Tightening Up Those Blown Out Holes
Story And Photos By: Brandon Bunch
If there was ever a product that you don’t want to have to buy, this is it. However if you do NEED to buy a set of Hess Motorsports Weld-In Frame Repair Washers, you’ll be so very thankful they’re available for sale.
Often referred to as just ‘weld washers’; Hess Motorsports sells their kits in sets of four at a price of $20 per set and they’re available with a 12mm or 10mm ID.
We needed a total of twelve 10mm weld washers for our Can-Am Maverick Sport 1000R, so that ran us up a total of $60, and labor for installation would be ‘free’ as we have a drill, a grinder, and a basic MIG welder here in our shop. Weld washers are designed to repair a very serious issue that plagues more vehicles than you could imagine, and they could save you more money than imaginable as well, just as they did for us here with the Maverick Sport.
What is this terrible issue that I keep talking about? Blown out holes.
If you have a childish sense of humor like I do, that might make you laugh, but this really is a serious issue. Suspension pivot points take an enormous amount of abuse, especially on today’s high performance UTVs, and can be an invisible high-wear item unless you are regularly disassembling your UTV such as in a race-prep environment.
Owner’s manuals will usually direct you to grease pivot points where applicable as well as check that the hardware is torqued to spec which IS very important… But if you do not remove the bolt, you might miss that the bolt hole in the chassis is ovaled out. As these components loosen up over time, the pivot bolt will begin to slip side-to-side in the hole as you drive. This deforms the metal creating even more room for the bolt to slop around, therefore allowing it to build more inertia with each impact as it further widens the hole. This can cause rapid wear on the bolt itself causing it to fail, or it can eventually rip its way out of the chassis in a hard impact.
That would be the worst-case scenario, but even in the least, it can be dangerous by causing unpredictable handling as your suspension components move about in a way they weren’t designed to, and you’ll never be able to properly align your machine. Once this process starts, there’s no going back. The only way to repair this is to: A. Buy a very expensive new chassis or suspension component. Or B. Repair the ovaled out holes with weld washers.
In our case with this Can-Am Maverick Sport, the suspension arm pivot points on the chassis were fine, but the rear knuckles mount to the arms with a pivot bolt design that’s similar to how the arms bolt to the chassis, and those holes were definitely not ok. The rear upper suspension arms in particular are stamped from thin sheet metal and were very ovaled out and elongated, with the lower arms being slightly ovaled. A full set of OEM suspension arms would have cost us about $435, so the $60 for weld washers and replacing the hardware seemed like a much better option to us.
Since we would be welding on the arms with them still attached to the Maverick Sport, we first disconnected the battery and then got the UTV up in the air. After removing the wheels and tires, we simply unbolted the knuckles and found creative ways to suspend them out of the way rather than removing them completely from the car. As with painting, a lot of durability in welding comes from the prep work. First, start by finding the original hole center and drill out the oval to the OD of the back of the weld washer. When you have holes ovaled as bad as ours, finding the original hole center is tough, but we did the best we could.
After deburring the hole and ensuring that the weld washer drops in and sits flat, the next step is to remove all paint, grease, and debris from the area where you will be welding. Drop the weld washers in place, and be sure to brace up the area to avoid the material warping from the heat when welding. We used some cheap carriage bolts and flange nuts to do the job, and it worked very well for us.
None of us here are expert welders and all we have is my old Lincoln Weld-Pak 3200HD, so we were perfectly equipped to get this job done. Ryan ran a few test passes to get himself warmed up and the welder settings close to dialed in, and he burned in the washers with no issues at all—despite the welds not being the prettiest. From there, we threw a quick coat of black Steel-It coating over the washers and reassembled the suspension with new hardware, all torqued to the correct specifications.
If you aren’t able to do the welding yourself, find a shop or a local ‘freelance’ welder that could come by to do it for you… The cost of hiring a welder should still be MUCH less than replacing an entire chassis or set of suspension arms, even if you had a shop do all of the work.
The Hess Motorsports Weld-In Frame Repair Washers add a huge amount of strength to the mounting points by adding a substantial amount of material to the bolt hole area, making it much harder for the bolt to deform the OD of the holes. Many racers and hardcore recreational enthusiasts will add weld washers to the chassis when new as preventative maintenance, rather than waiting till the holes are destroyed. Check out hess-motorsports.com, as they have a huge amount of race-worthy parts such as these to strengthen up or repair your UTV.