Think your clutch is underperforming?
Feel your power slipping when you hit the gas?
Are you burning up belts?
Sounds like you have a big problem on your hands, right? Actually, you probably just have a dirty primary and secondary clutch, but if you don’t start cleaning it more often, you might end up with a big dent in your wallet. Let us explain.
If you’re thinking a little dirt in your clutch case is no big deal, then you need to listen up. Just because your machine runs great when the outside is caked in mud and dust, it doesn’t mean it will if you let that crap get into your clutch.
That’s because a centrifugal clutch, like this Polaris clutch, is a high-precision piece of equipment that relies on numerous moving parts. When you introduce grit into moving parts, they won’t move as well and they get damaged.
In fact, when dirt gets into the rollers and arms on your clutch, it can freeze their movement. If it’s bad enough, your clutch won’t function at all. While it is rare, we have seen clutch arms get jammed out of position and prevent the clutch from closing.
Even if it doesn’t seize up completely, when grime gets on the clutch sheaves, it will create tiny grooves in that precision-machined surface. When the grooves get bad enough, you’ll get slippage and heat which will destroy belts at an alarming rate. All you can do at this point is replace your clutch entirely… or carry three spare belts on every ride.
Keeping it clean isn’t just a good idea—it’s a requirement.
So that’s how you clean a dirty clutch, but what really gets it dirty in the first place? There are a lot of different ways your clutch can accumulate crap. But the two most common ways are from drive belt wear and submerging your machine.
As a belt starts to wear down, the rubber dust from it spreads through your clutch case. It infiltrates every corner of your primary and secondary clutch and starts to gum everything up.
So what causes belt wear? Every belt wears eventually over time, but the main culprits of premature belt wear are:
Among these, ride style is by far the most important. Riding in high when you should be in low or vice versa, hitting jumps without proper throttle control, or frequently slamming on the gas can all toast your belt in no time.
Clutch misalignment causes your belt to travel diagonally between the primary and secondary clutches as it rotates. This wears out a belt fast. You need to check that your clutches are properly aligned every few hundred miles to avoid wrecking your drive belt.
Finally, if you’ve got old clutch rollers and arms that don’t move as freely as they should, you’ll end up with excess slippage and pinching. This one can lead to a bad cycle. Bad parts lead to more belt wear. More belt wear leads to worse parts. And that leads to even more wear… You get the idea.
The other classic belt wear culprit is submersion. Basically, if you like to bury your machine in mud or travel through deep water, you’re probably going to get some crap inside your clutch case.
The clutch case is sealed, but that doesn’t mean stuff can’t sneak in through your air intake or perforate through the clutch case gasket if it’s not in perfect condition.
With water and mud comes sand and grit—the very definition of dirt. And when it gets onto your clutch sheaves and other moving parts, you’ve got problems.
If you want to know how to inspect and clean the primary and secondary clutch, check out our handy “Maintenance Matters” videos.
The methods used on this Defender will apply to most CVT clutch vehicles, but if you’re looking for something more specific, check out this playlist.
How often you clean your clutch depends on a few factors, but it’s worth opening up your clutch and cleaning it every three or four rides. Clean it more often if you ride in dusty or wet conditions or anytime you notice slippage.
When you look at all the different ways you can dirty up your clutch, you might think that the only way to protect your clutch is to clean it all the time and ride like a grandma.
Luckily, you can make a few simple upgrades that will let you ride the way you want to without destroying your clutch.
Upgrading your drive belt will make it more resilient to your hard accelerating and jumping. Our heavy-duty drive belts use stronger cords and a better rubber compound. They won’t overheat, slip, or deteriorate just because you’re getting wild and abusing your throttle.
If you’re the kind of rider that isn’t living if you’re not bogging down your UTV in deep mud, then you should get a snorkel kit. Our Depth Finder™ Snorkel Kits raise your intake by over two feet. Some kits even use closed-cell silicone sponge gaskets that make sure nothing leaks through.
If your clutch parts are getting a little bit wore out and starting to cause other problems, get our clutch rebuilt kit. If the bones of your clutch are in good condition, you can get your old clutch working like new and reduce ongoing wear.
Maybe your clutch is too far gone. Maybe no matter how much you clean and upgrade, you’re just going to keep burning up belts and having frustrating rides. If that’s you, it’s time to get a whole new clutch. Our billet aluminum clutch assemblies will work like new and they’re more durable than stock. You will still want to keep it clean, but you won’t be punished as badly if you slip up.
You don’t have to sacrifice your ride style just to protect your clutch. Just check it often and upgrade the key parts that you need to. Make sure all the mud on the outside of your machine is just for show.