Best Yamaha YFZ 450R Performance Parts

Eli Madero
by Eli Madero

Make Your Yamaha YFZ 450R perform even better with a few simple parts from this list

Even as the most race ready production ATV you can buy on the showroom floor, there are still plenty of YFZ 450R performance parts to make this Sport ATV even better.

Regardless of how much extensive testing that Yamaha engineers have done to produce one of the best handling Sport ATVs on the market, some common YFZ 450R performance parts can make a world of difference on this machine like:

  • Increased power
  • Better reliability
  • Rider comfort
  • Rider safety

While some of the parts on this list are specialty items that you might not have thought of before, many are common knowledge for owners to immediately upgrade even before taken out riding for the first time. Additionally, it doesn’t matter if you only ride recreationally or plan on racing a full off-road or MX series, most of these YFZ 450R performance parts will not only help you be a faster rider, but also prevent damage to your ATV, helping you to avoid a dreaded DNF.

Whatever you’re looking for to upgrade your Yamaha, we’re positive that our list of YFZ 450R performance parts will have anything and everything that you could want.

Table of Contents

1. Editor's Choice: High Performance Exhaust Systems

When it comes to increasing the power of Yamaha's YFZ 450R, you'll hear people talk about "the big 3." If you're unfamiliar with this term, they're referring to an aftermarket exhaust, high-flow intake kit and Electronic Fuel Injection (EFI) programmer. While the stock exhaust produces decent power, it is also very restrictive to meet emissions standards set by the government. When you replace the stock exhaust system with one from an aftermarket supplier, you're not only reducing the weight of the machine (the stock mufflers are constructed from steel and very heavy), but you're also allowing the engine to expel exhaust gasses better from the free flowing design. There are plenty of choices for you to choose from, but we really like the Big Gun EVO Carbon Series. The exhaust canister is made from carbon fiber which is not only light, but looks super cool, and the high-flow head and tail pipe help to produce power throughout the entire power range.

The anodized red billet end cap adds increased style to the look of the carbon fiber canister, and the included USFS approved spark arrestor, ensures that you can ride at your favorite areas without fear of getting ticketed. To see some of the more popular exhaust systems available for the Yamaha YFZ 450R and other popular ATV models, check out our Best ATV Exhaust Systems buyers guide.

2. Best Intake Upgrade: High-Flow Intake Kit

One of the most important components of "the big 3" is a high-flow air filter kit. When you add an aftermarket exhaust system that's designed to allow for increased flow of exhaust gasses, your engine is going to benefit from increasing the amount of fresh air that it can take in. By removing the stock air box lid and installing a high-flow intake system that typically includes a larger filter that flows better than the OEM foam unit, you're able to give the engine the fresh air that it needs to increase its performance potential.

One such kit is available out of the Yamaha Genuine Yamaha Technology Racing, or commonly known as GYTR parts catalog. The GYTR Performance Intake Kit comes with a larger, high-flow K&N style air filter, filter mounting plate, and Outerwear style pre-filter. While there are other kits that offer better performance numbers, this kit offers the most straight forward installation, utilizing the stock air box and air box lid so you can keep the filter protected when you're washing your ATV.

3. Must Have Fuel Injection Item: Fuel Injection Tuner / ECU

If you've made upgrades to your intake and exhaust systems, this is the key to unleash the full potential of the YFZ 450R's engine. By increasing intake and exhaust flow without making any changes to the amount of fuel being delivered to the engine, you can cause a lean condition that will cause backfiring, detonation, and potential internal damage. By adding a EFI tuner, you can manually adjust the amount of fuel delivery based on the percentage of throttle opening, much like that of re-jetting carburetors. One fuel injection tuner that we really like is from Vortex Ignitions. The Vortex for the Yamaha YFZ 450R only only allows you to tune your fuel injection system, but it is also a replacement ECU and gives offers multiple pre-installed ignition timing curves that also change the acceleration characteristics of the ATV.

While there are plenty of other EFI tuner options available at much lower prices, they don't have as many of the features or are as user friendly as the Vortex Ignitions ECU.

4. Best Inexpensive Motor Upgrade: Works Connection Aluminum Engine Plugs

Since we've been on the subject of engine performance, we need to mention some items for the engine that don't necessarily add any power but can save you from some serious headaches. Speaking from personal experience, these aluminum plugs can save you and your engine. The plugs that come installed on the engine from the factory are simple plastic units that have a tendency to come loose when the engine cases heat up. If this happens while you're out riding, expect to have a massive amount of oil make its way out of the engine and cover the left side of your leg. This loss of oil not only ruins riding gear, but the lack of lubrication can cause catastrophic damage to the engine. Again.... speaking from experience.

By upgrading the plastic plugs to these aluminum ones, this is far less likely to happen and the flash of color (they're available in blue or red) gives your engine a little bit of that bling factor.

5. Best Handlebar Upgrade: Fasst Flexx Bars

One of the best ways to become a faster, safer rider on a Sport ATV is to make sure that the you're as comfortable as can be while riding. Having your controls properly positioned for your hands is critical, and if you're not sure how to do it we have a great tutorial here. A great upgrade to the YFZ 450R controls would be to install a set of Flexx Handlebars from Fasst Co. Adding a set of these handlebars to your ATV is like adding an extra set of shocks for your arms.

These handlebars are 1-1/8" diameter at the mount, so they're a direct replacement for the stock bars and feature a design that provides a traditional feel while absorbing abuse and jolting impact felt through traditional bars. Using different elastomers that have different stiffness, the handlebars absorb high speed chop, bumps and stutters while also reducing vibration. All this combined eases impact on the riders arms allowing them to charge harder, and for longer periods of time. To further increase the comfort and minimize vibration felt through the bars, you'll also want to outfit the Flexx Bars with a good set of grips, which you can choose from our list of Best ATV Grips.

While more expensive than most traditional handlebars that you'll find, the benefits are well worth the investment. Take it from those of us who know.

6. Best Maintenance Item: Hardline Products Engine Hour Meter

The best way to prolong the life of your ATV is by performing preventative maintenance. To ensure that you're doing things like oil changes, valve adjustments, piston/ring replacement according the manufactures guidelines, be sure to install an engine hour meter like this one from Hardline Products.

Simply stick this unit onto your frame and run the inductive pick-up wire to the ignition coil to keep track of exactly how long its been running and when you need to service it. This unit is epoxy sealed and water proof for use in some of the most extreme conditions you might be riding your ATV in. The auto on/off feature means that the hour meter comes on when it senses a trigger from the coil through the pick-up wire and shuts off when it no longer has the signal. This feature is why you can get up to 10-years of maintenance free operation.

One of the best investments you can make for your ATV to ensure a long life of its engine, as long as you do the maintenance.

7. Best Engine/Frame Protection:

If you ride in rough, rocky terrain, protecting the underside of your ATV is imperative. Nothing can ruin your day faster than taking a sharp rock to the bottom of your engine cases, punching a hole and emptying all of your oil on the track or trail. The best way to prevent this from happening is by running a plastic composite skid plate from Yamaha's GYTR accessory line.

Since they're made by Yamaha engineers, this skid plate "should" have a perfect fit to provide plenty of protection to the underside of your engine as well as the full length of your frame. The 1/4" thick plastic skid plate not only offers plenty of protection for the underside of your ATV, but also provides a smooth, slick surface for your YFZ 450R to glide over obstacles, where aluminum skid plates can be gouged and drag.

The skid plate also weighs considerably less than aluminum skid plates, so if you're wanting to shed some weight without hitting the gym, here is your answer.

8. Best Protection From Chain Damage: Engine Case Saver

Since we've already touched base on protecting the engine, another common damage area is the case around the countershaft sprocket. All it takes is a busted chain or other component in the drive system for the chain to get bunched up around the countershaft sprocket and do some serious damage to the left side of your engine cases.

Installing a good case saver is a great investment that can save you from having an expensive repair. TM Design Works Makes some of the best case savers in the business. These poly composite case savers act as a guide for the chain as it wraps around the countershaft sprocket and prevents a busted or loose chain from getting bound up in between the sprocket and engine case.

Installation is simple by removing the OEM chain guard cover and bolting the new piece in place with your original hardware. It's a quick and inexpensive mod that should be done before you ever fire up your engine.

9. Best Frame Powdercoat and Paint Protection: Core Grip Grip Tape Frame Guard

While protecting your paint and powdercoat might not be as important as things like your engine, you always want to do your best to keep the ATV looking as clean and sharp looking as possible. These stick-on grip tape frame guards from Core Grip are perfect for the job, because not only do they protect the sides of your frame from being scuffed up by your boots, but the grip tape that they're made from help you stay on your quad when you change your body position for optimal control. The fact that they give your ATV a little style in the looks department doesn't hurt either.

10. Best Bolt-On Rider Protection: Nerf Bars

When we're talking about protection items on the YFZ450R, it's not always for the ATV. We want riders to be protected as well, and the number one protection item sold for most Sport ATVs are nerf bars. Nerf bars serve multiple purposes on ATVs, mainly to keep riders legs from getting sucked under the rear tires if their feet happen to come off of the pegs. If you want to race your YFZR, most race organizations require them to minimize ATVs getting tangled up, which is a common hazard with open wheeled racing.

There are many brands to choose from with a number of options ranging from the inclusion of heel guards, different pegs that provide wider platforms and lower positioning, or some that just bolt on to your stock pegs. Whichever you go with, they're one item we highly recommend having on for rider safety.

11. Best Sand Traction Upgrade: Paddle Tires

Are sand tires an absolute must have when you want to ride in the sand dunes? Definitely not. If you read the Yamaha YFZ 450R vs. Raptor 700R comparison that we did in Winchester Bay, OR, you know that the stock tires still did great in the soft, loamy sand. This doesn't mean that there aren't advantages to running sand tires though. By running paddle tires in the rear, you do get increased traction for better take off in the soft stuff, and when you're climbing it lessens your wheel spin to give you better forward drive.

While you're shopping for paddle tires, you'll see that there are two different styles for the rear. The first is one that has an angular paddle, while the other features paddles that go straight across the tire carcass, and both have very different handling characteristics. The angled paddle tires offer good traction in the sand but offer better turning ability by allowing the rear end to slide, where the straight paddles provide maximum forward drive but have a tendency to cause ATVs to push by unloading the front end from the traction they provide. So if you want to go fast and straight, go with the straight paddles. If you prefer to have better cornering ability, then run the angled.

Now for front sand tires, you can still run your OEM tires and probably be fine but the aftermarket sand tires usually have a single or dual rib design that helps steering and tracking while you ride. If you're in the market for some sand tires for your YFZ 450R, check out our list of Best ATV Sand Tires to help make your shopping easy.

In regards to "the big 3" reference, do all of the upgrades need to be done at once?

Yes and no. Many people will add a slip-on exhaust without doing any of the other upgrades and see an increase in the power, but aren't getting the full potential because the fuel delivery hasn't been compensated for the additional airflow. Running an engines fuel mixture too lean, it can cause a number of issues like high idle speeds, hesitation on acceleration, high engine temperatures, and even potential engine damage internally. By running too lean, it can cause detonation, which can lead to premature piston failure and even damage to the lower end of the engine.

So while you can do your upgrades in stages, it's not something we necessarily recommend. If you're going to do it in stages, we recommend that the addition of a fuel controller be the second item you upgrade whether you do the intake or exhaust system first. By doing both intake and exhaust upgrades together, you will for sure cause a lean condition that will affect the performance and reliability of your machine.

Additionally, on modern Sport ATVs like the Yamaha YFZ450R or Raptor 700, there are Air Injection Systems (AIS) that have been added to the engines to help pass federal emissions standards. Even after you make all three upgrades together, you may still experience lean backfires on deceleration. There are many aftermarket companies, and even GYTR, that make AIS removal kits that have a block-off plate to eliminate the system that will eliminate the lean backfire and also help shed some additional weight from the machine. Modifications like this are considered to be used for closed-course competition only, so do these upgrades at your discretion.

I've been looking at the fuel controllers and so many of them look the same. Is there a difference from one to the other?

Many of those fuel controllers that you talk about looking the same, well they are. There might be one company that makes a good fuel control unit and will offer private labeling for a number of other companies. This is so companies don't have to spend time in doing R&D to make their own product and can focus on what they do best, which is typically exhaust systems. This doesn't mean that the controllers are bad, but it's a convenience for them. Now when you start talking new Electronic Control Units (ECUs), there is a vast difference in these components. The two most popular brands are the Power Commander V (which still uses your stock ECU, but plugs into the OEM wiring harness) and the Vortex Ignition, which replaces the the OEM ECU entirely. While these units cost substantially more, you are given much more technology. These systems allow you to custom program fuel curves (special software required) in the event you modify your engine. While this isn't usually something that the average user needs, many engine builders offer custom tuning maps that they can install or send you to install yourself.

Are there any recommended braking upgrades?

From our experience, the stock brake system works excellent for the average recreational rider. When you look at YFZ 450R race machines that the worlds fastest riders compete on, you'll see that some opt to upgrade the front brake master cylinder. Unless you're competing at that level, we don't see the need to invest multiple hundreds of dollars for high end components like that. At most, you may want to upgrade the stock rubber brake lines to steel braided brake lines that can help improve the feel. Aside from that, the stock brake pads and rotors provide excellent bite to stop you on a dime.

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Eli Madero
Eli Madero

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