Maintenance for Side x Sides in the Summer
Summer is a wonderful time of year to ride. Whether your side x side slept in storage over the winter or was brought out for chores on your property, the summer offers many more opportunities for joy riding. Just like in the fall and winter, it’s important to stay on top of your vehicle’s maintenance. These are not your average “one and done” maintenance check-ups, though. Rather, these areas should be checked on a daily basis to ensure problems don’t arise and cause irreversible damage. But what if you don’t hear anything abnormal – it’s all good, right? Not necessarily! Use this guide as your go-to checklist before and after rides. Sure, it will feel cumbersome at first to take the time to go through the list, but once you do find an issue, you’ll be sold on the everyday summer routine for your side x side.
Drive Belt: You can easily prevent your drive belt from causing problems and slipping by performing a visual check. To do this, remove the clutch cover and examine the belt for cracks or loose fibers. You may see spots where the belt looks smooth and shiny. This is the result of glazing, which occurs when the belt slips. To operate, the clutch must be able to grip the belt, so these smooth areas aren’t going to cut it. If you spot any areas of damage, it’s time to replace the drive belt. Brush out any excess dirt off the clutch.
How can you tell if your drive belt is damaged while riding? If you start to smell burning rubber, stop your side x side and check the belt. You may also feel the machine jerk around.
Tires: During the summer, the rise and fall of temperatures can affect your tire pressure. That, coupled with frequent riding, can take a toll on your tires. Ensure your tires are inflated to the correct tire pressure so your side x side can perform like you need it to. Be sure to do a visual inspection as well, looking for punctured areas that could result from off-road riding. Discovering a damaged tire at home will save you the hassle of being stuck out on the trails!
Ball Joints: Your ball joints are crucial to proper operation, and when they’re damaged, driving can become dangerous. Check these by inspecting the rubber boots for cracks. If there is damage present, you can assume dirt has already gotten inside. This is bad because alien substances like dirt will make your ball joints seize. Even more, the housing and stud can begin to loosen in the A-arm or spindle.
To check the A-arm, remove the shock and insert a pry bar between the axle and A-arm. The A-arm, spindle, and ball joint should move as one unit; however, you really shouldn’t be able to move the A-arm. If you see the ball joint moving, replace it.
For the spindle, you’ll need to raise your side x side. Using a pry bar again, try to move the whole spindle. Just like with the A-arm, no part here should move independently.
Tie Rod Ends: These small parts keep your tie rod in place. Checking these is easy to do and will save your from causing serious damage to the tie rod. Raise your side x side and try to turn one of your tires. You shouldn’t feel any slack before the rack engages. If you do, change out the tie rod ends.
Bearings and Bushings: Wheel bearings are likely to go bad with frequent use. When they’re worn down, they cause the wheels to have too much play. You’ll definitely notice when they’re bad but check them before and after riding just in case.
To check your bushings, just remove your wheel and check to see if there’s any play in the pivot joints. You’ll need new ones if you feel any shaking in the trailing arms or A-arms.
While it may take some time, this checklist can potentially save you hundreds of dollars in repair costs during the summer. Replacing the tie rod ends is much cheaper than buying a new tie rod! Installing a new ball joint sounds like a better plan than spending the day in the hospital with a broken arm. Make it a habit to check these areas so every ride is safe for you and your side x side is in top performing condition. You’ll develop a much better understanding of your side x side as well, which will allow you to more easily detect problems in the future. Trust us when we say your wallet will thank you!