The secret to greater performance lies somewhere deep in the bowels of your UTV. You’ve made your machine yours with the standard accessories like a windshield, bumpers, and maybe even a lift kit. But now it’s time to take it to the next level. Boosting performance is a tricky prospect, but you’re looking forward to ripping through the trails and leaving friends in the dust. The question is: do you need an ECU flash tune or a clutch kit?
Both can make a big difference for your vehicle’s performance, but they do it in different ways. Let’s look at what ECU tunes can do that a clutch kit can’t, and why you might benefit from one more than the other.
A clutch kit usually replaces all the clutch arms and springs in your clutch. With differently weighted clutch arms, along with primary and secondary clutch springs that have different spring rates, you can drastically change your vehicle’s behavior. With a good clutch kit, you can get:
Basically, it takes what you’ve got and makes it all work better. Let’s talk about what each of these mean.
Better engagement primarily means smoother engagement. With a stock clutch setup, hitting the gas doesn’t make you move forward instantly. There’s a little bit of a wind up… and then you start moving.
With a clutch kit, that wind up becomes much shorter, so you start moving quicker after hitting the gas. It’s also smoother. You can expect fewer herky-jerky engagements as you throttle up or down. That smoothness leads us to our next point.
A smoother clutch doesn’t beat on your drive belts as much. When belts don’t get suddenly smashed and pulled by clutch sheaves, they tend to last longer.
You will especially care about making your belts last longer if you like to keep the pedal down as much as possible. Or if you’ve upgraded to larger tires, you’ll put tons of stress on your drive belt no matter how you drive. A clutch kit is the solution.
Perhaps the best thing about a well-tuned clutch kit is that it takes advantage of every ounce of power your engine creates. It does this by keeping your UTV’s RPM in the sweet spot (that is, the RPM where your vehicle has the maximum horsepower) until the clutch fully shifts out.
When built just right, a clutch kit maxes out your machine’s performance.
But if you want to change where that maximum performance limit is, you need an ECU flash tune.
An ECU flash tune is basically a magic trick. You plug it into your side-by-side, it ups the mojo factor, and all of a sudden you’ve got a whole new machine. OK, so what it actually does is change the way the onboard computer communicates with your engine, but it still feels like magic. With an ECU flash tune, you get:
To sum up, an ECU flash tune raises limits. Let’s see what that means for you when you’re behind the wheel.
Straight from the factory, a lot of UTVs have built-in features that go a little too far in keeping your machine safe. There are restrictive limiters that kick in when you install an aftermarket harness, when you brake at the same time that you hit the gas, and when your machine goes into limp mode.
Obviously, serious riders will switch out the stock seatbelts for something safer first thing. And good drivers know how to brake and gas simultaneously to maximize speed around a turn or when navigating a tricky slope. Raising those limits just makes your life easier.
Limp is so restrictive that if you have some minor failure that triggers it, it’s like a death sentence. You’re not going anywhere without a tow—not even to the side of the trail so people can pass.
Getting rid of all these limits just makes it easier to drive.
When you talk about eliminating limits, one of the first ones you probably think of is the speed limit. A lot of UTVs are capable of hitting their stock speed limit. When you do, you’ll feel the machine stutter as it artificially caps your RPM. Raising the top speed limiter alone increases the top speed on those vehicles.
A flash tune can also increase the speed limit in low gear, which can be surprisingly helpful when you just need low-end torque, but you want to keep your momentum going. You can also go faster in reverse because why not?
But the real secret to an ECU flash tune’s performance benefits come from the tweaks to your engine.
An ECU flash tune gives you more horsepower and torque by adjusting the spark timings in your engine’s cylinders. Basically, it optimizes for higher octane fuel so your engine gets a boost in power. That power comes out as more horsepower and torque.
If a UTV is turbocharged, a tune can also increase the boost for an even bigger increase in power. Your machine will feel like you traded it in for a brand new UTV when you hit the gas.
You get all this convenience, speed, and power with just a simple flash tune. But what happens when you put an ECU tune and a clutch kit together?
So a clutch kit makes sure you’re using all the available power your UTV has, and an ECU flash tune increases the available power. So what happens when you install both? In short: it’s awesome. You get much better power and performance than either gets you on its own.
But you have lots of options for each.
Usually a tune for a machine will have multiple stages that you can get. Each stage builds upon the last with higher limits and higher octane fuel requirements. At SuperATV, we generally have three stages for sport UTVs and 2 stages for utility UTVs.
The rule of thumb is the faster you want to go, the higher stage you want to get.
At SuperATV, we categorize clutches by ride style. We’ve got hill climbing, mud bogging, and general performance kits.
Our hill climbing and mud bogging kits pair nicely with stage one or two tunes. But if you want to go all out, a general performance clutch kit paired with a stage 3 tune will put you in the back of your seat like nothing else.
Remember, the only tradeoff in increasing the stage is the fuel requirements. A higher stage usually means higher octane fuel. So if you like to go mudding and don’t mind paying extra for 93 octane fuel, you’ll be perfectly happy with a stage 3 tune.