This page will cover repairs and upgrades to our new work vehicle, a 2005 Polaris Ranger.
Getting a 2wd tractor stuck crossing the creek started the search for a better "go anywhere" work vehicle. More rain and rising water had me wondering if I could get down there with a winch before it sank out of sight.
I never make a major purchase without doing RESEARCH. It helps to make a list of major needs and minor wants. The main mission for the new work vehicle will be fence repair, trail maintenance, and hauling firewood. The trails are narrow so a full size vehicle would not fit without cutting a lot of trees. A few web searches can provide a lot of information with just a little effort. Pay attention to terminology. I soon discovered that searching for "4-wheeler" is a complete waste of time when what you really want is a "side-by-side" or "UTV".
This made my head hurt. Terminology varies widely among the different manufacturers of various types of passenger cars, trucks, utility, and off-road vehicles. Many terms are unique to one manufacturer's marketing. The terminology and related features often overlap with no set rules for any type. For example, there is at least one side-by-side vehicle that only has seating for one. How can a side-by-side ony have one seat? The basic definition of side-by-side vehicles is mostly about how they are controlled. I believe all of these vehicles can be divided into two main classes based on type of seating and controls. Vehicles in both of these classes can come in all sizes from toys to full size vehicles that can haul all your stuff.
ATV 3 or 4-wheelers - This refers to "ride-on" type vehicles with 3 or 4 wheels, handlebars, and controls that function similar to a motorcycle. A passenger straddles the seat behind the driver. The 4-wheelers are more stable and safer than 3-wheel "tricycle" versions. The 4-wheelers can be 2 or 4 wheel drive. Polaris added another axle and built a six wheel ATV that can haul and dump more than any other vehicle in this class.
UTV Side-by-Sides - I believe the best definition of the UTV "Side-by-Side" class is having seating and controls similar to an automobile. The first of these in wide use may have been the 1988 Kawasaki MULE 1000. MULE = Multi-Use-Lightweight-Equipment. Kawasaki engineers designed the MULE to be a lightweight agricultural maintenance vehicle and basically defined a new class of utility vehicle. Most of these will have four wheels and are similar to a mini pickup-truck. John Deere and Polaris built 6-wheel versions. There are a number of "crew" versions with seating for 6 full-size people.
Various 3-letter Acronyms - This is a short list of acronyms that have been applied to the two main classes mentioned above. Most have originated as various manufacturer types, models or marketing designations. These are all very broad terms with no specific definition and overlapping features. Virtually any specialized on or off-road vehicle can be called a "utility vehicle".
|ATV -||All Terrain Vehicle|
|MUV -||Multipurpose Utility Vehicle|
|SUV -||Sports Utility Vehicle|
|TUV -||Tough Utility Vehicle|
|UTV -||Utility Vehicle|
|XUV -||Crossover Utility Vehicle|
|XTV -||Extreme Terrain Vehicle|
Here's an interesting rabbit hole my search went down.
KEI class Trucks - are a class of undersized, underpowered trucks built for use overseas. None of these meet US highway safety standards or were intended to be sold in the USA. KEI Trucks are primarily intended for short haul delivery service on city streets. It is legal to import these trucks to the USA for off-road use. Some parts of the USA do allow them to be driven on roads as a low-speed vehicle class. Check your state and local laws. KEI trucks are NOT allowed on roads in Virginia. There may be exceptions in some localities for "Farm Use". Road use was of no importance to me. KEI class trucks are available with 4-wheel drive and dump beds. Most convert to a flat bed by dropping the hinged side panels. Some even have air conditioning. For the money, KEI class trucks are a much better value and should last much longer than many off-road utility vehicles. The one major drawback was parts availability. Since these vehicles were never sold for use in the USA, finding parts could be expensive or a long wait for shipping. Another major issue was the cab height. My 6-foot frame didn't fit well in the short cab. Cracking my head on the door frame was going to get old in a hurry.
|2x4 -||Standard 2-wheel drive vehicle. Off road versions are generally rear wheel drive with an open differential that allows tight turns at most normal speeds without tearing up the ground. An open differential will just spin one tire when that tire loses traction.|
|4x4 -||Four Wheel Drive Vehicle. The transmission can usually be shifted to operate in 2-wheel drive or 4-wheel drive.|
|6x4 -||Six Wheels with Four Driven. The front two wheels just steer.|
|6x6 -||Six Wheels all Six Driven. Controls for this drivetrain usually allow switching between 6x4 and 6x6. The Six wheel utility vehicles built by Polaris and John Deere are the most common.|
|Full Time, On Demand -||These terms refer to all wheel drive systems that can be left engaged all the time or are available all the time. Some of these systems can sense loss of traction and adapt accordingly.|
|Diff Lock -||Optional locking differential controls can be provided with any of the above. When Diff Lock is engaged, both drive wheels on that axle are driven at the same speed.|
|Articulated -||An articulated vehicle steers by using a hinge in the frame rather than by turning individual wheels. Any vehicle pulling a trailer is an articulated vehicle. The trailer is steered by the hinge at the trailer hitch.|
This design is well over 70 years old. The most recent "Badlands PUG" manufacturer has gone out of business. These turn up often enough that they are not exactly rare. Most parts are standard USA brands and easy to find. The PUG steering wheel operates a hydraulic cylinder to steer by bending a hinge between the front seat and the box. The hinge point also allows the vehicle to twist, keeping all 4 wheels on the ground over any terrain, with no suspension required. I looked at a couple of these, and was very interested. Hydraulics for steering also provide for a hydraulic dump bed. These are really cool vehicles, but was not able to buy one.
If you are looking for an all wheel drive maintenance vehicle, the best search terms are UTV, 4X4, and SIDE-BY-SIDE. As was the case when searching for tractors, there are several inexpensive "made in China" models. None of those get very high marks in reviews. The main requirements for any work vehicle are reliability and parts. Waiting on parts is no good when there is work to be done. Some low-end models use air-cooled engines rather than water-cooled motorcycle engines. A water-cooled engine should be more efficient, make more power, and last much longer than an air-cooled engine. The flip-side to that when considering used equipment is the air-cooled engine will be cheaper to replace. Consider the machines that are available and try to find the one that best matches your needs and abilities.
A good utility vehicle will save wear and tear on your tractors, will be much more comfortable to use than any tractor, and may be more convenient than expected. Our 2005 Polaris Ranger 4x4 is also FUN!
Here's a few photos:
Replaced Hard Roof and Scratched Windshield with Canvas Cab Enclosure.
All those empty spots on the dash just didn't look right to me. Coming up with something useful for that exact number of switches was fun. Wiring all those new switches was an absolute royal pain! The new switch for my cargo light ended up on the top row because the switch I found is an OEM switch that matches the OEM style headlight and AWD switches. The second row are matching aftermarket switches. A small voltmeter was a perfect fit for the last round spot on the bottom row.
Wiring this many switches was more work than expected. Each of those fancy backlit switches needs a switched hot to two terminals, two ground wires, and a wire to the accessory that may need to go thru a relay. I wanted the new switches to be off when the ignition was off. Switched accessory power and ground wires were run from the factory terminal strip. Relays for large loads need a fused power source and a ground wire to operate the relay. Small loads like my LED interior and cargo lights can run right off the same accessory power that runs the back-lit switches.
New wires to the light bar, interior, and cargo lights were run along the roll bars with a bunch of tie wraps. My interior cab light is two small side marker lights with LED bulbs. They are just bright enough. A mini 6" surface-mount light bar was used for a cargo light. A metal plate was faricated to create a mounting point in the canvas cab just above the back window. Black powder-coat finish for the plate matched the inside of the cab enclosure. The lights were bolted together thru the plate.
The cargo light ended up bright enough that back-up lights would be redundant. More lights in front is good so I decided to add some pods on the front bumper and switch them separately from the big light bar above the windshield.
New dash all lit up.
Any vehicle this old is going to come with some issues. The Ranger had a spell this weekend and wouldn't crank no matter how or when I touched the brake pedal. Sitting there I realized every time I touched the brake pedal with the key turned I could hear the start solenoid click. The problem is not with the brake switch. The start solenoid is not sending enough voltage to the starter motor.
I decided to investigate the start solenoid guts. Removed the battery cables, and removed the start solenoid. I was 99% sure the problem was inside the solenoid. The battery had a full charge and I had already thoroughly cleaned, repaired, and replaced battery cables and all connections.
Polaris dealers want $48 for one of these solenoids. I decided to drill the rivets and try to fix the one I had. All 4 terminals are press-fit into the housing. Once the bottom plate and gasket are off, the two small terminals have to be carefully pressed out at the same time so the coil assembly can just drop out. Prying or yanking on the coil will just rip those terminals loose. After the coil assembly is out, the two main terminals can be pressed out of the housing. Don't lose any springs, small parts, or O-rings for the terminal shafts.
This is what the guts look like disassembled. The contacts that carry current are top left in the photo. Two fixed screw terminals and the terminal plate that the coil jams into the fixed terminals when the key is turned to "start". Notice how black the entire top terminal screw is compared to the other one. This has been getting very hot.
Yep, The difference in the two fixed contacts and the two sides of the moving contact plate was very noticeable. I filed all contact surfaces down to clean, smooth copper, then polished them. Reassembly was a bit tricky with all the loose parts and springs. Some #4 screws and nuts were used to hold opposite corners together long enough to install the first two rivets. There was no room to install pop rivets with a rivet gun from the top. Installing from the bottom would just crack the plastic housing. I knocked the stud out of four rivets, dropped the rivets in the holes, then used a hammer and punch to expand the bottom over the metal plate.
That fixed it. The engine now cranks reliably every single time the key is turned with foot resting on the brake pedal.
The manufacturer and part number on the solenoid are: Trombetta 7721211212. Searching for that on-line turned up several for about half what Polaris dealers want for the same part. There are a bunch of universal 4-terminal solenoids for garden tractors that would probably work just fine for around $11. I'm going to buy one of those to have a spare on-hand.
New wiring should be run parallel with original harness in separate plastic loom. This keeps new wiring entirely separate from original and easier to troublershoot later. Everything must be securely fastened in place. Look for areas where the original harness may have been damaged. A loose harness may have come in contact with suspension or steering. While checking wiring, I discovered a rear brake line that had come loose from the clips and was worn part-way thru the jacket. That would have been fun when it eventually broke at the wrong time. Look for things like previous damage or repair work that was not done properly.
Most of the body is plastic. Scratches could be sanded smooth and polished like new. That was way more work than I felt necessary for our work vehicle. The "Ranger" decal on the left side of the box was in bad shape. Decals are easy. Carefully peel the old decal off. The best stuff for removing sticky goo that remains is called "GOO GONE". Thoroughly clean and degrease the surface and apply the new decal. A mild solution of dish soap and water can be used to float the new decal into place and remove bubbles with a squeegee before it sticks.
SOFT CAB WITH DOORS
The plastic windshield was so scratched it was almost completely useless. The plastic roof just looked too big for the vehicle. For Winter use an enclosed cab was high on my wish list. Canvas soft cab enclosures seem to start around $250. I found one by "Quad Gear" for $50. Reviews were mixed, but bad reviews seemed to be for things that could be dealt with during installation. Some complaints that mentioned peel-and-stick velcro fasteners seemed valid. No way am I using that stuff to anchor an enclosure that will be exposed to summer heat.
Rmmoving the windshield revealed a bent roll bar on the left side of the windshield. That bar had to be straigntened before the cab could be installed. The roll bar bolts together. The section with the bent bar was easy enough to remove. Coming up with a way to straighten it without collapsing the bar was a challenge. A shop press can easily ruin tubing if not properly supported. Reinstalling the straightened cage section required making small adjustments to other sections to realign bolt holes. A piece of black iron pipe slipped over the roll bars was a handy pry tool.
The cab parts were removed from the box and unrolled on a grass area to soak in the sun and become more flexible. The main cab part was then tossed over the bars and aligned with the windshield to the front. From there I just followed the instructions. The cab enclosure fit my 2005 Ranger 4x4 very well, and appears to be very good quality. The material is heavy canvas with black waterproof PVC coating on the inside surface. Letting the material sit in the sun for a few minutes made the installation easier except where the hot PVC backing didn't want to slide on the bars. There was no problem zipping the doors. The instructions clearly say to attach doors, then use the included peel-and-stick velcro to secure the cab in place. That is where the instructions were tossed and the roll of peel-and-stick velcro was put away for some other use. Rather than velcro, stainless steel snaps were used to secure the enclosure and attach the bottom of the doors. The doors roll back out of the way or they can be removed.
If the camo was really necessary for hunting, the shiny stainless snaps might have been a bad choice. Snaps are available in various colors if that is what you want. I am perfectly ok with the way this looks.
SEAT INSULATION and NEW COVER
The engine is located under the seat on this model. It's noisy and the seat can get uncomfortably warm. Most trips on our property are too short to worry about any heat build-up. Even so, the original insulation was in bad shape and the vinyl seat cover had some small holes and one really bad corner. New insulation over the engine was provided by a couple 24" square sheets of peel and stick space age thermal heat barrier material. The heat barrier was formed to fit the recessed area under the seat. Staples were used to guarantee the material stayed where it was stuck. The new seat fabric will overlap the outer edges.
Fitted seat covers are available, but it is much less expensive to buy the reinforced vinyl seat fabric in bulk. The reinforced fabric-backed vinyl material comes 4 feet wide and only costs about 8 bucks a yard. Aftermarket seat covers never fit tight enough and always look cheap to me. It's not that hard to replace the seat fabric. It is much easier to replace the fabric before the holes get so bad the foam padding is ruined. Before removing the old cover, look at how the original fabric was pulled and stapled, especially at the corners. The fabric may have been pulled and stapled so all creases are past the edge. The vinyl material has quite a bit of stretch in it. Since the vinyl is only 4 feet wide, it takes two yards to get a piece long enough to cover this seat. The four foot width would be enough to do both the seat and the back.
|QUICK REUPHOLSTERY STEP-BY-STEP|
|01||Note spacing and type of original staples. The intent is to copy the original pattern.|
|02||Pull staples and remove original cover material. Plan where new cover will be stapled to frame.|
|03||New staples can go slightly inboard or outboard of original rows to get a good grip.|
|04||The old cover can be used as a pattern, but leave at least 4" extra material on all sides.|
|05||Replace or repair foam padding. All imperfections will show thru the new fabric cover.|
|06||Carefully sweep the entire area clean. Old staples and dirt will ruin the new cover.|
|07||Spray adhesive can be applied to the back of the fabric to make it sticky.|
|08||Lay the new fabric over the padding. Make sure it is square and straight.|
|09||Pull and staple the fabric in the middle of one short side with 2 staples 1" apart.|
|10||Go to the opposite short side. Pull the fabric just tight enough to remove wrinkles and secure with 2 staples.|
|11||Check the top side. Make sure the fabric is unwrinkled but loose enough it can be pushed into any low spots.|
|12||Go to the middle of a long side. Pull fabric and put 2 staples 1" apart.|
|13||Go to the opposite side. Pull fabric tight and put 2 staples 1" apart.|
|14||Continue to pull and staple opposite sides from the middle to the ends one staple at a time about 1" apart.|
|15||Check progress often. Pull and redo staples to adjust fabric as necessary.|
|16||Stop about 6" away from each corner.|
|17||The goal is to make each corner as smooth as possible. Copy or improve how original cover was done.|
|18||Start at the mid-point of each corner. Pull and staple.|
|19||Pull and staple either side. Try to pull all folding to the bottom.|
|20||Tight radius corners will have some folds. Make folds uniform in size and spacing.|
|21||Once all corners are done, flip seat over and inspect the work.|
|22||Pull staples and redo where necessary.|
|23||Go back and add staples between all other staples, matching how original cover was done.|
|24||Trim excess cover material about 1/4" past the staples.|
|This was how to cover a bench seat in a Polaris Ranger. Most other upholstery recovering is similar. Less than $20 for materials is a lot better than buying a loose-fitting $50 seatcover.|
Here's graphic proof that some things don't turn out quite as good as I'd like. The corners of my seat cover didn't turn out as nice as the original. I am ok with this for now. It's better than having the stuffing coming out.
SEAT BELTS and WINCH
Original lap belts were replaced with 3-point lap/shoulder belts. Various 4 and 5-point off-road racing harnesses are available. Those seemed inconvenient, expensive, and excessive. The automotive 3-point belts seemed like a sufficient upgrade for the way this vehicle will be used. A rigid bolt-on coupling was added to the vertical bar on each side to provide solid mounts at the proper height for the shoulder belt brackets.
A winch is such a standard accessory on these machines there should be no mystery. In this case, rather than buy a mounting bracket I decided to make my own. Of course I made it stronger and better than any of the available brackets. Ended-up making it twice when I discovered the main reason most other brackets have a separate piece to suport the fairlead. The bracket is basically impossible to install with the fairlead bracket already welded to the main bracket. BIG TIP - The front bumper easily swings forward on the two upper mounts once the lower mounting bolts and bolts for wheel well liner are removed. It's a lot easier to slide the bracket and winch in from the back than working thru the radiator grille opening.
The winch is from Harbor Freight, of course. Catch a sale price at HF and their 2500 pound winch is half as much as any other. OK, if this was for off-road competition use or trail riding far from home, a name brand winch would be a better choice. For occasional use on my own property, this should be fine. It even came with a keyless remote that I tossed in the glove box with some spare batteries. Rather than buy an aftermarket replacement grille, I simply cut out a section of the original grille to clear the fairlead. This winch came with a steel cable. Many people are recommending using stronger synthetic rope that also allows packing more length on the winch. The steel cable on my 8000 pound winch is over 20 years old and still going. It may be a while before I need to think about replacing this cable.
There was a recess in the hood for an emblem. The glove box had a special 50-year anniversary emblem. I found another 50-year emblem for the hood. Who knows, maybe this thing will be worth a little extra in a few years if the right buyer really wants a 50-year anniversary model.
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