How to set up your UTV suspension and shocks
Keep the wife and kids happy with the smoothest ride possible
In my experience most people who own side x sides never check there suspension ride height or the gas charge in their original or aftermarket shocks.
Including but not limited to Walker Evans, Fox, King, Shocks.
You probably see advertising or read on forums that you should spend thousands of dollars on new springs and re-valving shocks to get that plush ride you really want.
Not to take away from the shock and spring packages that are for sale they most certainly will make your UTV handle the bumps and woops better than the stock package.
But the average rider owning a Polaris, Can-Am, Yamaha, Arctic Cat, Textron, Honda UTV never checks or knows how to adjust for proper ride height, without proper ride height set your side x side will not handle the way the manufacture recommends with the shocks and springs it came with from the factory.
All the suspension pick up points were designed for your machine at factory ride height.
See Figure 1 & 2 shows front and rear ride heights on a Polaris Turbo
All modern day UTV’s have a ride height specification in there service manual.
If your ride height is set incorrectly the suspension may feel stiff or to soft and make you think your shocks and springs need to be changed out to get that better feel.
Springs are what controls the ride height, the shocks control how fast or slow it gets to the bottom or top of the compression and rebound of the spring.
Before you invest in re-valving of shocks and springs make sure your ride is set to the correct factory specification it was meant to have from the factory.
After your ride is set up at the correct specification from the list of checks and adjustments, then go for some rides and adjust out on the trail your compression and rebound knob adjustments. After all of this is set correctly and you want an amazing change for your UTV ride it will be time to step up to shocks and springs that are tailored to your specific riding styles.
1.Tire air pressures set to specifications 2.Cleaning and lubing the threads on your coil over shocks 3.Ride heights set on all 4 corners to factory specifications 4.Nitrogen charge all shocks to manufacture recommended specification 5.Front and rear alignment to factory specifications (Not all UTV’s have adjustment for rear) 6.Learn to adjust your compression and rebound settings on the shocks while out on the trail, you will learn not be afraid of these adjustments. 1.Tire pressures-more times than not when I work on UTV’s & the tire pressures are not even close to factory specs and worse yet from side to side they are many pounds different, this can be the biggest factor in handling of your UTV a misconception of all the tires and wheels out there is with bead locks you can run as low as possible this is true but it is not always safest. With the introduction of 8 and 10 ply rated tires these are very strong and usually heavy tires this type tire takes a minimum amount of air pressure or it won’t keep it’s round shape so if you run these too low you may think you have a problem with your UTV 2.Ride height-I have checked many UTV’s for ride height and even brand new off the show room floor they are not even close to factory specifications. How about after there has been a heavier roll cage and many accessories next thing you know there has been 300 lbs. added to the overall UTV, after all this you need to raise it back up to the factory specifications, so your shocks and springs can go through the proper motion it was designed to do. With sport UTV’s weighing around 1500-2000 lbs. the 300 lbs. weight added is 15% of the entire UTV this will dramatically affect all handling and spring weights needed. At the rear of the XP line are open frame tubes that face down just below the radius-rod mounts. Use that point to measure to the ground in the rear. The rear is the most likely to be off if you are carrying anything in the bed or using a spare-tire mount. 3.Gas pressurized shocks-This is one of the most neglected parts on your expensive shocks, have you noticed the valve that looks like your tire valve stem on all your shocks? The shock and spring companies do not want the average person even to test this because without the proper tools and nitrogen you will make it worse before you ever make it correct. Do not check it with a regular tire gauge and do not feel up with compressed air, There are many articles devoted just for this alone and I will not go into all the reasons why on this post. Clean and lube shock bodies where your adjusting rings move up and down. 4.Alignment-another often overlooked part of the handling of your UTV there are factory settings on this and some UTV’s have more adjustments than others but all have some kind of adjustments on them. Again brand new from the dealers i have seen them off as much as 2” from factory specifications.
Madsen racing started way back in 1986 and over the years we always seemed to win one or two main events a year not sure of how to set up the race car we would always be asking other racers about what they were doing to their suspension and would try things with little long term success
When we started winning multiple main events and end of year championships in our oval track racing career is when we quit copying what other racers were doing.
We started understanding and learning suspension and shocks along with ride heights and realized how important they are to handling of the car.
When you understand that what your friends UTV has for suspension set up is not going to be the same as yours there are too many factors that could change the why
- Weight-how many people ride with you, different location of your accessories-How many accessories your UTV may be as much as 10-15% total weight difference from other UTV's
- How many miles on your shocks and springs have you ever serviced your shocks?
- Is your alignment correct front to rear and side to side
- How about your different driving style-maybe you are way more aggressive or conservative
- Wheels and tires with different rotating weight? this again can be a big difference between UTV's
The more you ride the more you will understand where your weak points in your suspension lies and I will help you decide with the correct information what would work best for your set up.
So let’s get you involved to help make your decisions for your best overall ride quality for your particular riding and driving style