Tech Tips – Stress Relief

Tech Tips – Stress Relief

2017.can-am.commander.yellow.front-right.hauling-pipes.jpg My wife’s aunt and uncle, who own a farm in North Dakota, exemplify the typical ATV or SXS owner. Their stable of machines is used to round up cows, herd sheep, inspect miles of fence line, pull a trailer loaded with firewood or other supplies, and, of course, pin the throttle through a muddy slough or across a freshly cut soybean field to blow off steam. And that’s just in one day.

Even if you’re not managing thousands of acres of land or hundreds of head of livestock, you can likely relate. A common thread that often binds ATV and SXS owners is the sheer stress we place on our machines. It doesn’t matter if you’re thrashing a sport quad on the trails or surveying your property in your SXS, the stress on your engine and drive train takes a toll, particularly if you’ve modified your rig. Luckily there are a few simple maintenance practices you can do to make sure your ATV or Side x Side is ready to go all day, every day.


It’s the job of the motor oil, differential and transmission fluid, and other lubricants to withstand the tremendous stress placed on your machine. Consider those fluids liquid stress relief! However, there are quite a few choices of various oils and lubricants to choose from, and they aren’t all formulated to deliver the extra measure of protection against wear and heat needed to maximize ATV and SXS performance and durability. An ATV or Side x Side runs at far different conditions than your truck or car engine, with temperature, load, and RPM extremes all coming into play. Considering that, synthetic lubricants are the way to go for maximum protection. One of the biggest factors in engine and drive train durability is heat. 2017.kawasaki.mule_.engine.close-up.jpg

Heat causes lubricants to break down sooner, which places your engine and differentials at risk for excessive wear. In addition, every accessory we bolt on adds weight, (load) which also puts more stress on your machines mechanical parts. How often do you haul a load of gravel, or pull a trailer or other implement? This too adds load, and a good rule of thumb is that extra weight equals extra heat, and heat invites engine wear.


Oil works by creating a very thin layer between mechanical parts, keeping them separated so they don’t rub together and wear out. Consider oil a liquid bearing. The problem is oil doesn’t like heat, and this is especially true for standard service (non-synthetic) oils which become thinner (lose viscosity) as temperature and stress rises. When it gets too thin it fails to develop an oil film of adequate thickness to protect against wear, and soon after you’ll be making a payment (or several) on your parts persons new pickup.

High temperatures also invite sludge and performance-robbing deposits inside the engine. Sludge can clog oil passages and starve the engine of oil, while deposits can cause the piston rings to stick or interfere with proper valve operation, leading to reduced engine compression. What does that mean to you? Compression equals power, so over time your engine slowly makes less and less power. Eventually, deposits and sludge can wreck the engine, and when that happens… Remember your parts guys new truck payments? 


The story is similar inside the transmission, differential and front drive. All the extra weight and stress of hard work and performance riding concentrates intense pressure on gears. The lubricant coats the gear teeth during operation, guarding against metal-to-metal contact and wear. The added stress, combined with high heat, can break the fluid film and literally squeeze the lubricant from between the gears, leading to wear.


So what’s the solution? Ride more conservatively? Haul lighter loads and work less? That’s not going to happen but you can upgrade to much better lubricants for your engine, transmission, and differential, and the proven answer is synthetic lubricants. 2017.kawasaki.mule_.green_.rear_.loading-cargo-bed.jpg

Synthetic lubricants don’t contain the impurities inherent to conventional lubricants, meaning they deliver better performance and last longer. In a miracle of chemical engineering the molecules making up synthetic lubricants are arranged to not break their bonds even under extreme stress conditions, which means greatly increased protection. Their naturally tough base oils resist extreme heat and maintain a strong protective film better than conventional products. As a bonus, synthetic lubricants also maintain that protection when the engine is in a cold condition, such as startup, which is typically a time of high wear. Think of synthetics as just another performance upgrade.

Like all upgrades, the only drawback to synthetic fluids is price. They usually cost a bit more, but the added value and protection they provide is WELL worth it! If you don’t like the price of synthetic fluids you’re really going to hate the cost of rebuilding your engine. Over the course of your machine’s life, the few extra dollars you spend per oil change or transmission/differential service is a drop in the bucket by comparison. Don’t ever skimp on lubricants. An engine meltdown puts a lot of extra stress on you.


Your ATV or Side x Side will perform for many, many years with a little care. Change the fluids as called for in the manual, use quality synthetic lubricants (we’ve had great experience with AMSOIL), and keep the air filter clean. It’s also a good idea to check over your machine every couple of rides, looking for anything that could be a problem. We like to shoot penetrating oil on the shock pivot bushings, lube cables, and retighten bolts at that time also. It’s not that hard to take care of your best trail buddy, and that takes a lot of stress off both of you!


925 Tower Avenue, Superior, WI 54880


June 27, 2017

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