Have you ever been out for a ride and heard a noise that just didn’t sound quite right? Have you ever had a part just fall off for seemingly no reason? We have. These mystery problems can usually be narrowed down to the simplest failure: a loose bolt.
Your machine is held together by bolts, so neglecting to check them is as bad as neglecting to change your oil, and it will cause problems. If you want to keep your ATV or UTV in peak condition, keeping an eye on your bolts should be at the top of your vehicle maintenance checklist.
Most people do a bolt check just once a year, but you should be checking your bolts every few rides at least.
It’s easy. Just grab a wrench and walk around your side-by-side. Check every bolt you can—A-arm bolts, tie rod bolts, shock bolts, bumper bolts, etc. If any of them feel loose, just tighten them up! Your most common problem bolts will be your shock mounting bolts and your A-arm bolts.
Any bolt can come loose at any time, but just remember: it’s the bolt you don’t check that will come loose. Be thorough in your walkthrough and you won’t be sorry later.
There’s a major pitfall that you need to be careful to avoid, and it involves nyloc nuts. After you’ve checked all your bolts and tightened the two or three that were loose, you take your machine out for a ride and hear a noise. Every time you hit a bump, you hear a loud clunk! Maybe you had a stick or a rock wedged somewhere. Maybe you blew a shock. You know it couldn’t possibly have been a loose bolt since you had just tightened them all that morning.
Well, you’d be wrong. That shock bolt that you tightened this morning is loose again. Now why would that be? Turns out the culprit is your nuts—your nyloc nuts.
Nyloc nuts, if you don’t know, have a deformable nylon collar inside them. It ensures that the bolt becomes locked to the nut when it’s tightened down. They’re great, cheap, and much more secure than a standard nut.
So what’s the problem? Yesterday when you took the nyloc nut off of your shock to mess with your A-arms, you damaged that nylon collar. This morning it was loose again. When you tightened your loose nyloc nut, you damaged the nylon collar, allowing it to unthread itself easily after that. When you were on your ride today, you were just a few bumps away from your shock coming loose and wrecking a lot of stuff.
Some people will argue that you can reuse nyloc nuts over and over again without losing their locking ability. In our experience, that’s not the case. And honestly, we don’t care about those arguments. One of the most trivially easy things we can do to ensure our ride is safe is to replace nyloc nuts every time we take them off. We would rather be safe than sorry. That’s why we’re OK with dropping $5 for a bag of nyloc nuts that will last us months.
Don’t reuse nyloc nuts! They’re disposable.
Just to make sure we’ve covered all our bases, we want to remind you specifically to check your lug nuts every time you do a bolt check. You really don’t want to have your wheel fall off in the middle of a ride for no good reason. Trust us.
Whenever we remove a wheel to install a new part or perform maintenance, we make sure to check those lug nuts again after a few hours of riding. It’s not uncommon for recently reinstalled wheels to come loose, after they’ve settled several miles down the trail.
To recap: check your lug nuts every time you do a bolt check. Also, check them after a few hours of riding if you recently installed your wheels.
We already mentioned the characteristic clunk of a shock mount bolt coming loose. But your machine can make all sorts of noises if it’s coming apart. A-arm bolts make more of a rattling noise. If your lug nuts are loose, it might be more a thumping noise.
You really need to pay attention to the noises of your machine. Learn to speak its language made of metal and strain. Then you can hear precisely when your vehicle needs to stop and what you need to fix.
Maybe it’s too late for you. Maybe you went one day too long without doing a bolt check and now your machine is sitting in your garage in a dozen pieces, waiting for replacement parts to come in. Your significant other is complaining because that heap of junk is filling up the garage and they have to park outside and walk through the rain.
If that’s you, then you’re in the right place. We have the side-by-side parts you need to get riding again and get your machine healthy enough to move back to the shed. We’ve got a ton of stuff to get your vehicle looking and performing better than ever, and we have super fast shipping so your downtime can be days instead of weeks.
If that’s not you, then just be safe and stay in one piece! Have fun riding and leave your worry at home knowing you took care of your machine before you put it on the trailer.
33 Must-Have Aftermarket Upgrades for Every UTV Owner
How to Make Your UTV Quiet and Hush Your Angry Engine
How to Adjust ATV Shocks
Simplified Polaris Maintenance Schedules for Everyday Use
How to Install the RIDE System Rear Steering Kit on a Polaris Ranger XP 1000