After riding your first UTV you may have found yourself thinking, WOW this thing was really LOUD! Why can’t they make these things a bit quieter?
In this post, we’ll have a look at why some side-by-sides appear unnecessarily noisy. After all, there are touring motorcycles jeeps and ATVs out there that runs a lot quieter.
So why are UTVs so loud? UTVs are loud because of the combination of high performance and keeping weight and costs down. Most UTVs does not have the insulating materials silencers as a car have. The non-insulated cab tends to act as an echo-chamber, that’s amplifying the sound rather than eliminating it.
There is definitely a market for quiet UTV’s out there. Just ask any hunter riding to their deer stand or a family trying to enjoy a Sunday trail ride. They will more than likely want their bike to be as quiet as possible. Or at least silenced to a level where there is possible to keep a normal conversation without having to scream one’s lounges out.
UTV’s, aim at being both high performance as well as lightweight machines. But this combination is hard to achieve without making some compromises on the way.
While more relevant for high-performance trail ride machines than the pure workhorse models, the following principles affect all UTVs to some degree.
Having a roof and a windscreen is one of the big upsides with UTV riding. These components make sure the rider and passengers are well protected against the elements and flying mud.
But as it turns out, this benefit comes with quite the annoying downside as well.
The problem is that these surfaces tend to reflect the sound back into the cab, and will enhance any vibrating sound that the bike makes. Whereas on an ATV or motorcycle, the sound would just spread directly to your surroundings. The 5 seaters are usually the worst because of the bigger roofs.
The panels and screens are usually made of smooth and quite thin materials such as plastic sheet metal. There is nothing there to reak the sound waves, or to prevent the panels from vibrating.
Many UTV owners experience a noticeable improvement when they remove these panels. But this sort-of defeats a lot the purpose of having a cab in the first place.
While dump beds are very useful, they will sometimes cause unwanted extra noise. The metal sheets or plastic they are made of will resonate any vibration, clank or other harmonic sounds the UTV makes. It’s almost as having a big speaker back there that cannot be turned off.
Try removing the bed to see how much it adds to your sound issue. It’s usually a quite straight forward procedure you can do in a matter of a few minutes.
Quieting the exhaust noise from a four-stroke high-performance engine is not easy. At least not without potentially messing up the bikes performance or adding too much cost and weight. Even some of the stock systems are painfully loud when you hit the throttle.
If you compare a UTV exhaust system with the one on a car you will notice some important differences: The car has multiple catalytic converters, a couple of resonators and then a huge muffler to finish off.
You would struggle to fit all of this to a UTV while still keeping it high performance and lightweight.
So as long as the emission regulations permit it, many UTV exhausts are likely to remain less complex as well as less effective when it comes to dampening the noise when comparing them to car exhausts.
Another important aspect that plays its role is what the market actually wants to buy. Many riders still believe that more noise equals more power. This may lead the manufacturers to make their high-performance machines a bit louder than strictly necessary.
But thankfully the market of aftermarket mufflers seems to be changing to more quiet, yet powerful systems.
In recent years, the focus in Europe has been on developing exhaust systems that make the machines quieter without compromising performance. Many manufacturers have succeeded at developing such systems. The American market has followed this trend, with a lot of American manufacturers offering quiet exhaust systems as well.
Mechanical engine- and transmission noise
People often think of exhaust noise when they talk about the noise any vehicle make. But if you have ever ridden an ATV or UTV that has an after-marked silencer muffler installed, you probably noticed that the machine was still not running completely quiet.
All of the components moving inside the engine and the bike’s transmission put out quite a lot of noise as well.
Let’s start with the transmission and drive train.
The manufacturers usually opt for CVT transmissions as they are both lightweight and can handle a lot of torque.
They are relatively cheap to produce as-well compared to more traditional gearboxes that use metal gears. This helps to keep the overall costs of the UTV down.
But these systems come with one (more than one actually) major downside. And that is the noise they produce.
External clutches and belts used on friction to move the bike forward. This does not happen quietly and attributes quite a bit to the total noise level of the machine. Add the noise from the grinding gears inside of the diffs and gearbox, and you get a ride that is far from silent.
Then you have the engine itself. Camshafts, pistons and other moving components make a lot of noise each time they turn. The big bore single cylinders often used in UTVs does not help the situation either.
These are common because of the same reasons why they opt for CVT transmissions: low cost, low weight, and high power.
Multi-cylinder engines generally produce a lot less vibration and noise, but are more expensive and weigh more.
The mechanical noise from the engine, transmission, and gearboxes makes up at least half of the total noise the UTV makes.
Engine exposure and lack of insulation
Some believe that having the engine totally exposed like on a motorcycle or ATV is the loudest setup there is. There is nothing there to cover the sound right? But somehow, UTV’s turn out even louder than the open designs. Even with the engine hidden behind covers.
The explanation for this is quite simple.
UTV engines are usually boxed-in by plastic or metal covers both for looks and aerodynamics. But to keep weight and cost down, these covers are usually just made of quite thin and non-insulated materials.
It is not like on a car where every piece of cover and sheet metal is covered with sound insulation and vibration-dampening materials.
So instead of dampening the sound, the covers on the bike acts almost as a resonance chamber that enhances the sound. The engine sound does not get distorted by hitting dampening materials like on a car, but instead, it bounces back and forth from hitting the smooth surfaces inside of the covers.
On a motorcycle or ATV, the sound goes straight out and into the free air. Remember that when you are outside, you are in the worlds greatest sound absorbent; the atmosphere.
Nothing on earth absorbs sound better. When you put a box around the sound source, you’re effectively keeping the noise it closer to you for longer. This makes a UTV sound louder.
When covering up an engine, you need to add plenty of insulation as well. If not you’re just making matters worse when it comes to the noise it makes.
Which is the quietest UTV?
The Honda Pioneer 1000 and 1000-5 both come with an all-gear driven transmission instead of the more common CVT friction-based systems. Its 72hp 999cc engine won’t win you any races, but with a top speed at 67mph, you should be covered in most situations. It’s moderate power outtake combined with a decent exhaust make it one of the quietest UTV’s ever made.
The roofless model is even quieter than the ones with roof and windscreen. Be aware that it’s little brother, the 700-4 is in fact not as quiet as the big model.
The Kawasaki mule and Polaris Ranger XP 900 are also good options, yet not as quiet as the Honda.
But according to a long list of user reviews, the 2019 Textron Offroad Prowler Pro XT is the clear winner this time. It is the first UTV that is completely made from Textron after they bought Arctic-Cat awhile ago.
Anyone reviewing this machine is astonished by how quiet it is. Its 50hp engine runs as quiet as a small car, you will bare notice that it’s running when it is idling.
It is a workhorse, not a trail racer, but the 3-cylinder in-line engine produces a lot of torque. It has no problems reaching its top speed at 50mph, which should be plenty for most utility tasks, as well as the occasional trail ride.
If you’re looking to make your UTV a bit quieter, you will find a lot of useful tips on how to achieve in this post.