We know you’re itching to hit the trails. Your new side-by-side is an investment, whether you’re planning fun weekend trips or working on the farm. Are you ready to make the most of your new UTV? If so, here are thirty-two products that will take your machine and your safety to the next level. These suggestions include parts for fun, comfort, and safety—all of which will make your ride even more fun!
For these upgrades, we will break them out into the following categories:
You can always use more storage. No matter how you are using your side-by-side, you will probably be carrying around a lot of stuff—sunglasses, gloves, food, drinks, you name it. The most important thing is to make sure everything is secured. You can’t just throw items in a seat and expect them to be there when the day is done. Depending on your machine, there may be many options available to you. Here is where to start.
Almost all makes and models have aftermarket storage options available. It might seem pricey, but a cargo box or cooler/cargo combo can be very handy. Each box contains two or more separate compartments. One of the compartments acts as a cooler to keep your drinks cold and the other offers protection so your gear stays safe.
There are many different styles of bed racks and cooler racks available. We recommend one that has built-in tie-down locations. This allows you to utilize more vertical space in your bed by securely stacking items and leaving room for more underneath. Tie-downs give you the confidence you need to ride hard. Want a bonus? Cooler racks can also double as gas can racks if you decide to skip the beverages (but we’re guessing you won’t). Remember—hydration is important!
Door bags provide lots of storage, but that isn’t all. UTV door bags are designed for both storage and protection. They feature pockets for your personal belongings and padding to keep your legs from hitting the door when you’re getting a little squirrely. Prices on these are in the $75 range and are well worth the investment. Keep your cell phone handy and your knees bruise-free at the same time.
Incredibly convenient, easy to reach, and out of the way—overhead storage bags are a must for UTV riders. These bags attach easily with Velcro straps and have multiple pockets. They usually have more space than door bags, and since it is located overhead, both the driver and passenger have access to the items stored there. Pro tip: look for an overhead bag that includes a compartment with a clear window. These are great for storing your cell phone. A clear window allows you to see who’s trying to reach you. No need to get your phone out in all that mud if that call can wait until later!
Not only do we want to help you stay safe, but we want to give you a few tips on keeping your fresh new ride safe as well.
Okay, so technically this isn’t protecting your machine, but it’s definitely one of the most important things to have as a UTV rider. Wearing a helmet may not be the “cool” thing to do, but it’s the safe thing to do. And what’s it really hurting? Some (most) states require the use of helmets when driving a UTV/ATV on the road, and riding parks aren’t far behind in adopting helmet rules. It doesn’t matter how old you are—wrecking without a helmet on could kill you, or at the very least seriously injure you. So just get one that looks cool and keep it on!
The stock harnesses in most UTVs just don’t quite cut it. They can be loose and most of them are not very comfortable. If you do happen to roll, the stock harness often allows too much tolerance, and it can be dangerous. We recommend upgrading to a solid four- or five-point harness. The “four-point” designation means that the seat belt and shoulder straps are secured to the frame of the side-by-side at four different points. These are manufactured with varying strap widths from 1”-4”.
Protect yourself from the elements! A nasty sunburn can ruin your weekend, and a storm can pop up at any time. There are a couple of options for adding a roof to your side-by-side. A molded plastic roof is a popular version, but there are also metal and coated polycarbonate versions out there. The polycarbonate roofs let in lots of light and come in tinted versions to help keep the sun’s rays to a minimum. Prices will vary based on your needs and the model of your UTV, but a roof is definitely something you don’t want to go without if you plan on doing any serious riding. Protect your skin, protect yourself from the weather, and spend more time on the trails.
Your stock skid plate isn’t providing you with the amount of protection you need. Most machines focus on protecting some vital parts like the prop shaft, but don’t provide any protection at your feet. If you ride in any conditions where your machine comes into contact with gravel, rocks, or sticks (so pretty much anywhere), you need to invest in a quality skid plate so that you don’t end up getting stabbed in the leg. We recommend a quality material such as ARMW (Abrasion Resistant Molecular Weight) polyethylene. A quality skid plate should be at least ½” thick. You can purchase metal skid plates, but for most riders, these are unnecessary, noisy, and add additional weight.
Why invest in an aftermarket bumper? Well first of all, if your machine doesn’t already come with one stock, go ahead and click the “shop” button now, then come back to this later. If your machine does come with a stock bumper, it’s very likely not going to hold up to the abuse that you’ll give it. With an upgraded bumper, you can make sure your critical components—lights, radiator, and fenders, just to name a few—don’t get damaged. Smashing those parts is a hell of a lot messier (and more expensive) than getting a little scuff on your bumper. Plus, depending on what style you go with, you can add accessories like winches and light bars.
Nerf bars, also known as rock sliders and tree kickers, are what help keep the sides of your rig protected. You can slide through tight trails and keep sticks from hitting your undercarriage. Plus, some of them even have steps to help give you a boost into your UTV.
Not only are you protecting you and your riders from what’s ahead (wind, rain, and bugs), you are also protecting yourself from the driver in front of you slinging up rocks, mud, and dust. There are many different styles of UTV windshields to choose from. You’ve got full, half, flip, rear—the list goes on and on. All of these offer different benefits and come in a wide variety of tints and coatings. If you’re in need of some help figuring out which windshield is best for you, we break it down for you in our Guide to Choosing the Right UTV Windshield.
It seems obvious, but sometimes it slips the mind. Many states require that your UTV is registered and insured, just like a car. Some states have fewer laws. The best thing to do is research. A great place to start is The U.S. Product and Safety Commission. They have a list of requirements for each state, and they provide links to safety and registration information. If you’re definitely planning on doing some road riding, you can also check out our article on making your UTV street legal.
Off-roading can be a dangerous sport. That’s part of the fun, right? However, every owner and rider should put a little effort into riding safely and being prepared. Unfamiliar terrain, inclement weather, mechanical problems, and driver errors can leave you or your friends and family stranded or injured. Anything can happen on the trail, and you need to be prepared for the worst. Here is a list of items that will help riders of all skill levels to survive the unexpected.
UTV’s don’t come with mirrors, which is crazy considering how important they are. They’re not used so much to go in reverse or to change lanes safely, but they do help you keep track of everything around you. If you’ve ever been to a hot obstacle at a ride park—be it mud hole or hill climb—you know how much traffic there can be. Having a good set of mirrors is a great way to keep from bumping into your buddies when things are really busy.
When it’s your turn to hit that rock shelf or whatever it is, having extra angles to see where your tires meet the ground can make a huge difference. Of course, nothing beats a good spotter, but mirrors sure make your life easier.
You’re going to need it at some point, whether it’s for calling in the troops for a tow or calling for emergency services. Keep it with you and make sure it has a proper charge before you leave for your ride. Actually, scratch that. Go ahead and bring a charger too—just in case.
Get a good one and keep it stocked. You need splints, elastic bandages, wraps, antiseptic, cold packs, body warmers, tourniquets, and burn care supplies. Make it home, prevent infection, and possibly save a life just by keeping this kit stored in your glove box. It is good practice to check it each time you return from a ride to make sure everything inside is still good. Make it a part of your post-ride routine.
Your phone works well if you’re within range of a cell tower, but if you’re serious about riding, you are probably going to be in places with less-than-stellar service. Portable GPS units are getting cheaper every day, and some cost as low as $90. Many companies make GPS dash mounts specifically for your side by side. Get a GPS and find your way home.
You’re going to need it, and it’s way better than poison ivy. Enough said.
We’re hoping you buy this often enough to know where to find it. But just in case, your local grocery store should have the goods.
Modern technology has made charging your battery on the go a reality. There are many portable options available. Many models have a built-in light, and they operate just like a set of jumper cables attached to a rechargeable battery. Bonus: find one with a USB port that can charge your phone.
As I’m sure you know, four tires are always better than three. A cheap can of Fix-a-Flat is always welcome in an emergency, but it won’t get you very far if you’ve lost too much tire pressure already. If you don’t want to avoid chewing up your rims, invest in a small portable air compressor. These babies have come a long way. Some battery-powered rechargeable models are not any bigger than a cordless drill and can cost as little as forty bucks.
You’re going to need them at some point. The cost and size of these items make them a no-brainer. We call these items the “holy trinity” of field repairs. The special combo of two types of tape and zip ties might not be a permanent fix for every UTV repair, but most of the time it will at least get you back to the trailer. And if you can’t duct it…
You can find all of these things at your local parts store or Walmart.
Sometimes you need to cut stuff. And that’s all she wrote.
While they are rare, fires happen. Having a fire extinguisher handy can mean the difference between a little bit of damage and a totaled machine. Flipped machines can catch fire if the ignition is not turned off immediately, and a number of recalls on UTVs remind us that sometimes, things that are beyond our control can happen. Be prepared.
Maybe it’s you, maybe it’s your buddy. Either way, somebody sometime is going to show their lack of talent. Buried in mud? Hung up on a rock? Get in some water that was a little deeper than you expected? No winch means having to rely on reverse, and most of the time using reverse in a rescue situation means a broken reverse chain. You need to have all the necessary towing accessories to winch your buddy or yourself out of the muck. Nobody wants to leave their baby stranded alone in the woods, and it’s always a long walk home. Here is a list of suggested equipment.
Depending on your machine and how much weight you’re willing to prepare for, you can choose between 3500 lb., 4500 lb., and 5000 lb. winches. Anything more than 5000 lbs. is silly for a side-by-side application. If you aren’t sure which winch you need, you can find the weight of popular UTVs in this article from UTV Guide. Most two-seater side by sides have an unloaded stock weight under 2000 lbs. So depending on the amount of passenger weight, stored gear, and aftermarket upgrades, a 4500-lb. winch is suitable for most. Remember you’ve got to drag all that weight through mud sometimes. We recommend a winch with nylon rope. They don’t rust, are easier to handle, and if they break they are much safer for the user because nylon can’t put your eye out. Each machine requires a machine-specific winch mount, so make sure to find the right fit for your vehicle.
These heavy nylon straps are a must for every rider. They are much easier to use than rope and can be used for many different applications. Prices on these kinds of straps vary depending on quality and tow rating. Make sure to get a strap that is rated to handle the weight of your vehicle at working load. Don’t be fooled by cheaper straps that try to sell you on the breaking load. If you wreck your machine and there’s no way you’re driving it home, you’re going to need a decent set of tow straps to get pulled back to the trailer.
A pulley block and tree saver strap will help out when you are winching in tight situations. The pulley block transfers pulling power to the machine, letting you pull more weight while putting less strain on your rope (meaning it will last longer). The tree saver is a short nylon strap that wraps around the tree and allows you to easily tie off your winch or pulley block without damaging your rope or the tree. We offer both a pulley block and a tree saver strap in our Winch Accessory Kit, along with D-rings and gloves. You can also purchase these separately at your local hardware store. Again, the price of these items vary—just make sure you get one that is rated to pull the weight you are asking it to handle.
Anchor shackles, tow shackles, D-rings—whatever you call them, you’ll be glad you packed some extras when someone gets stuck and you need a solid anchor point to tie off to. And the gloves are for your hands, to prevent that awful rope burn we all hate. Duh.
It doesn’t matter what type of rider you are—at some point you are going to need a quick fix to get you running again. The best way to ensure you have a good ride with no issues is to perform regular maintenance on your machine and to replace wear and tear items whenever they begin to show wear. Doing this can prevent more expensive damages in the future. Here are some wear products to look out for.
All experienced riders will tell you to carry a spare drive belt or two. It is also important to practice changing it before it ever leaves your garage. It’s better to get comfortable with changing a belt in the comfort of your own garage than just winging it when you’re alone in the woods.
This is a common weak point on all side-by-sides. Buy a heavy-duty tie rod kit with some extra tie rod ends, and get home with your front tires pointing the same direction.
A bad ball joint can be a big problem. A broken or lost ball joint can wreck an entire weekend and it can also be dangerous. Check your ball joints regularly to make sure they’re tight and that there isn’t any play in your tires or suspension parts. Keep spares ready in case you need them.
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men just needed a bucket of nuts and bolts. Carry different sizes and lengths to cover your standard hardware and lug nuts.
A spare axle can get you back with the pack and keep you from limping home. There are a lot of axle options out there, but we will say one thing: If your stock axles break, does it make much sense to replace them with the same ones just to endure that pain all over again? Go ahead and make the smart decision to upgrade.
This is not a car. Our UTVs take lots of abuse and we ride them hard. Because of the added bouncing, jostling, and (sometimes) rolling over, it is important to check your fluids regularly. It doesn’t do you any good to know you’re low on fluids and not have any to add. Bring some with you. It’ll be worth it.
Bring the right tools for the job. You can have all the spares in the world, but without the proper tools, you’re still stuck.
There you have it! These thirty-three essential upgrades will ensure a longer, happier, and more fulfilling experience with your new side by side. This list may look daunting at first, but you will learn along the way—from us, from other riders, and from your own experiences. Be prepared, be proactive, and most of all, have fun!
Updated by Tyler Smith-Lichlyter on 11/6/2019.
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