A Quick Recap
In our first installment of our UTV series, we outfitted our project UTV with essential equipment for hunting the West. We covered the basics with a roof, skid plate, lower doors, and a half wind-screen to offer the minimum protection from the elements. We added repair and recovery items like an emergency tire kit, spare belt, a tow strap and some basic rigging to enhance the utility of the winch and ensure we could make it back to the truck at the end of the day.
We also covered the exhaust with insulating wrap and added a quick-release fire extinguisher to protect our machine and the country we hunt. We added a kit with blinkers and mirrors, and got liability insurance to make the RZR street legal.
Next, we added a gun rack and upgraded the air filtration system to protect the engine from dust with an S&B particle separator intake system. We dramatically increased the storage and gear-hauling capability of the machine with a RazorBack Offroad rack system. We mounted a spare tire and RotopaX fuel/water storage containers to the Razorback and two RotopaX modular storage boxes to the underside of the roof to carry most of our repair and recovery items, as well as tools and a first-aid kit. Finally, we decked out the RZR and improved the handling and off-road capability with a set of Sedona Rock-A-Billy 30x10R-14’s on Sedona Split-6 bead-lock wheels.
After flogging the RZR this season, I can honestly say that everything I put into it came in handy and worked as well or better than expected. I drew a bighorn sheep tag in a remote part of Idaho with only a few rugged jeep trails stretching deep into the backcountry offering access. The RZR performed awesome and saved me countless hours and enormous wear and tear that otherwise would have been assigned to my truck.
The new air filtration system worked amazingly well. I was shocked to see a virtually spotless air filter after 500 miles on brutally rugged and dusty roads and trails.
The Sedona tires hook up like Velcro on all surfaces and are wearing extremely well. We did experience one flat that we easily changed with our roll cage-mounted Tusk Offroad jack. Considering the terrain and the number of full-sized vehicles we saw with multiple flats, I’d say the Sedona Rock-A-Billy tires more than held their own.
Even though I was extremely happy, when rain and snow started flying later in the season, it became obvious that it needed comfort and protection in cold, foul weather. Thus, Part 2 of this setup guide focuses on accessories and modifications that will maximize comfort and utility of UTV’s used to hunt in cold and inclement weather.
One of the first projects to tackle was adding fender flares to reduce mud and splatter that entered the cab whenever I drove through water, mud, or snow. I found myself slamming on the brakes to putter through harmless wet patches and puddles in the road to avoid the imminent shower.
The body of my RZR XP 1000 is essentially the same as the 50-inch trail models that tuck their wheels neatly inside the fenders. The problem is that my machine is 64 inches wide, leaving at least 7” of exposed tire on each side to shower passengers and machine with whatever that cow ate last night. “Sorry, buddy, I didn’t see that cow pie, but you needed some face paint anyway!”
After doing my homework, I ordered a set of Mud Buster Max Coverage fender flares. They are CNC cut and thermo-formed from heavy-gauge HDPE plastic for a perfect fit. They fasten using a combination of existing mounting points, holes you drill, and machined tabs that fit into your machine’s existing bodywork.
The fenders mate up nicely with the factory lines, and despite their added width, they blend seamlessly and add an aggressive look. Best of all, I no longer end up wearing whatever I just drove through! They also do a good job of keeping mud off the machine. They have several options to fit various UTV makes and models. I paid $220 for the full kit for front and rear fenders online at www.mud-busters.com.
Before I did the fender flares, I installed a full windshield. In hindsight, I can’t believe I went so long without one. If I spent more time hunting in rainier regions, a full windshield would have been one of my first projects. I underestimated how much it would improve rider comfort.
Based on my experience with their well-designed cargo rack system, I decided to install Razorback Offroad’s folding windshield with the optional hand wiper. Although it’s optional, I think you would surely regret going without. I also opted for the louvers in the bottom frame section that you can use to regulate or shut off air flow.
I was surprised how lightweight the aluminum frame was and how easily the windshield installed. It required drilling into the factory Polaris visor, but the plastic had dimples molded in that lined up perfectly for each drill hole needed. I didn’t install the included hood/fender-mounted bumpers with rubber latches used to secure the windshield when folded down, because I’ll need to relocate my blinkers. It’s on my to-do list, since having the option to fold the windshield down on warm-weather hunts next season will be nice.
The windshield seals well against the roll cage, and the latches are secure and sturdy, so it never rattles. The glass surface is virtually impervious to scratches and cleans easily. I stow window cleaning wet wipes made by Armor All in the cargo area to periodically clean the peripheral areas that the wiper doesn’t touch.
Unfortunately, Razorback only makes their windshields and rear windows for Polaris machines for now. As a side note, their website doesn’t list a windshield for 2014 RZR’s. However, the 2015 model fit my machine perfectly. Cost with optional wiper and louver vents is $624 at www.razorbackoffroad.com.
The added protection from wind and weather offered by the windshield was undeniable and the hand-operated wiper worked well. However, during a wet snowstorm, the windshield fogged up! Despite my hunting partner’s best efforts to wipe it down as I drove, the poor visibility made for a slow, tenuous trip back to the truck that night. Ironically, the item I installed to keep me dry forced me to hang my head out the window like a dog to see the trail in the snow and rain.
Coincidentally, the next morning was when we found our flat tire. There’s a good chance the lack of visibility caused me to run over something in the trail that might have been avoided with a clear view.
After returning home, I ordered a Polaris cab heater/defrost kit from Rocky Mountain ATV/MC to address the fogging issue and to add some welcome heat on cold days. There are several aftermarket heater options available, but online reviews steered me to the factory Polaris unit made specifically for my machine.
The installation was fairly involved, as the kit features a sizeable heater core with integrated fan and ducting that mounts up under the dash. I removed the windshield and dash panels, labeling wires as I disconnected each switch. I rerouted and organized the accessory wiring to make room for the heater core install. I spent 10-12 hours over a weekend on the job, but I did the work solo and took care to not make any mistakes drilling the firewall, cutting into radiator hoses, cutting the dash out for the defrost vent, and installing the new thermostat and purging the system of air.
The Polaris heater/defrost kit for my machine was expensive at $558, but it fits well, and included good templates where cutting was required. The instructions could have been written a little better to avoid a few moments of doubt, but they were adequate.
Both heater and defrost function well, distributing air evenly across the glass windshield. The heater will drive you out of an enclosed cab once the engine reaches operating temperature. The heat/defrost functions are independently controlled by fan direction, so only one or the other work at a given time as selected by the 3-position (Heat/Off/Defrost) switch. With the vehicle off, the fan noise seems excessive compared to a typical car or truck, but with the motor idling, it’s not bothersome. Once you’re moving, the RZR drowns it out almost completely.
Another unforeseen consequence after adding the full windshield was that it seemed to increase the amount of dust getting pulled into the cab. After researching the problem, I learned that windshields create a negative pressure zone behind them, causing dust to eddy into the cab.
The recommended fix is to add a rear window, which in theory, catches some of the wind flowing around the front windshield, equalizing pressure. Equal pressure in the cab eliminates the driving force for air and dust to flow in. If you’re experiencing this or plan to install a full windshield, I recommend you budget for installing the rear window at the same time.
I picked up a Tusk polycarbonate scratch-resistant rear window kit from Rocky Mountain ATV/MC for $179. The rear window mounted up easily with the included hardware and it fit the contour of the roll cage well.
Installing the rear window took an hour and I was able to complete it without removing the hard top. I did recruit my wife to help position the window to reduce the chance of scratching it up while installing the cumbersome roll cage “P” clamps used to secure the window.
I also picked up some D-shaped high-profile weather stripping with adhesive backing from Grainger Supply. I used the flexible rubber to seal gaps between my lower doors and the cab to block dust and air. I used acetone to prep the door and sealing surfaces where I applied the weather stripping because the adhesive bonds better to a clean, degreased surface. The combination of the rear window and sealing the doors virtually eliminated dust in the cab on my test ride through powdery dust.
The drawback to weather stripping is that the doors require more force to get them latched, especially when combined with my next mod. If it takes too much force to close the door, adjust the weather stripping placement to prevent overloading the latch. Too much pressure may cause the latch to pop open as the vehicle flexes going over rough terrain or as a passenger leans on or bumps against the door. UTV doors are not designed to keep you inside the vehicle in the event of a crash, so always wear a safety belt when driving and riding.
To keep all that warm air inside, the next logical step is fully enclosing the cab with upper doors that close off the sides of the UTV. Again, I went to Rocky Mountain ATV/MC and purchased the Polaris Canvas Upper Half Door kit made for my machine. There are several other options available, but I liked the full metal frame around the vinyl window that swings with the door that the Polaris units have.
The windows zip down with dual zippers and can be rolled and secured out of the way with a strap. The heavy-duty zippers should still function well with dust and road grit present. There is a zippered slot with a rain flap that allows the door latch to be accessed from outside the UTV while the windows are up.
To install the upper doors, I first removed the metal roof and outer door covers. Removing the roof allowed me to stand inside the cab of the RZR, which facilitated setting the doors in place and routing straps around the roll cage, and made aligning the mounting points a little easier.
The upper doors fit decent, but the lower doors and latches will probably have to be adjusted to get the best seal against the roll cage. I still haven’t got my doors perfectly aligned, so there are some gaps between the door seals and cage I hope to fix with more effort. A strap inside the cab can be buckled from the inside and tensioned near the A-pillars at the top corner of the windshield to keep the doors from fluttering at high speed and it pulls the seal into the cage tubing for a better seal.
The instructions say you can do the install in about 30 minutes, but apparently that was a NASCAR pit crew with a perfectly blueprinted chassis and roll cage. I spent four hours, and still have more fine-tuning on door alignment before I’ll be happy.
I’m confident I’ll be able to get the doors to seal better, but I may have to modify the door bracket on the passenger side, because the rear, stationary section of the frame is shifted to the rear, leaving a 1” gap along the front, angled surface of the door. I suspect the top mounting point was welded incorrectly on the passenger side. I’ll either cut the mounting point off and re-weld the bracket where the frame lines up properly or add a metal strip with a slotted hole to allow me to adjust the alignment slightly before locking down with a nut and bolt.
With a heater installed and a fully enclosed cab, our project UTV should be almost as comfortable in cold weather as a pickup (minus the seat heaters), right? Wrong! Once again, Rocky Mountain ATV/MC came to the rescue with a pair of Tusk UTV Seat Heater kits! Yeah, it might seem like overkill, but for only $39.99 per seat, I had to give it a try.
The included switch and wiring harness made the wiring simple. I mounted the switches on the center shift console just in front of the gear selector and routed the harness forward through the driveshaft tunnel up to the buss bar under the hood of the RZR. I mounted relays for each seat under the switches inside the tunnel. Dual connectors run out to each seat for the backrest and seat sections from the tunnel near the lap belt anchor.
The quick connectors are easy to remove so you can still pull the seats out of your machine to hose out the interior. Rather than trying my hand at amateur upholstery, I took my seats to a local shop that charged me $130 to install the heating pads and re-staple the seat covers.
During my sheep hunt, we had to stash extra gear, clothing, and food in the unattended UTV at the trailhead before a few of our backpacking trips. It’s never fun exposing your valuables to theft, rodents, and weather.
After the season, I considered secure storage options, and ultimately settled on the Tusk aluminum UTV cargo box. The box is 22x22x14.5” deep and fits neatly in the cargo area inside my Razorback Rack. The lockable box mounts securely to the bed with fasteners hidden on the interior. The box has a padded liner and the lid is supported in the open position by gas struts. The dual-gasketed lid ensures that moisture and dust-sensitive items can be stored or transported without worry.
The interior also features slotted rails that can be used to hook bungee cords to prevent cargo from bouncing around inside the box as you ride. Accessory rails for the top of the box provide tie down points to secure additional gear on top of the box.
The cargo box occupies most of the bed’s floor space, but many smaller items can be packed around the box and there’s plenty of room above the box and in the upper rack for larger items.
There are dozens of other cargo boxes available for various UTV makes and models made from molded plastic or metal in many shapes and sizes. Many of the options can be compared at RM ATV/MC. The Tusk UTV Cargo Box sells for $385 with top rack kit.
LED Light Bar
The last item I added in this build was a Tusk 30” curved LED light bar kit that I mounted to my roof with the supplied brackets. Wiring the light bar was quick and easy with the supplied wiring harness and switch. The combination spot and flood beams strategically placed across the bar do an outstanding job of extending your vision for night driving and filling in the edges with the flood beams angled to the outside.
The universal wiring harness allows mounting the light bar virtually anywhere on your machine, but if you mount it in the typical locations closer to your fuse box or bus bar under the hood, you’ll have a bunch of extra harness to coil up and zip-tie to the frame. You can cut out unnecessary sections of the harness to shorten it if you have some basic electrical pliers and crimp connectors to clean up the install. Cost is $269 at RM ATV/MC.
I relied heavily on Rocky Mountain ATV/MC for this phase of my UTV build. They stock almost anything and everything you could want to accessorize your UTV, ATV, or dirt bike. Their huge distribution center in central Utah is strategically located for western hunters.
Their online installation videos were helpful for many of the projects I took on, and their prices are always tough to beat. I recommend checking out their website for all your off-road projects. www.rockymountainatvmc.com.
The only thing I have left to do now is install a set of tracks. I’ll then load up the winter camping gear so I can enjoy some backcountry wolf hunting this winter in the luxury of a heated cab.