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Riders in a RZR XP 1000 riding across a desert at sunset
Care & Maintenance November 01, 2021

Cleaning your SxS/UTV after a day of Trail Riding

Post-ride side-by-side UTV cleaning isn’t just about making sure your vehicle is looking its best, it’s about protecting your investment. Leaving mud, dirt, sand, or dust on your side-by-side (SxS) can damage it, from unsightly stains to serious rust and engine contamination. It takes only a little time and effort to spruce up your SxS/UTV on the heels of a day on the trails, and your promptness and diligence will be rewarded with a better looking, longer-lasting machine.

What Tools and Supplies Do You Need to Clean Your SxS UTV?

Cleaning your side-by-side UTV doesn’t require a whole arsenal of tools and supplies. You can wash adequately with a detergent or soap (either store-bought or mixed yourself), a plastic scraper, and clean cloths, towels, and/or a washing mitt. For water, you can use either a garden horse or a pressure washer.
Other items that can come in handy include any number of specialized cleaning solutions; an air compressor or leaf blower for drying, and waxes, polishes, and sprays for post-cleaning treatment.

Using a Leaf Blower to Clean Your SxS UTV

It’s nice when the yard-maintenance tools you’ve already got in the garage can serve another purpose. A leaf blower can make drying your cleaned-off Side-by-Side (SxS) a breeze. Drying your vehicle helps avoid water spots or even rust from occurring on your vehicle.

Power/Pressure Washing Your SxS UTV

You can certainly use a garden hose with a spray attachment to wash and rinse your off-road vehicle (ORV), but a pressure washer makes the job even easier. You’ll want to be mindful of the settings when power washing your UTV, as you can blast away decals and graphics if you’re not careful. You can use either an electric or gas-powered pressure washer; the latter will usually be the more powerful option.
A pressure washer is useful at more than one stage of the SxS cleaning process. It’s a good first step for dislodging mud and dirt clods, and to wet more caked-on dirt so it’s more easily scraped or scrubbed off. Spray down the side-by-side, let things soak for a few minutes to soften up hardened dirt, and repeat as necessary.
After you’ve lathered up your ride, you can use the pressure washer to rinse off the suds.

What Type of Soap is Best for Cleaning Your SxS UTV?

There are a lot of options for soap or detergent for UTV cleaning, including specially formulated cleansers for ORVs such as bike wash. The soap/detergent you use should be tough enough to tackle the grime and mud that comes with off-roading, but not corrosive enough to damage your machine’s body or mechanics. Mild washers are the name of the game. A degreaser may also be used in conjunction with the gentle cleanser, though not on plastic parts.
Some components of your SxS require their own kind of wash. If your vehicle has a polycarbonate windshield, don’t use a regular window cleaner, which can damage it. Instead, opt for hand soap, liquid dish soap, or some other analogously easy cleanser. Fabric cleaner, meanwhile, can freshen up your UTV’s seatbelts.

Scrubs & Cloths

Let’s talk about the best manual tools for cleaning SxSs. A plastic scraper helps you take on those mud clumps with gusto. Use a microfiber cloth/shammy and/or a washing mitt for washing and scrubbing without damaging the UTV body. Use a soft cloth or towel for drying; a sponge can be handy for blotting a polycarbonate windshield.
Speaking of those windshields, remember to lather with your cloth using a gentle side-to-side pattern, not a circular one.

Polaris RZR on a wet trail kicking up mud
Polaris RZR on a wet trail kicking up mud

Choosing the Right Plastic Cleaner for SxS UTV Parts

In many cases, you can use the same gentle automotive detergent/bike wash for plastic parts as for other parts of the UTV. Special-purpose plastic cleaners are also available. A plastic polish at the end brings out that just-like-new shine, while silicone sprays can minimize mud adherence on your next trail ride.

Avoiding Rust with a Proper Drying Technique

Thorough, prompt drying of your freshly washed UTV will help you combat rust. Simply letting your machine air dry can result in water spots, and may promote rusting where rinse water lingers.
Use a lint-free towel to dry off your SxS. An air compressor or leaf blower can assist you greatly with those hard-to-reach spots. You can speed the drying process by running your engine and letting your vehicle heat up.

Make SxS UTV Cleaning a Routine

A meticulous washing of your SxS right after every ride is a surprisingly important part of vehicle maintenance, and it really doesn’t have to be that much of a pain. Get in the habit of post-ride UTV cleaning, and you’ll keep your ride better protected from rust and performance problems. Plus, you’re going to be showing off a better-looking set of wheels.

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