A CA Tech Guide: How to Maintain Your Side-by-Side like a Pro
Picture this: The sun is shining, there’s a refreshing breeze, and the smell of fall is in the air; you’ve got your badass side-by-side, a full tank for fuel, nowhere to be, and a trail that's begging to be conquered. That’s all well and good but, if you're not maintaining that beast before you hit the dirt, you might as well just stay home and binge-watch something on Netflix. After all, it’s probably cheaper and more relaxing than breaking down mid-adventure and then having to spend the rest of the day/week working on or paying for major repairs that could have been prevented with a little TLC and regular maintenance. Lucky for you, we’re here to drop some knowledge about how to keep your rig trail ready. We’re not gonna try and play it off like maintenance is the fun part of owning a SxS but we mean it when we tell ya’ll it’s worth the time and effort. Just follow these steps and you’ll be good to go for years to come.
- Do an Oil Change
We hope this one isn’t news to you but if it is, listen up. Your side-by-side can’t survive indefinitely on dirty oil. It’s a vehicle, and like any other car, bus, train, plane, or automobile- if it takes fluids, it’s going to need a top-up or a full change eventually. Think of changing the oil as giving your ride a spa day. Set aside some time, get yourself some fresh oil and a new filter, and get to work. If you’re new to working on your own stuff don’t stress, this one’s pretty easy to manage and there’s a slew of “how-to’s” on YouTube. If you’re not ready to take on the task yourself, you can always call up your local off-road maintenance and repair shop to have it taken care of. Either way, make sure to check your owner’s manual for the specifics on how often the oil should be changed, what filter you need, and what type of oil is right for your rig. While you’re at it, check your diff fluid, too. Make sure you’re free of debris, sludge, and anything that could indicate bad wear - like glittery oil.
- Clean or Replace Your Air Filter
Just like you, your rig needs air to survive, so don't smother it. The air filter is like your ride's lungs, and if it's clogged, you're asking for trouble. If you’ve got a washable filter, make sure to follow the instructions and use the right cleaning products. We always appreciate the effort, but by not taking the time to double-check what’s best, you can end up with a filter that looks clean but ends up compromised. For example, some air filters won’t work properly if you use water, while others will break down if you use compressed air. If you’ve got a replaceable filter you won’t have to worry about which products are safe, but you may need to deal with supply and demand. We recommend keeping an extra filter or two on hand just in case. You don’t want to miss out on a chance to ride because you have to spend time tracking down a filter when your local store doesn’t have what you need in stock. It may not seem like all that big a deal but more air means more power; and let's be honest, who doesn't want more power?
- Joints and Bearings
Let's talk about the real heroes of your side-by-side build – the joints and bearings. These bad boys take a beating out there on the trail, so you’ll want to keep them performing as well as the day they were installed. Some of the key components that should be greased regularly include the U-joints in the drivetrain, steering components such as ball joints and tie rod ends, suspension components like bushings and pivot points, and wheel bearings. These parts are subjected to constant movement, stress, and exposure to varying conditions, making proper lubrication crucial. By applying a manufacturer-recommended grease to these components, you reduce friction, prevent corrosion, and extend the lifespan of your rig, ensuring that it continues to operate smoothly during all your off-road adventures. Regular greasing not only enhances overall performance but also makes sure you have a safe and fun riding experience.
- Spark Plugs
You know what's worse than a bad day on the trail? A day that starts out well, and leaves you stranded miles from the trailhead because of fouled spark plugs. Those spark plugs are the heart of your engine, and if they're not firing, you're going nowhere fast. Spark plugs play a pivotal role in igniting the air-fuel mixture within the engine cylinders, which powers the vehicle. Regularly checking the spark plugs involves removing them from the engine and examining their condition. Signs of wear, such as erosion of the electrode and excessive carbon buildup, can indicate engine issues or improper fuel combustion. Replacing worn or fouled spark plugs with the manufacturer-recommended plugs, gapped correctly can optimize fuel efficiency and power.
- Belt Maintenance
If your rig’s belt is slipping, you're not just losing power – you're losing your dignity. It's like trying to climb a mountain wearing banana peels for shoes. Examining the belt on your SxS is a crucial aspect of its maintenance routine. Regular belt checks involve inspecting its tension, lubrication, and overall condition. A loose or overly tight belt can lead to inefficient power transmission and premature wear on clutches. It should roll smoothly when you’re in neutral, and the tension should be enough that you don’t feel any loose sections. If it’s loose enough that you practically pull it off the pulley, replace it. The fun will end pretty quickly if you’re stuck mid-ride trying to fix/replace your belt.
- Battery Check
Batteries never die when it’s convenient, and there’s no crystal ball that can tell us when it’s going to happen but we can do our best to limit the chances. We would hope that you’re giving your SxS a circle check before heading off into the depths of the woods for hours on end with nothing but nature and no chance of a cell signal for miles, but make it a habit to add testing your battery to that list in order to avoid being stranded out there when your battery dies after a quick stop for a snack. By investing in a good battery tender, you'll have the confidence to explore every nook and cranny of those trails.
- Brake Inspection
Some things on this list you can look back at and laugh about, but brakes are not one of ‘em. Inspect your brakes before you head out, and if they're looking worn, don’t risk trying to get a few more trips out of them. Your ride’s braking system is the difference between a great day on the trail, and totaling your rig when it meets a tree that came out of nowhere. The inspection process involves examining the brake pads or shoes for wear, assessing the brake fluid level and quality, and making sure you’ve got the proper brake lever or pedal feel. Any signs of reduced braking performance, such as sponginess, grinding noises, or longer stopping distances, should be addressed immediately. No matter how you use your rig, regular brake checks make sure your rig is safe and fun, whether you're traversing rough trails or handling everyday tasks on the farm. We’re all for wild rides but there’s a difference between silly and stupid. Risking yours and the safety of those riding with you all because you chose to ignore a potential brake issue, or worse, not even check for one, won’t have anyone singing your praises.
No matter what side-by-side you decide is right for your adventures, we’ve got the experience you need to keep it running through the trails and putting in the work with real ways to make it even better. Keeping your rig functional and looking great, shouldn’t get in the way of a good time. If you’re looking for advice on upgrades, need help with an install, or just don’t know what parts you might want to check out next, CA Tech has experts on hand with the info you need. Give us a call at 423-790-0230 or shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org - we got you!