Has My UTV Transmission Gone Bad?

Rick Sosebee
by Rick Sosebee
Has my UTV transmission gone bad? That’s what one of our readers wants to know about his squealing Polaris Ranger and he’s asked the ATV AnswerMan for help.

Here is exactly what reader Jadie asked the AnswerMan, followed by his response:

My brothers 2014 popo ranger hunting rig is making awful noise and we cannot figure out why. It sounds like the transmission is broken or breaking and when running down the highline or water break roads during duck season it just squeals so loud and it seems like it is right under the seat. I think it even shakes a bit but we have big tires on for mud so I am not really sure. Sometimes when he backs up it sounds like there is gravel in the transmission. Do you think the motor or transmission is bad? The motor oil was changed and is good and the transmission has enough in it too. We need help fast because it is going to be spring soon.

The PoPo eh’? Sounds like an incredibly different way to describe what I think you’re referring too. So, on to the question. This 2014 “Polaris” Ranger is having some problems and it could be a host of things. The fact that you have described it as squealing or gravel in the transmission leads me to believe that it could be either really easy or really difficult to repair. Taking into consideration that the squealing is happening as you drive out the trail makes me first think it’s a drivetrain issue, but not necessarily in the transmission. The driveline in these machines tends to begin to squeal as the driveline carrier bearings begin to go bad. This is a common problem that is even more prevalent in machines that see many hours in the mud and grit during wet hunting conditions or any type of constant mud riding for that matter. These bearings can be inspected from the bottom of the machine with the skid plates removed or I do believe you might get a hand on it down through the frame under the seat. They can be a little bit of a bear to change, but with general mechanical knowledge and tools you should be able to get it swapped out with few curse words and busted knuckles.

Now the less than exciting issues that tend to pop up with the transmissions are inner case bearing failures in the upper end of the tranny case, as well as reverse chains. These two issues will require you to tear into the transmission and it gets pretty deep from that point. Some have experienced bearing failures inside the gear box and even though it is not exactly common, it does happen. Jacking up on the rear of the Ranger and simply spinning one of the rear wheels can give you great insight to the issue at hand. Notice the amount of play in the wheel your turning from the time you start to turn it to the time the transmission reacts. If the bearing is bad enough, you might also “feel” the rough bearing through the wheel vibration.

Let’s not rule out a bad CV joint or axle on the machine causing these noises and when you jack the machine up you might notice it then as well. Be sure to get the front of the machine up also to rule out a noise traveling from front to rear.

Rick Sosebee
Rick Sosebee

Whether he is in Mexico covering the Baja 1000, building ATVs for local racers, or out enjoying the trails, Rick’s passion shows in his stories. Learning to wrench his own machines from his grandfather, Rick also has an undying appreciation for the mechanics of off-road vehicles. Do not let the dirt and mud fool you, though, as Rick also has a deep love for street cars.

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