We know you’re itching to hit the trails, rocks, dunes, or mud. Your new side by side is an investment, no matter if you are planning fun weekend trips or working on the farm. Are you ready to make the most of your new UTV? If so, here are 32 things that will take your machine and your safety to the next level. Some of our aftermarket suggestions are for fun, some are for comfort, and some are to help make sure you stay safe. All of them will help make your side by side uniquely your own.
Here are 5 areas that are essential UTV upgrades to consider before taking your brand-new baby out to play.
Store More Gear
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 for you. Here is where to start:
Cargo Box/Cooler ($200-$500)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 in the woods. These boxes contain two or more separate compartments in one box. One of the compartments is a cooler that allows you to keep your drinks cold while you keep your other gear safe. Most have ample space for organizing all your necessities.
Bed Rack/Cooler Rack ($85-$200)
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 mean you'll be confident your things are secure no matter how hard you ride! 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 ($75-$110)
Door bags provide lots of storage, but that isn’t all. These bags usually are sold in an “upper” and “lower” version. The upper bags have storage and also include a padded section that protects the passengers’ knees from knocking against the door panels on rough rides. The lower bags are usually larger and hold more gear. Prices on these types of bags 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.
Overhead bags ($100-$175)
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. There are a couple advantages to overhead storage. 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 it’s an unimportant call.
Always Bring Protection
Your personal protection and the protection of your vehicle is a must. UTVs are built with high-quality industry standards for safety, but there are some things that you can do to improve your side by side riding experience. Here are a few more essential upgrades to keep you and your loved ones safe on the trails.
Always wear a helmet. Most states require riders to wear a helmet. We don’t really feel like it is necessary to explain why this is important. In states where a helmet is not required, you can look like you have some brains by keeping them safe in your helmet.
The stock harness in most new UTVs just doesn’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-point harness. The “four-point” designation means that the seatbelt 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”. We think 3” is the best width, but if you are riding with a small child a 2” harness may be more comfortable for them.
Protect yourself from the elements! 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 they are also available in metal and coated polycarbonate versions. The polycarbonate roofs let in lots of light and come in tinted versions to help keep the sun to a minimum. Prices will vary based on your needs and the model of your UTV, but a roof is a great investment. Protect your skin, protect yourself from the weather, and spend more time on the trails.
Skid protector ($200-$800)
Your stock skid protector is probably not quite the layer of armor you might think it is. A stock skid plate really isn't sufficient to protect your machine from damage that can come from the rocks and sticks below. Get on any forum and you will see many "Factory skid plate is crap!" threads. If you ride in any conditions where your machine comes into contact with gravel, rocks, sticks, or any obstacles that have potential to be thrown up into your machine, you need to invest in a quality skid plate. We recommend a quality material such as ARMW (Abrasion Resistant Molecular Weight) polyethylene. A quality under protection should be at least ½” thick. You can purchase metal skid plates, but for most riders, these are unnecessary and add additional weight.
Machine protection ($200 and Up)
The trails can be tight, and people can be stupid. Jim-Bob likes to drink, and mistakes happen. Most of a UTV's look comes from parts that are made from plastic, and we all know plastic is easy to break. Other, more important parts like tires and your frame can be damaged by small collisions too.
There are lots of options for keeping dings, scratches, and dents from happening to you. Aftermarket bumpers are a great option and are important additions, especially if you plan to add a winch. You can also purchase bumpers with extensions that help protect your machine from low hanging branches and brush called brush guards. If you are concerned about additional weight, or you aren't worried about a direct collision, a lighter front, and rear brush guard might be a better option.
Side protection comes by many names. Some call them nerf bars. Some call them rock sliders or tree kickers, but no matter what you call them, nerf bars will help you slide right past trees and rocks without damaging your body or your tires. SuperATV also makes full protection kit that is available for the Polaris RZR 1000 and the RZR XP Turbo. It will wrap your machine with protective tubing all the way around. Not only do they look awesome and come in colors to match your machine, they also help you protect your investment.
A windshield is a really useful thing to have installed on your machine. Not only are you protecting you and your riders from the elements like wind, rain, and mud, you are also protecting yourself from the crazy driver in front of you slinging up rocks, sticks, and dust. There are many different styles of UTV Windshields to choose from. Some flip-style windshields allow for three different riding positions - fully closed, fully open, or vented. Other options include a full windshield and a half windshield. Both of these offer different benefits and come in a wide variety of tints and coatings. We have created an extensive Guide to Choosing the Right UTV Windshield that will help you find the right choice for your UTV and riding style. Don’t forget, a rear windshield will also help eliminate the dust tornado that can spin in the cab when you add a front windshield.
Insurance (Worth it!)
It seems obvious, but sometimes it slips past many owners. Don’t forget to insure your UTV! Not only is it a big investment, 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 your research. Find the laws specific to your state. A great place to start is The U.S. Product and Safety Commission. They have a list of each state, and they provide links to safety and registration information. You can also check out our article on making your UTV Street Legal. There are some great tips for aftermarket parts that will get you riding safely in all kinds of environments.
Always Make UTV Safety A Priority
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 even 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 expect the unexpected.
Cell Phone & Charger (Priceless)
You’re going to need it whether 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. It also never hurts to have a charger along with you too.
Sun Screen & Bug Spray ($6)
Why? Because your mom said so, and mother knows best. We aren’t doctors but nobody likes a sunburn, and diseases like Lyme Disease and West Nile Virus are no picnic either. Wear your sunscreen and fight off those skeeters and ticks.
Large First-Aid Kit ($15-$30)
Get a good one and keep it stocked. You need splints, elastic bandages, wraps, antiseptic, cold packs, body warmers, and burn care supplies. Make it home, prevent infection, and possibly even save a life. 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 get service, but if you're serious about riding, you are probably going to be in places that don’t have cell service. Portable GPS units are getting cheaper every day, and some are as low as $90. Many companies make GPS dash mounts specifically for your side by side. Get a GPS and find your way home.
Toilet Paper (Cheap)
You’re going to need it, and it's way better than poison ivy – enough said.
Small Battery Charging System ($35-$100)
Modern technology has made charging your battery on the go a reality. These are well worth the investment and they are becoming quite portable. That is a major advantage when you are packing up the side by side for your rides. Many models have a built-in light, and they operate just like a set of jumper cables attached to a rechargeable battery. You can pick one up for about $75. Bonus: find one with a USB port that can charge your phone.
Small Air Compressor And/Or Fix-A-Flat ($24-$75)
As I’m sure you know -- 4 tires are always better than three. A cheap can of fix-a-flat is always welcome in an emergency but depending on the situation it can damage your rims and be nasty to clean up. If you are going to be responsible for changing your own tires later, you might want to 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 40 bucks. That is well worth it.
Duct Tape, Electrical Tape, And Zip Ties ($10)
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…
Knife or Camp Axe ($15)
Sometimes you need to cut stuff. Enough said.
Fire Extinguisher ($30)
While they are rare, fires happen. Having a fire extinguisher handy can mean the difference between a little damage and a totaled machine. Flipped machines can catch fire if the ignition is not turned off immediately, and some recalls on Polaris UTVs remind us that sometimes things that are beyond our control can happen. Be prepared.
Winch and Towing Accessories
Maybe it’s you, maybe it’s your buddy. Either way, somebody sometime is going to show their lack of talent. It may be buried in mud, hung up on a rock, or maybe that water 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 and be prepared 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:
Winch With Synthetic Rope ($200-$350)
Depending on your machine and the amount you may need to pull, you can choose between 3500 lbs., 4500 lbs., and 5000 lbs. winches. This is the load weight that each winch can safely handle. 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 some popular UTVs in this article from utvguide.net. Most 2-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 3500 lbs. winch is suitable for most. 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 you’re your machine. Another advantage to adding this mount plate is that it also acts as a frame stiffener. Bonus!
Tow Straps ($50-$100)
These heavy nylon straps are a must for every rider. They are much easier to use than rope and they 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 make it out, 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 home.
Tree Saver & Pulley Block ($35-$75)
Nylon rope is much safer than steel cable, but it does need a little extra protection against premature wear. A tree saver strap and a pully block will help out when you are winching in tight situations and it will help by protecting that tree you might need to be tied to. The tree saver is a short nylon strap that wraps around the tree and allows you to easily tie off your winch or pully block to keep from damaging the bark. You are going to want to pick up a pully block to help transfer the pulling power to the machine when you are in awkward situations. Again, the price of these items vary but make sure you get one that is rated to pull the weight you are asking it to handle.
Extra D Rings & Gloves ($20-$40)
When you need something to tie to. Protect your hands from rope burn. Duh.
Spare Parts and Accessories
It doesn’t matter if you’re a rock bouncer, a dune runner, a mudder, or just putting along the trails enjoying the view, 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 like ball joints, bushings, wheel bearings, and tie rod ends whenever they begin to show wear. Sloppy wear and tear items can lead to a chain reaction of premature wear in all your moving parts. If you would like further information, Field and Stream has some good information on how to check your UTVs steering components. Even the most particular riders can experience a breakage on the trails, so it can be a real advantage to start your ride prepared for trail repairs. Here are some select items that can really come in handy:
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 alone in the woods.
Tie Rod Ends ($25-$90)
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.
Ball Joints ($25-$75)
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 are tight and that there isn’t any play in your tires or suspension parts. Keep spares ready in case you need them.
Nuts/Bolts/Lug Nuts ($10)
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 Quart of Oil & A Gallon of Coolant ($15-$20)
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 will be worth it.
Spare Axle ($50-$199)
A spare axle can get you back with the pack and keep you from limping home. If you invest in a quality Heavy Duty Axle like SuperATV's Rhino 2.0 axles, most riders will never break or damage one.
Tools (Pack 'Em)
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.
Enjoy Your Ride!
There you have it! These 32 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 that these are the most important things to consider when hitting the trails or the dunes. Be prepared, be proactive, and most of all have fun!
Find out how we make our UTV windshields right here in Madison, Indiana - USA. Watch the video below!