Trailside Belt Replacement
Story By: Kyle Callen
Photos By: Tom Leigh
For those that have a belt drive UTV, the only things in life that are unavoidable are taxes and broken belts. It’s just a part of the ride. Clutch maintenance and prep in the shop greatly increase the chances of extending your belt life, but even the best will eventually snap the rubber band. For some, they like to change the belt as fast as possible and continue the ride. For us, it’s a great time for a beverage break while heckling the owner of that spaghetti mess of rubber and fibers.
Just like in the shop, there are key steps to the trailside belt replacement that will allow the new belt to last as long as possible. During the 2020 Trail Hero SXS Rally, there was no better person to pop a belt than Matt from Savage UTV. He unapologetically beats his belts until they just can’t hold together anymore. Matt likes to change them in a hurry to continue the ride, but we forced him to slow down and capture all the necessary steps on camera to share with you all. When the belt comes apart, it doesn’t do it gracefully. It comes apart in what feels like a million pieces going in a million different directions. Extracting all the mess is crucial to making the new belt last. Any leftover spaghetti or chunks will bounce around looking for the exit and can wedge themselves in the sheaves causing unhappy things.
Once you have spent the time searching for every last shred, you now have two options. One of them is to slam a new belt on to get back on the trail. The mechanic in me takes an extra step, giving everyone a little extra time to get their jokes in. I carry a piece of red Scotch-Brite in my Savage UTV case—this allows me to re-prep the sheaves to be ready to accept the new belt. Before the Savage Case came out, I used to carry old belts as spares. A belt that I wasn’t worried about getting dirty or beat up while riding around in the car. Since the Savage Case is air/watertight, a new belt is the only way to go for me. The new belt is why I take the extra step to clean the sheaves before installing, even on the trail. For you Can-Am guys, the factory belt tool works great. For the Polaris owners, the cheap threaded L-shaped piece of metal is sub-par. If you use this, just be careful you don’t snap it off in the secondary; it happens more than you think.
Once the sheaves are spread, you may need to take the Boxo Tools needle nose pliers, that now come in the Savage UTV Case as an upgrade, and pull out any last remnants of the belt. Double-check that all pieces are gone and that you have scuffed the sheaves clean. Slam the new belt on and spin the secondary to get the new belt snug in the clutches. Then, reinstall the clutch cover. This sounds like a small thing, but please pick up all of the old belt pieces off the desert floor, and take them with you to dispose of properly. Don’t be a jerk.
Whether you are a speed racer or the type that enjoys a beverage while changing your belt, these few small things will ensure that you get back on the trail and have fun for the rest of the day. Also, having all the proper tools is key. I do recommend that you practice a few times in the garage before hitting the trail. This will not only help you get your technique down in a low-pressure situation, but it will also make sure you have all the proper tools necessary to do the job correctly. If you don’t have all the tools or need good storage for your belt and tools, I highly recommend picking up a belt storage case from Savage UTV.