Suspension Set-up Stage 1
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 their suspension ride height or the Nitrogen charge in their original or aftermarket shocks. This includes but is not limited to Walker Evans, Fox, or 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 shocks and spring packages that are for sale, they most certainly will make you UTV handle the bumps and woops better than the stock package.
But the average rider, owning a Polaris, Can-Am, Yamaha, Arctic Cat Textron or 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 manufacturer 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.
All modern day UTVs have a ride height specification in their service manual.
If your ride height is set incorrectly, the suspension may feel stiff or too 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 specifications 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. Set tire air pressures to specifications
More times than not, when I work on UTVs & 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 the 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 the safest. With the introduction of 8 and 10 ply rated tires, these are very strong and usually heavy. Tires of this type take a minimum amount of air pressure, or it won’t keep its round shape, so, if you run these too low, you may think you have a problem with your UTV.
2. Set ride heights on all 4 corners to factory specifications
Ride height-I have checked many UTVs for ride height and even brand new, off the show room floor, they are not even close to factory specifications. How about after 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 they were designed to do. With sport UTVs weighing around 1500-2200 lbs. the 300 lbs. added is 15% of the entire UTV. This will dramatically affect all handling and spring weights needed. At the rear of the XP frame are open tubes that face down just below the radius-rod mounts. Use that point to measure to the ground in the rear. The rear of the UTV is the most likely to be off, if you are carrying anything in the bed or using a spare-tire mount.
3. Nitrogen charge all shocks to manufacture recommended specifications
Nitrogen 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 to even 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 fill up with compressed air, There are many articles devoted just for this alone, and I will not go into the reasons why on this post. Clean and lube shock bodies where your adjusting rings move up and down.
4. Align Front and Rear ends to factory specifications (Not all UTV’s have adjustment for the rears)
Alignment- another often overlooked part of the handling of your UTV. There are factory settings on this, and some UTVs 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.
5. LEARN TO ADJUST YOUR COMPRESSION AND REBOUND SETTINGS ON THE SHOCKS WHILE OUT ON THE TRAIL; YOU WILL LEARN NOT TO BE AFRAID OF THESE ADJUSTMENTS.
Madsen racing started way back in 1986 and over the years we always seemed to win on or two main events 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 the ride heights, and realized how important they are to handling of the car.
You must understand that what your friend’s 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 has may be as much as 10-15% total weight difference from other UTV’s
- How many miles have you driven on your shocks and springs since you 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 UTVs.
The more you ride, the more you will understand where your weak points in your suspension lies, 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 the decisions for your best overall ride quality, for your particular riding and driving style.