Everything You Need to Upgrade Your RZR XP 1000 Transmission

If there is one glaring weak point of the Polaris RZR XP 1000, it is the transmission. Aggressive trail riding can break the internals quickly and occasionally crack the case itself. If you’re putting bigger tires on your machine, it can expose this weak point even sooner. We have had fairly extensive experience in busting XP1K transmissions and have come up with what we think is the best way to upgrade your machine outside swapping in a transmission from a XP Turbo.

Reverse Chain

The weakest link inside your transmission case is the reverse chain. It is a single chain that is surprisingly narrow for a machine that weighs 1,500 lbs bone stock. It is easily possible to bust the chain in reverse if your machine gets bound up or if you give it too much throttle. If you want beef up your ability to run backwards, then a heavy duty reverse chain kit or a double reverse chain kit is the best way to do so. These kits can double the strength of your chain of what the stock setup is capable of. There are multiple options on the market. We’ve been running the kit from Biohazard UTV for great luck, however there are more than capable options available from companies like Warranty Killer Performance, SuperATV and HD Extreme. These options will not only replace the chain, but also replace the sprocket and reverse shaft as well that the chain rides on.

Heavy Duty Bearing Retainer Plate

Stock versus Rock Ready UTV HD Bearing Retainer

Deflection within your transmission is the number one cause of breaking the snorkel gear of your XP 1000 transmission. Breaking this gear is one of the most common issues within a XP1K transmission and can lead to even more damage, such as the side blowing out on the transmission case. One of the reasons that this happens is because Polaris uses a relatively thin plate to retain the bearing that holds your pinion and output shaft in place. A heavy duty retainer plate minimizes this deflection.

We use the HD retainer plate from Rock Ready UTV. This plate is made out of a high strength steel that is 50% stronger than chromoly. It is also more than twice as thick as the stock retainer plate.  That makes this the strongest bearing retainer plate on the market.  There is also material added to the inside and outside circumference of the plate to add strength and ensure the bearing face has 100% contact with the plate.  Further more the bearing retainer plate comes standard with longer high strength bolts. This ensures the maximum allowable thread engagement increasing strength.

There are also a number of solid options on the market for heavy duty retainer plates and they’re all easily affordable if you are opening up your transmission for repair. Gilbert Designs was the first company to offer a HD bearing retainer plate back when they first saw the need to minimize the deflection of the pinion gear. SuperATV, Sandcraft Motorsports, Holtz Racing, HD Extreme and High Lifter also make heavy duty bearing retainer plates for your rig.

Heavy Duty Output Shaft

Gilbert Designs 300M Output Shaft and HD Retainer

If your snorkel gear doesn’t break, usually your output shaft is going to be the next thing to go. The torsional forces that it is subjected to will make the shaft shear right in two. The fix is for a heavy duty 300M output shaft.

We’ve been running the Gilbert Designs 300M Output Shaft for years and have broken nearly everything inside our transmission multiple times over, yet the 300M output shaft is one piece we’ve never been able to break. There are multiple heavy duty output shafts on the market, however the Gilbert Designs shaft is unique in that the snap-ring snorkel gear retainer is replaced with a more reliable bolt on solution. Though a rare occurrence, the OEM snap ring has been known to fail and as such, we feel this is the best solution on the market.

RCV Performance also makes a very well designed 300M heavy duty output shaft for the XP 1000, along with SuperATV with their own 300M offering.

Pinion Shaft and Snorkel Gear Set

The SuperATV Snorkel Gear and Pinion Kit also comes with a heavy duty retainer plate and output shaft seal.

The snorkel gear and pinion gear in your transmission do more work than just about any other gear in your UTV, so a broken snorkel can lead to more transmission damage, case damage or other gear failures. We have never broken just the snorkel gear itself and every instance has taken out the gear teeth on the pinion as well. Even if you only manage to break one or the other, we highly recommend replacing both since the way gears mesh when they create their own unique wear patterns, which can lead to premature gear failure due to heat if they’re not broken in together.

This is one we’ve searched tirelessly for on the market to be able to hold up to our style of riding. We went through countless OEM gears after everything else was upgraded, but we were still destroying these gears. We tried cryo treated gears, which were better, but still were breaking them as well with the abuse of our machine. Finally, we came across the gears from SuperATV and they have held up better than anything else we have tried so far.

SuperATV’s Pinion Shaft and Snorkel Gear Kit gives your Polaris RZR the strength it needs to keep going. The Gear Driven Perfomance by SuperATV gears are built with high-strength 9310 alloy steel. This is the same gear material used in NASCAR, to make sure it can withstand all the abuse and torque you throw at it. Additionally, SuperATV tests every set of gears to make sure they are perfectly mated and running smooth. The snorkel and pinion gears are lapped before they are shipped. That means that SATV runs each pair of gears together in a special process until they are smooth and mate perfectly. When you receive them to put into your machine you will even see the special yellow marking compound that is used to set up the gear’s proper depth and backlash.

In addition to the product from SATV, there are other snorkel and pinion gear upgrades on the market. The cryo treated gears from Gilbert Designs are a definite upgrade from stock and the billet snorkel and output shaft setup from Turner Cycles is a stronger option as well.

Heavy Duty Transmission Case

The walls of the tranmission case on XP 1000 are thin, especially the material of the snorkel tube and surrounding the output of the axle. If you’ve upgraded everything else we’ve listed so far and still manage to blow out the side of your case, then an upgraded case is what you need.

The most vulnerable side of the transmission is the driver’s side where the snorkel gear and output shaft rides. For this reason, SuperATV offers several different configurations of their cases. You can purchase just the driver’s side, just the passenger side or the complete case. You can buy either side and it will be compatible with the OEM transmission case half.

The SuperATV case is beefed up in all the right places, but only added 1 lb of material over stock. The snorkel tube and axle output has 68% more metal, plus additional support ribs and gussets. Those gussets and fins also help to keep your transmission run cooler because cooler gears run smoother. There is also additional material added at the axle output areas, which comes in helpful if you manage to break the inner cups of your CVs. The axle seals are pre-installed, so all you will need is fluid and all your internals to switch everything over.

Full Upgraded Transmission

We realize that the idea of tearing into your transmission is a daunting task. It is relatively easy compared to more complex full size vehicle transmissions if you’re very mechanically inclined, however if you don’t know what you’re doing it can mess things up. If you’re more comfortable with unbolting a big hunk of metal and putting a pre-assembled hunk of metal back in, then the Gear Driven Performance full replacement transmission by SuperATV is the perfect option for you. If you’re having a shop do the work for you, this significantly cuts down on labor time as well, so it could save you a decent amount of money.

This transmission beefs up all the weak points of the OEM transmission and it’s not much more expensive than a complete OEM assembly. It includes both heavy duty case halves, the upgraded pinion and snorkel gears, the heavy duty reverse chain, HD bearing retainer, 300M output shaft and you can even choose to do a gear reduction of 12.5% up to 25% to put you back into the correct powerband if you’re running bigger tires. Gear reductions take a serious strain off of your RZR’s clutch and belt.

Bonus Tips

  • If you’re inside your transmission, we feel that the factory backlash settings called for by Polaris are too much. Factory calls for three steps back from zero. We feel that either two or one back is a better setting. You don’t want it to be too loose, but you don’t want the gears meshing so tight that they heat up and prematurely fail either.
  • Gear reductions will put you back in the factory powerband if you’re running bigger tires. This leads to less stress for your clutches and belts. Gear reductions around 12% are better for 30″ tires and 25% for 32″ tires. However, more power leads to more broken parts, so choose what is best for you.
  • When putting your case halves back together, use gray high temperature sealant.
  • Organize everything. There are bigger parts inside the transmission that can only go in one way and are impossible to mess up. There are others that you must be paying attention to how they come out so that you know how they go back in.
  • Check your bearings. If they’re questionable, replace them.
  • Lube your axle seals before installing parts. Dry metal on dry seals leads to leaks.
  • Purchase an alignment tool, such as the one from SDI. Proper transmission alignment in relation to your engine is critical for belt and clutch performance.
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Chris Holland was born and raised in Mount Sterling, KY and is the publisher of UTV Revolution. He has an award winning background in the journalism field, winning multiple accolades in sports writing, editorials and photography. He is also a driver in the Ultra 4, Pro Rock/Pro UTV and SRRS racing series. His first taste of going offroad was with his dad's 1979 CJ-7 when he was five years old and has been hooked ever since. After years of trail riding and technical rock crawling, he finally got the go fast bug and entered the racing scene. While he still has a great passion for full size rigs and rock crawling, he says there is nothing like the adrenaline rush you get from the speed and capabilities of UTVs.

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