Todd’s Custom Dune RZR

| November 15, 2009 | 1 Comment
Todd frequently visits the Imperial Sand Dunes in his Polaris RZR

Todd uses his RZR at the Imperial Sand Dunes

By Todd Wynia

I was so stoked to be one of the first to get my hands on a new 2008 Polaris RZR. Normally I don’t take risks with buying first year products and wait until others go through all the trial and error waiting a couple years until most the issues are worked out and aftermarket products are dialed in. This time around decided I would return the favor. I knew there would definitely be small issues, fair chance of major issues, and in the end I would end up spending MUCH more money and have to live with my decisions. Two years later, I have experienced all the prior mentioned but have no real regrets, especially since Polaris took care of the few major problems I had.

This journey started with major frustrations trying to get my hands on a RZR. I was on a pre-release waiting list for months and then local dealers decided to take advantage of the demand and wanted 50% MSRP markup. Was having no part of that and with help of some forum members ended up locating one in a small rural Tennessee town from a farm supply dealer. It was the best buying experience ever! A ten minute phone conversation, no price haggling, and the deal was done with MSRP out the door. A few hundred more and it arrived in front of my driveway in Arizona on a car hauler within a week. This was an awesome experience too as the truckers little girl was riding with him and it was her favorite vehicle they were hauling. She asked if she could be the first to go for a ride so we took a lap around the block. I don’t know which one of us had a bigger smile.

Almost immediately after being delivered it was scheduled for a custom cage, stereo, and many accessories to be installed. Went a bit crazy with everything I did here as was concerned with safety and knew having a stereo and all the goodies would be nice. The cage was modeled after one built for a competition RZR and I planned on mounting wakeboard tower speakers to the cage. I somehow overlooked all the weight I was adding here and the stereo design just did not work out.  Even though the stereo was a very powerful system all the sound went out the back when moving due to being located in the bed.

Long Travel Suspension and Aftermarket Exhaust

Long Travel Suspension and Aftermarket Exhaust

From the beginning I knew I would likely go with long travel suspension but wanted to give the stock setup a try as we all knew it was much improved compared to other UTVs. It was not long before I was getting rid of my large offset wheels, spacers, etc. to go to the real deal … long travel. There were many kits just starting to come out and was hard to decide which was best for me. In the end I went with a kit supported very well locally and this was the best upgrade of anything I did.

The final upgrade was to pull out all the power I reasonably could without opening up the engine. There were few options at the time so I did a custom intake, exhaust, programmer, and finished it off with a custom dyno tune. I ended up putting together the intake myself as engine was rebuilt due to dust ingestion issue so decided my solution would be pre-filtering and redirecting air flow to come from the front rather than more towards the interior floor. The programmer with a custom dyno tune has worked out well and is reassurance that I am running properly for my specific RZR.

Polaris RZRAfter getting in a lot of seat time with all the above it became obvious that I had made one big general mistake. I ride the soft Glamis sand dunes for 90% of my riding and had turned my nimble RZR into a heavyweight and it was time for a major diet. Although the stereo was nice it was just was not done right and it needed to go. I had upgraded to a full size deep cycle battery and I thought this might be necessary for my HIDs, stereo, etc. but later found the cause for the battery occasionally draining was due to the voltage regulator overheating in which there was a fix and that I did not need the big battery in general. I also rarely used AWD and even when I did it seemed to cause me to dig in rather than float on top of the sand so I removed the front axles, differential, and driveline. The custom cage was extremely overbuilt (number of cross members, thickness of metal tubing used) so decided to remove several bars in locations that it was possible. In total the weight was reduced by over 150lbs.

Currently, I really like the RZR and am happy with my setup for the sand dunes. It is a Gen1 2008 RZR and still going strong. I have no problem hanging with the quads through the soft dunes plus the long travel suspension and extra support of the cage allow me to drive it hard through the whoops and air it out every now and then. Although I can make it up most the hills just fine there is always a desire for more power and the UTVs in general are still lacking with basic mods. A different engine, turbo, or similar could be in my future but there really is no need as the RZR is a very capable duner and could not have expected more.

As mentioned in the beginning, I hope my experiences will help someone make good choices on their new RZR. Below are more specifics on what I would suggest regarding specific upgrades for sand dune applications.


  • Keep it light. You need less power if you are staying on top of the sand. Sure wish I could find an easy way to keep the drivers seat lighter!
  • Consider local vendors. Although most products are now refined it is nice to be able to have support locally for the products you buy. Things will break and having quick access to the vendor is nice
  • Consider having the pros install it. I had fun and learned a lot, but items like long travel are much easier if you have done it several times and have the proper tools and extra parts if needed.

2WD Only

2WD Only

2WD only

  • Give it a try! I am one of few running it. I still climb all the hills as good or better than similar equipped AWD RZRs. The throttle is much more responsive without the drag of all the driveline and front end components. Takes a lot of weight off the front so it floats better especially when you hit those really soft slip faces. It is just a lot more fun in 2WD for general duning in my opinion and the only downside for a dune machine that I can see is the potential for it to help you get unstuck if you stuff it in a witches eye. I have yet to need AWD nor do I miss it in any situation, even when in the baby dunes on tight transitions.

Polaris RZRRoll Cage

  • Consider the weight. It will obviously be much heavier than stock but you don’t want one like mine that requires five guys to remove it if necessary. You want one that will survive a typical roll over but don’t go overkill.
  • Ones that extend over the bed to the rear frame add a lot of support if you plan to jump or ride hard. They also support a roll over better in most cases.
  • Design should allow access to remove rear bed. This is difficult on one that extends over the rear bed. Wish I had requested cage bungs on mine to allow bed removal without full cage removal.
  • My cage has saved my plastics multiple times due to roll over. This could be a cost consideration to help justify the purchase as plastics are not cheap either.

Long Travel Suspension

  • More is better. For sand don’t think I would do anything less than +6. Would love to try one of the +8in kits.
  • Adjustability in shocks is highly recommended. It is very hard to get the suspension to work for all situations since the RZR is fairly lightweight and does have a short wheelbase. You also generally need to run low tire pressure to help stay on top of the sand so this makes it very hard to tune. Adding a passenger completely changes the ideal setup so having just the ability to adjust is highly desirable. Re-valving shocks is a pain so would recommend at least rebound adjustability.
  • Kits that relocate the shock mounts to more ideal angles seem to perform better but can add weight and make for a complex install.
  • Have someone regularly check your nitrogen pressure in the shock reservoir. These are filled with nitrogen, not air. A special setup is required to check the pressure and fill them properly. Many come with 150psi and can be adjusted up to about 200psi to also help you dial in your setup. They will leak over time just like a tire and some seem to have specific pressures they perform best at but few people seem to realize how important this is to the performance of your shocks.
  • It is best to tune your suspension with high pressure in your tires. Deflate tires to your desired low pressure setting once dialed in as good as possible at the higher pressure.
  • Consider a kit with upgraded CVs. Most re-use stock and can be a weak point. It is also a major hassle if you have to pull apart the stock CV’s to insert your new longer axle into.
  • Most shock manufactures can come up with the desired type for most long travel kits. If you don’t think the shocks included in a standard kit are right for you see if you can work with the vendor to get the proper setup you desire.


  • Consider the weight, especially if considering duals.
  • They can be really loud. I have an aftermarket exhaust on every thing I drive and am very tolerable but my RZR exhaust is a bit annoying. I think it has a lot to do with the way it resonates and this could even have something to due with my cage design. Seems exhausts with down turns help give you a nice sound but keep it out of the cab better.

Fuel Controller

  • I think it is important to get a programmer that can be fully adjusted rather than limited to fixed programs. Each RZR is different and a dyno tune should really be done initially, over time, and as other performance features are added.

OMF Beadlocks with 7 Paddle Tires

OMF Beadlocks with 7 Paddle Tires


  • Go light!
  • Try to avoid extreme offsets. Just adds more stress to the hub which is already a known weak spot.
    Beadlocks can save you.
  • Many rollovers are a result of tire going flat and/or coming off the wheel.

Paddle tires

  • I have tried many tires and so far 25×10-12 in front and rear, with seven paddles on rear, and buffs up front is the best setup so far. Would certainly not go for a taller tire or more paddles in the rear as that did not work well for me. I still think there might be something to gain in my setup as with the wheels I have the contact patch seems a bit narrow. I would like to try a bit wider footprint with one less paddle but have not looked into this yet. The front buffs are certainly the way to go. It really helps the frontend float, steers just fine, and even when I had AWD could tell it provided some decent grip in the sand. Did not like the mowhawk style as the center lugs were really heavy and just caused it to dig in rather than float even when climbing the hills.


  • The various stock HID light replacement kits are highly recommended.
  • If adding additional lighting a combination of flood and spotlights work well.
  • Mounting lights as low as possible has the benefit of working better in dusty conditions. The higher they are the more light that gets reflect back into your eyes from the dust particles and can make it hard to see than without.


  • Definitely get the four-point harness to replace stock seat belts. Don’t shy away from the five point as it does help to keep the belts where they should be so can actually be more comfortable to use.
  • Remember to keep the belts as snug as possible. It might seem more uncomfortable but it ends up making the ride much easier on your body when strapped in good.
  • Wear a helmet! Your head will still hit the ground or the cage even if you just put the RZR on its side.


  • Don’t think I will add one again due to weight but if I did the speakers would certainly be in the front or towards the front as much as possible. It did not work for me when in the bed which might also be due to a loud exhaust/noise cancellation.
  • The headset stereos/intercoms are really nice but I refuse to ride without a helmet. Each time the RZR has rolled someone has got a very good headache from smacking the sand even with a helmet. A helmet with built in stereo/intercom would be ideal but few choices, expensive, and still no music when you take a rest from riding.

Lighted Whip

  • Check to see if can mount with a spring mount. Most uses a plastic tube in which the LEDs are housed in and this tube seems to crack and break over time even with just a small flag. Make sure parts are available to rebuild if necessary.


  • I don’t see a need for a bumper in the sand. Adds weight and reduces clearance on steep transitions so it just throws more sand on you when in the front. Some can also block your lights and/or reflect them back at you which is real annoying.
  • I don’t see the need for other body protection like skid plates. Just adds weight and stock plastic does fine in sand.
  • The billet mirrors used on off road trucks are very nice. They are so tough they have also helped save my plastic when it rolls.

Most of the above is obviously just my opinion but hopefully it helps someone. Here is a list of my current upgrades:

  • JaggedX custom cage
  • UTV Crap/XMF +6in long travel kit with Walker Evans Racing shocks
  • Gorilla CV’s and axles
  • Power Commander fuel controller with KMS custom dyno tune
  • DragonFire Racing exhaust with JetHot coating and custom header heat shield
  • Modified Lonestar intake grill with Uni pre and primary filter
  • EPI clutch spacer
  • TrailTech SMR16 HID lights x4
  • Vision X stock HID light upgrade
  • OMF Outlaw 2 custom bead lock wheels
  • UTV Crap 25×10-12 with 7 paddles on the rear and buffs on the front
  • CV Man front CV housing/stub for 2wd only
  • Odyssey 925 battery with DJ Fabrications aluminum box
  • JaggedX billet race mirrors, pedals, interior light, etc.
  • SafeGlo lighted whip with spring mount
  • DJ Safety four point harnesses
  • Voltage regulator relocation kit – Autotrend EFI


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