This page will cover repairs and upgrades to our new work vehicle, a 2005 Polaris Ranger. The photo above is one of the auction ad photos. It looks like they used about a quart of Armor-All to make it pretty. Note to Self - Step One - Immediately clean all that slick stuff off the seat and floor. Trust me, a death grip on the steering wheel might keep you on the seat, but your wife will be dumped out on her butt!
One of my 2WD tractors got stuck crossing the creek. More rain and rising water had me wondering if I could get down there with a winch before the tractor sank out of sight. That experience started the search for a better "go-anywhere" work vehicle.
I never make a major purchase without doing RESEARCH. It helps to make a list sorted from major needs to minor wants.
|Four Wheel Drive||Electric or Gas|
|Drive not Ride-On||Doors Would Be Nice|
|Small for Narrow Trails||Dump Capability|
|Roof for Rain and Snow Days||Winch|
|Sturdy Bed for Firewood||Tow Hitch|
|Good Work Lights|
|Low Roof Line|
The main mission for our new work vehicle will be maintaining fences, trails, and hauling firewood. The vehicle needed to be able to navigate narrow wooded trails with tight turns between trees. The tractors are about five feet wide, so a 4x4 about the same width should do alright. A roof, or full cab would be a lot more comfortable than the tractors. Starting with a list like that, a few web searches can provide a lot of information with little effort. I soon discovered that searching for "4-wheeler" is a complete waste of time when what you really want is considered a "side-by-side" or "UTV".
This made my head hurt. Terminology varies widely among the different manufacturers of various types of off-road utility vehicles. Many terms invented by manufacturers have been adopted by the public. Others didn't catch on but may still be used in some parts of the country or by loyal customers. Terminology and features overlap with no set rules. Virtually any specialized on or off-road vehicle can be called a "utility vehicle". For example, there is at least one side-by-side vehicle that only has seating for one. How can a side-by-side only have one seat? This is because most people who talk about off-road utility vehicles group them into two main categories based on how they are ridden and controlled.
ATV 3 or 4-wheelers - This refers to "ride-on" type vehicles with 3, 4, 5 or even 6 wheels, handlebars, and controls that function similar to a motorcycle. A passenger has to straddle 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 a second axle under the bed in back and built some very handy five and six-wheel ATVs. I did not want a ride-on type vehicle.
UTV Side-by-Sides - This refers to vehicles having seating and controls similar to an automobile. The first of these in wide use may have been the 1988 Kawasaki MULE shown above. MULE = Multi-Use-Lightweight-Equipment. Kawasaki engineers designed the MULE to be a lightweight agricultural maintenance vehicle and basically defined this class of utility vehicle. Most UTV side-by-side vehicles will have four wheels and are similar to a mini pickup-truck. John Deere and Polaris built six wheel versions. Some have seats for as many as six full-size people. Golf carts fall somewhere in this class of vehicles. There are some very useful custom "buggies", but anything that started-out as a golf cart is usually a lot less capable than purpose-built vehicles. Compare hauling and towing specifications to make sure the vehicle you buy can do what you want.
Various Utility Vehicle Acronyms - This is a short list of acronyms that have been applied to both of the main classes above. Most of these originated as manufacturer types, models, or marketing designations.
|ATV -||All Terrain Vehicle|
|MUV -||Multipurpose Utility Vehicle|
|SUV -||Sports Utility Vehicle|
|TUV -||Tough Utility Vehicle|
|UTV -||UTility Vehicle|
|XUV -||X=crossover Utility Vehicle|
|XTV -||eXtreme Terrain Vehicle|
|2x4 -||Standard 2-wheel drive vehicle with four wheels. 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 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. There are some 6-wheel vehicles that steer only by controlling the speed and forward or reverse direction of tires on each side.|
|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.|
|Diff Lock -||Optional locking differential controls can be provided with most drive axles. When Diff Lock is engaged, both wheels on that axle are driven at the same speed regardless of traction available.|
|Articulated -||An articulated vehicle steers by using a hinge in the frame rather than by steering individual wheels. Any vehicle pulling a trailer is an articulated vehicle. The trailer is steered by the hinge at the trailer hitch. Construction vehicles such as wheel loaders are another example of this type.|
"Articulated" was included because one of the vehicles that seemed nearly ideal to me is the PUG.
The Pug design dates back to the 1940s. They are very simple and sturdy vehicles. Unfortunately, the most recent manufacturer (Badlands PUG) has gone out of business. These turn up for sale often enough that they are not exactly rare. Most parts are standard USA vehicle parts that are still very easy to find. The Pug steering system operates a hydraulic cylinder to "steer" by bending a hinge between the front and rear set of drive wheels. The vehicle hinges and twists in the middle which provides steering and keeps all four wheels on the ground over any terrain. The only suspension is provided by the low pressure tires. I looked at a couple of these, and was very interested. Hydraulics needed for steering also runs a hydraulic dump bed. These are really cool vehicles. I would have bought one if the seller hadn't backed out.
Here's another 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 ever intended to be sold in the USA. KEI Trucks were primarily intended for short haul delivery service on city streets. Some KEI trucks are being imported to the USA for off-road use. Some parts of the USA 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". Potential on-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 folding down hinged side panels. Some even have air conditioning. KEI class trucks are a much better value and should last much longer than many off-road utility vehicles. The one major drawback is 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. Bumping my head getting in and out was going to get old in a hurry.
If you are looking for an all wheel drive, go-anywhere, utility 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 lawnmower 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 repair or replace. Some utility vehicles are available as plug-in electric type. An electric vehicle may be perfect for the weekend warrior on a small property like ours. An electric vehicle will generally require a lot less maintenance and repair. However, when it comes time to replace batteries, that is very expensive.
Consider the machines that are available in your area. Be patient and try to find a few vehicles that best match your needs and abilities. Don't consider an older vehicle that may need work if you can't do the work yourself. 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 are some photos after replacing the scuffed plastic windshield and green roof with a fitted canvas cab enclosure.
Most of the body is plastic. Scratches can be sanded smooth and polished like new. That was way more work than I felt necessary for our 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. Some people say vinyl decals don't stick well to plastic unless the plastic surface is "cooked" slightly with a propane torch. This may burn off petroleum products or deposits that could prevent the decal from sticking. I didn't stumble on that recommendation until after the new decal was in place. It seemed to do just fine with the same cleaning and de-greasing process I would use for any other smooth surface.
There is a recess in the hood that appears to be for an emblem. None of the parts books show an emblem on this model. The glove box has 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 sees that.
If you are interested, other repairs and improvements are covered in more detail on the pages listed below.
NEXT = Soft Cab and Bed Rails
|POLARIS RANGER - TABLE OF CONTENTS|
|1||This Page - Research/Purchase|
|2||Soft Cab and Bed Rails|
|3||Lighting Upgrade and Wiring|
|4||Cranking Problem Fixed|
|5||AWD Switch Upgrade Problem|
|6||Seat Cover and Winch|
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