Yamaha was an early contender in the ATV and side-by-side game, with three and four-wheel models appearing in the early 1980s. Today the Japanese brand produces a line of ATVs and side-by-sides in varying categories, engine lineups, and for different uses.

A tour group travels on ATVs and UTVs on the mountains

The Raptor 700R is the best-selling sports ATV of all time, and bigger quads like the race-ready YXZ1000 SS and recreational Wolverine models are side-by-side favourites. There are also the light and agile YZF450R for motocross fun, and the Viking workhorse utility models seating 2 or 4 for serious worksite duty. 

Both current and past models are covered by a range of OE and aftermarket options and parts, catering to performance upgrades and general maintenance. All ATVs and side-by-sides can benefit from more durable axles and belts for smoother power transfer and better braking performance with the right pads. This parts trio brings back OE performance and adds a little more. 

Why Consider Axle Upgrades

, Axles, Brake Pads and Drive Belts: Common Yamaha ATV Parts That Need Replacing, Days of a Domestic Dad

Axles are directly involved in getting engine power to the ground. With engines varying in displacement, from 49cc in youth models like the YZF50 to the 999cc arranged in three cylinders in the YXZ1000 and Wolverine lines, there’s a wide spread of power and torque across different models. The huge power numbers and stress in bigger machines with more weight, and the need to stand up to track and trail obstacles can be tasking on any Yamaha ATV axle. The parts will last in easy riding over smoother surfaces and at moderate speeds, but if you want to have more fun, then have a few spares around if axles decide to bend, seize or snap in the middle of a ride. 

Besides increased friction, higher temperatures and obstacles hitting shafts and boots, axles endure more stress in power additions and when going with lift kits and bigger tires for more ground clearance. The changes in geometry will cause metal fatigue, and more weight pushing on the joints in jumps or when hauling heavy gear. 

Signs of Failing Axles 

Riders and drivers can experience loss of power, steering issues and the axle snapping in two. If that happens, you won’t go anywhere without a proper replacement. There are a few warning signs before you end up in the middle of nowhere. Look for popping and clicking sounds when turning, pointing to loss of lubrication in the joints and ruptured boots, accompanied by increased vibrations and potential damage to other components. 

Clinking sounds when easing or twisting the gas indicate play in the joints, usually caused by worn bearings and rubber bushings. The same sound is heard if axles are bent or warped, Similarly, humming sounds that get louder when accelerating and knocking sounds when going in reverse are a sign of worn joints, bad bearings, and torn boots. Wheel pulling to either side is another commonly reported issue.

Check the condition of the boots and shafts before and after every ride. Increased wear, loss of lubrication and high temperatures in fast-spinning assemblies can damage axle and drivetrain parts and the suspension and steering, leading to expensive repairs. 

Going Aftermarket

Choosing spares can be the hardest part when replacing a worn, bent or broken Yamaha ATV axle. There are so many aftermarket brands, with axles at different price points. Premium names often charge premium prices, promising to deliver more of everything. Most live up to the hype, meaning you get what you pay for in terms of price, quality and performance. Also, look up third-party brands if you’re after value. These offer much of the big names, without the price. 

Axles are sold in tiered lines, with heavy-duty variants aimed at dealing with the shortcomings of OE axles, and extreme-duty types pushing the limits of what your ATV or side-by-side is capable of. Heavy-duty replacements revolve around heat-treated 5140 carbon steel, with trace elements of manganese and chromium adding toughness and silicon providing flexibility. The metal is easy to machine, exhibits little wear and is resistant to high temperatures. 

To cope with higher stresses, shafts are supplied in oversized diameters, joints are machined for smoother power delivery, and industry-grade ball bearings for reduced friction. Boots also see a significant upgrade, replacing the thinner thermoplastics covering factory axles, made instead with thick, durable synthetic or natural rubber. The parts come as pre-assembled units ready for installation. Axles in this spec are good for most Yamaha ATVs and UTVs pushing put 100hp or less and in moderate daily use over mild terrain. 

High-powered machines belting out over 100hp are more suited to extreme-duty axles sending power to all four wheels. These are made of 4340 Chromoly, with higher nickel and molybdenum content for a 30 per cent increase in strength and hardness over heavy-duty types. Shafts are also thicker, joints are CNC-precision machined, and the assembly uses induction-treated bearings for the best results. 

Boots are now puncture-resistant, and pack high-pressure moly grease for lower friction. These too come as pre-assembled, but should last longer with higher-grade materials and tougher machining, They’re ideal for rock crawling, extreme technical terrain, high-speed trail runs, and hauling gear at the worksite. 

Get the Right Brake Pads 

, Axles, Brake Pads and Drive Belts: Common Yamaha ATV Parts That Need Replacing, Days of a Domestic Dad

With few exceptions, all Yamaha quads use disc brakes for unrivalled stopping power. They work with the friction of brake pads acting on appropriately sized discs. Pads are pushed against the discs with the pressure created from hydraulic brake fluid pushing pistons in brake callipers slotting over the discs. 

Pads in off-roading quad machines endure more abuse than road bikes and considerably more than those in cars and trucks. They’re consistently subjected to mud, water and debris, and endure higher wear. This can affect stopping power, with worn and near-worn pads hurting performance, and impacting your safety. If you notice longer braking distances, wheels pulling to the side, soft pedal feel or grinding noise when applying the brakes, chances are you’re dealing with worn pads. While easy fixes, like removing accumulated debris or bleeding the brakes for improved fluid pressure, can solve some issues, if the signs above persist, it’s time to look for brake pad replacements, 

Sintered pads combine metallic particles, organic and synthetic fibers, and bonding agents for the best braking performance. They’ll get bigger and heavier machines to a complete stop faster, offer a better brake feel, and aptly deal with mud, rocks, and other debris on harder trails. The downsides are that they’re not gentle with the discs, can get loud, and come at a cost. 

Semi-metallic brake pads mix metal fibres and composites. They occupy the middle ground for braking performance, offering a good pedal feel, respectable stopping distance and lower disc friction. They’re suited to mid-range Yamaha models like the 850cc Wolverine and the utility Viking range. 

Organic pads are even cheaper. They’re made of a mix of organic compounds, such as glass, rubber and fibers, and provide decent braking performance over easier terrain and moderate speeds. And they’re easy on the discs and a lot quieter, Ideal uses are for recreational rides, and hunting and work purposes. 

Go With Tough Drive Belts 

, Axles, Brake Pads and Drive Belts: Common Yamaha ATV Parts That Need Replacing, Days of a Domestic Dad

Belts are the parts that help axles transfer power to the wheels. In most ATV and UTV models, they connect a pair of pulleys in a standard CVT transmission. Your factory Yamaha belt can last for several seasons, depending on the model, engine output, and how hard you’re on the throttle.

However, most fail much earlier. The parts endure impact and heat, particularly on cords, sidewalls and teeth, as they are pushed and pulled between the clutch pulleys. Torn, shredded, and belts with missing teeth are commonplace, especially in bigger Yamaha models nearing 200 hp and 100 mph top speeds. 

Bad riding habits, difficult terrain, missing regular service intervals, and incorrect use of high and low gearing can be tasking on drive belts. Usual wear signs are missing teeth, chipped edges, fraying cords, discoloration and cracks, all leading to slipping clutches and power loss. While you can risk it and ride or drive with a worn unit, belts are cheap to find and easy to replace. 

Choose variants that meet your engine’s rated power and torque requirements. Go with reinforced carbon fiber or Kevlar cords for higher strength and flexibility, and chloroprene, diene or rubber composite for top and bottom layers and lower heat transfer, Better built belts can handle higher temperatures, and higher engine loads, and will last longer. Choose belts from respected brands, in the right size and tooth count, and have one as a spare if the factory unit calls it quits. 

, Axles, Brake Pads and Drive Belts: Common Yamaha ATV Parts That Need Replacing, Days of a Domestic Dad