341-4811, www.gglights.com

20” G4D LED light bar $179.99

KAWASAKI ACCESSORIES: www.kawasaki.com

Audio system $599.95

Center console $125.95

KQR full plastic windshield $625.95

Plastic roof $415.95

Standard side mirror set $78.95

Under-seat storage bin $145.95

KQR cargo bed extender $179.95

Hydraulic cargo bed lift $1,029.95

Accessory fuse box $379.95

Back-up beeper $140.95

Horn $39.95

MOOSE UTILITIES: www.mooseutilities.com

Street kit w/ column turn signal $371.95

SEDONA: (800) 999-3388, www.sedonatires.com

Storm wheel $97.95-$129.95 each.

Rip Saw RT tire $132.95-$219.95 each.

SUPERATV: (855) 743-3427, www.supeatv.com

5000 lb. Black Ops UTV/ATV synthetic rope winch $399.95

Pro winch-ready front bumper $399.95

Pro winch mounting plate $64.95

3” LED recessed cube lights $99.95

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