10 critical, but cheap, between-drive prep tips

By the staff of Dirt Wheels

with Ryan Rose —

Any mechanic will tell you that you want to start with a clean machine. A good bath will make less of a mess on your clothes, in your workspace and allow you to see problem areas that may crop up.



Utah’s Ryan Rose is a tech at Kombustion Motorsports’ UTV performance shop, but he is also a major UTV fan. He builds his machines keeping a careful eye on the money spent, but he drives them hard. We had the opportunity to drive his Polaris XP 1000 when it had 5000 miles on it, and it still felt brand new. When we commented on that, he said he had a checklist for the machine that he followed after every drive to keep the car fresh. Naturally, we were interested in seeing his methodology. For the most part, he just uses good sense, but the tips were illuminating. Here is what he checks after every ride.



1. Rose claims that there are few areas on a UTV that are sensitive to getting water in them, so feel free to give the machine a thorough washing. Make sure that you do keep water away from the clutch and engine air intakes. Polaris uses fine mesh over the intake grates, and a pressure washer can shred this material. Most production machines use a paper air-filter element, and they hate water. The same is true of the clutch case. You don’t want water in there.


2. Rose claims that he is a little extreme about the lubrication schedule. Obviously, he checks the oil level frequently. He changes the oil and filter after every major outing using Polaris or Mobil 1 Euro oil. At every fifth oil change he cuts the oil filter apart to look for chips and metal flakes in the filter. Different drivers and differing conditions can make a difference in how often to change the differential and gear-case lubricants. Check those often until you get an idea of how long it takes to see contamination in the fluid. Use that information to change the stock lubrication schedule if needed.


3. Check the coolant level every ride. Nothing ruins a motor faster than running low on coolant or oil. Change the coolant according to the manual, or more often if you see a change in color or smell. While you are there, check to see that those electrical connections are clean and tight.


4. Clean air is critical. Rose checks the air filter every ride and blows the dust out using compressed air from the inside, but still replaces it every 25 hours or 500 miles. The stock filter works well as long as it doesn’t get wet.



5. Older Polaris models and some aftermarket A-arm and other suspension components have grease fittings, and Rose greases those before every ride. Newer RZR models have no fittings. They should be removed and greased every 50 hours. Do it more often if you drive in conditions where you have to pressure-wash these pivot areas.


6. Check all of the critical fasteners that hold the steering together before every ride. You do not want these bolts to come up missing while you are driving.


7. Check all of the suspension fasteners as well. Visually inspect and try to wiggle the suspension arms and radius rods to see if there is any play in the system. Look for stressed areas where the paint is flaking off. You certainly don’t want any bent parts.


8. Rose safely jacked the machine up until a wheel was off the ground slightly. He then used a giant pry bar to reach under the wheel. He used the bar to pry against the floor to lift the wheel and tire assembly. 


9. While lifting the wheel, Rose looks behind the wheel to see if the pry bar is revealing any play in the wheel bearings or ball joints. There shouldn’t be any movement in these parts.


10. Rose pulls the clutch cover after every ride. Even though the cases are somewhat filtered, there is always dust and dirt inside. He brushes out any chunks and uses compressed air to clean out the dirt and dust. If the sheaves are discolored at all, then he uses Scotch-Brite pads to clean up the contact surfaces. He follows that up with parts cleaner. Check the surfaces for any cracks or pitting. Inspect the side of the belt for glazing, cracks or loose strands of cord that could signal the need for a new belt.

A visual inspection of the battery terminals, brake fluid and brake-pad wear are all good ideas as well. If you keep an eye on these simple maintenance items, your machine will have a much longer, happier and cheaper life span.

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