Maximum Ground Clearance With Increased Performance
Story By: Kyle Callen
Photos By: Staff of UTV Sports Mag
Until recently, for most recreational UTV drivers outside of the mud pits, reading about portal lifts would be about as useful as reading about a Killdeer. It is something you would most likely never even see in person. However with advances in materials, and companies like SuperATV putting a lot of time and effort into designing bigger and stronger portal gear lifts, they are something we might start seeing more often outside of the mud.
For those asking what a portal gear lift is, it’s actually quite a simple contraption. This machined or cast “box” has gears inside, and with its brackets it’s mounted in place of the standard knuckle or spindle. With the normal CV axle driving it, the power is delivered down a gear stack to an output shaft where the hub is now mounted. This is a very easy way to get good gear reduction at the wheel while netting more ground clearance to get over the obstacles. The gear reduction in the portal allows the user to run a significantly larger wheel and tire combo without the added strain to the axles and differentials. Oh, and for those asking, a Killdeer is a bird found on the east coast that is not that bright.
With the 35” (or larger) tires becoming a popular tire size in the deserts of the Southwest or the trails of Moab, the portal lifts started making their way west. Installing them is no small job, but in the same breath, it’s just nuts and bolts. SuperATV supplied their 6” GDP Portal Gear Lift for our 2020 Can-Am Maverick X3 Max X MR Turbo RR that we would be thrashing in the mud. Not knowing a damn thing about installing portals, we brought in our pals from TCP Off-Road in Tyler, Texas, and all-around handyman Justin Vickers to teach us a thing or two. But mainly we were out of time to get to the mud park, so it was all hands on deck.
Taking it off is what Mr. Vickers is good at. He had all the stock parts stripped off the Can-Am in a matter of minutes while Jodi and I laid out the portals and extensive list of supporting parts. When you go with a 6” portal, it requires a massive brake rotor to clear them, which requires a significantly larger wheel to clear that. I recommend calling Super ATV or doing extensive research to make sure you have all the right parts. With everything laid out, it was time to get to work, bolting it all on so we could get into the mud. The portal backing plates are the first part to go on, and act as the hub or knuckle, depending on what you call it. The thick steel backing plate is the foundation of this structure. Make sure you have the axle sticking through the backing plate hole before torquing your suspension bolts or you will get to do it all again—ask me how I know. We did opt to swap the stock axles out for the SuperATV Rhino 2.0 axles for a little added strength that took an extra 5 minutes to install.
With the portal box loosely bolted to the backing plate, tighten all the bolts to 65 ft lbs. No matter if it is a basic service or adding new accessories like these SuperATV portals, using the proper thread locking compound and torquing the bolt to spec is crucial. With a little anti-seize around the axle nut shoulder and a quick torque to spec, this will keep us off the trailer and on the trail. Once the new brake rotor and hub goes on, the drive nut gets torqued to a whopping 300 ft lbs, or 6 ugga duggas according to Jodi.
With the added stress on the chassis and the known weak link in the X3 front end, SuperATV highly recommends installing a frame stiffener to make sure the front end doesn’t fold up, and we were obliged to do so. It’s definitely worth the added install time when you already have the UTV coming this far apart. When it was all said and done and we had spent an afternoon turning wrenches, bleeding brakes, and hanging out with the pals, the Can-Am was back on its wheels and ready to hit the trails. SuperATV made sure all the parts were correct and ready to bolt on, so this was as easy as following along with the well laid out directions. We did this in a shop with professional mechanics, but I have no doubt that someone with basic mechanical knowledge could do this in their garage over the course of a weekend.
I now want to get my hands on a set of 4” GDP Portals for either our KRX 1000 or RZR XP Turbo S that will be going to the rocks. Having that much extra ground clearance while keeping the CV angles correct and the suspension with stock and proper geometry would be a game changer on the trail. (Hey SuperATV, let us know if you need some sweet Moab or Sand Hollow content!) But until then, it was time to go tear up some mud holes, hunt for crickets, and possibly break a few things.