For a little bit now I’ve been tooling around with guys that are in to ATV riding. There are quite a few miles of trails cut up in the hills specifically for this activity. I have been running my kodiak 4wheeler around up there and it is a solid machine. It’s a bit older, but runs pretty good. It doesn’t owe me a damn thing really. I look around at those other machines and am hit with quite a bit of envy…it would be nice to have a shinny new machine, but I’m not a “new car” kind of guy.
I finally decided to pull the trigger on getting a side by side. I had a limited budget and needed the machine able to do some yard work…which meant basically it needed a fair sized tilt bed that could hold a bucket full of dirt from the bobcat. Looking at some specs, it seemed like the work machines could hold about 1k in their bed. I don’t know exactly what a scoop of dirt weights, but it’s got to be 1k or less I’d think. The machines in this category could also pull about a ton. I don’t put a whole lot of weight in that estimate because there are a lot of variables, but at that weight estimate it would probably pull my boat around a bit without issue…so that’s about all I’d need. There are a lot of other options that would be nice to have, but I wasn’t sure how vital they were going to be.
After searching the “for sale” sites obsessively for a couple of weeks I found one that I thought would fit the bill. It was a 2010 Polaris Ranger 800 with Power Steering. The wife called on it for me (I absolutely hate calling people on the phone…I will avoid it at all costs. The only person I can really stand to talk to via phone is my daughter) and the dude had sold it. I was a bit bummed because this one had what I thought I wanted at the time…the primary being power steering. I knew what it didn’t have, but I didn’t think that would be a big deal. And really, when you are looking at side by sides it’s a polaris dominated market. In both the “play” and work areas, they are the standard that every other company is chasing.
I started looking around again. From what I could see, it was going to be very difficult to get a polaris in my price range with power steering. I could install it afterwards…it’s a $520 kit, and after watching a video of a guy doing it, it’s a bitch. How vital is power steering though? These are little rigs, I don’t have power steering on my kodiak and never had an issue. I’d never really driven one with it…so who cares?
Then I came across this dude down in Wishek ND that is an Arctic Cat dealer. He had one that fit in my price range, is a 2012 but has high milage. After seeing that, I started sniffing around to get the feel for these machines. The general consensus was they are decent machines, but there are not that many around and not many guys on the net putting them through hell. Even youtube is very limited on the videos they have on these. Youtube is generally the first place I go to try and catch a video on repairing some stuff. I don’t expect someone holding my hand walking me through things, but if I can look at a similar setup and see how they tore it apart I have a much easier time working on my own shit. This machine fit my criteria of payload and towing capacity. I wanted it 60″ wide or less, this one comes in at 60″. And if at all possible I wanted power steering. Other than that I wasn’t too sure. I read more and more about the polaris and I was getting less and less interested in their ranger. It has an AWD system. It’s suppose to “sense” when you need 4x and kick it in, but no diff lock. The cat, on the other hand, has both push button 4x and diff lock. This made it interesting enough for me to go take a look at it.
I rolled up and to be honest, she wasn’t a beauty queen. It showed that it had been used. There were a couple of rips in the bench seat and a few cracks in the plastics. The box looked well used as well…which wasn’t too surprising it. It had a lower brush guard. It blocks all the shit below the front headlights. The tires are well worn, but not completely smooth. They have probably 1/3 to 1/4 of their life left. No winch…I don’t really understand how someone has an ATV and doesn’t put a winch on it…but whatever. The kicker though, the som bitch had 8000 miles on it. It was owned by a rancher around the area that used it every day for chores. The guy I talked to said he was dealing with the guy in March and it had 7200, then he came back a month later with 8000. At a rate of 800 miles a month the guy must have been using it for everything. The dealer said they replaced all the wheel bearings and brakes as well as some shaft under it. The engine sounded strong, the transmission seemed to shift smooth and the 4wd kicked in with no issues. I didn’t see any leaking around the bearings…outside of the high miles it seemed like a decent machine. I bit the bullet and pulled the trigger.
After having the machine for a couple of weeks now and running it through the hills and around the yard…I will say it’s a very handy rig. It’s really nice to move trailers around, haul things from the house to wherever, haul garbage..etc. Any place I would have to hassle with the pickup around the yard, this thing takes it’s place and seemingly does much better. I completely underestimated the value of power steering. It is effortless to drive. I went out riding with a few guys that have shinny new rigs without power steering and I noticed them struggling in areas where I’d used either 1 hand or just finger to whip the wheel around. I don’t really know how to quantify the value of diff lock or push button 4wd over the polaris AWD system. I assume it helps me blow through the mud a bit, as it seems like diff lock should…but since I don’t know anyone with a ranger I can’t compare.
I ordered a winch for this unit right away. I view it as standard equipment on these machines, but apparently some people don’t. Maybe the big difference is I play more in the hills with trees and stuff I can use as anchor points. The guy down south might have relied on being pulled out of the mud instead…or maybe he didn’t get stuck. Hard to imagine he didn’t bury it working around cattle…but who knows. Wiring up the hitch was really straight forward and a piece of cake. I only had to remove 1 skid plate and I had plenty of access to run cables neatly around everything. I decided to mount the solenoid in the front storage compartment right in front of the steering wheel. The front box is sectioned off and this area was a really small box that didn’t have much use for anything else. The lower grill guard had a mounting plate built in to it for the winch, so bolting it on was a breeze. The hardest part was bolting up the control button where I wanted it. There was kind of a small cut out in the lower part of the dash just under the steering wheel that seems like it was put there for something like this. I had to either take the entire dash off or, as I chose, bend and contort my arm up in to the small area to fish the nuts on the small bolts. I did not wire the switch up to the key though. I didn’t feel like screwing with a bunch of little wires trying to find the right one. The circuit won’t be open unless someone presses the button…on the down side though the little kid could crawl in to it and start pressing buttons and screw some stuff up. We’ll see how this works out. It is a small winch, only 3500lbs. I would have preferred a 4500 or 5k model, but the price was right. It came with a snatch block so I can double up the cable if I’m really in the shit. The morning after I installed the winch, the wife was kind enough to take it out for a run and promptly burry it in the mud. It wasn’t stuck too bad, but the winch worked out like it was suppose to. The next move is tires, then probably some sort of gun rack. Outside of those things, it should be fairly well good to go.
So far, with what little I’ve used it, I’m satisfied with the rig. It starts and runs good…doesn’t seem to have any transmission noise and everything appears to be holding together. It’s a little wide for the trails in the hills and takes some snaking around to squeeze it between the trees in spots…but overall I’m having a good time with it. In just 2 weeks I’m really surprised how many times I jump in that to do something instead of firing up the pickup like I would have had to in the past. I’m also surprised how easy it is on fuel. I don’t know what kind of mileage it’s getting for sure…but I’ve gone quite a ways without filling it up more than once so far.
Some pix and video of the hills run…