If you’re like most new UTV owners that drop a hard-earned wad of cash on a shiny, bone-stock new machine, you probably discover on that first ride that the one accessory you should have budgeted for was a high quality windshield. With many of the new machines on the market capable of freeway speed on firm ground, and the likely scenario that your recreational use includes some dusty, rainy, or snowy driving, it’s not long before most drivers opt for a more permanent alternative than motorcycle goggles.
So why not just head down to your nearest dealer and throw a couple hundred bucks at whatever’s in stock? At first glance it may seem like a pretty simple purchase. Just make sure it fits your vehicle and you’re in business, right? But there’s a reason for the wide selection of UTV windshields available. Side by side owners are an adventurous, varied group of enthusiasts with applications ranging from recreational use in dunes or trails, to hunting, to a second street legal vehicle to get around town in on those fair weather days. Besides your application, there are several other major considerations that should be made to avoid buyer’s remorse. What type of weather do you encounter frequently? Will you be trailering your UTV every time you use it? Do you want to have the option to remove it from the vehicle easily? What type of warranty options should you consider? This posting will address these questions to help you make an educated purchase.
There are two major reasons that owners purchase a windshield, and they are both critical to your continued enjoyment of your UTV. The most obvious is to protect your face and body from dust and debris. Unless you use your UTV exclusively on the street, you will likely get a mouth full of bugs or at least a thin layer of your local soil all over you from that very first ride. The good news is that literally any windshield, even the one-size-fits-all half windshields that are commonly seen on UTVs operating in sand dunes, will at least limit your exposure. Half windshields are often a good choice for low dust, hot weather applications where insulating the cabin is not an issue. In addition to the universal half windshields that will fit any model, there are many manufacturers, like Moose Division, that make both fixed and folding half windshields in the $150-$350 price range.
Speaking of weather, what’s the temperature and precipitation frequency where you ride the most? If you find yourself frequently battling the brutal winters of the Mid-west or Northeast (or any of you wacky Canadians), you not only want a full windshield, you may want to consider one of the heavy duty glass windshields that usually include a wiper option. While expensive, this will likely be the last windshield you will ever buy for your side by side. They are as strong as a car windshield and won’t scratch, and they offer the added benefit of insulating the cabin, particularly when integrated with a cab enclosure. If your weather conditions trend closer to the triple digits, in addition to the afore-mentioned half windshields, there are many vented Full Windshields on the market. Check out options like the patent-pending “Coolflo” Polaris RZR Windshield by Trail Armor or “lock and ride” models that are easily removable with thumb screws. Both are available in the $200-$400 price range.
I’ve talked a little about Windshield materials, and there is good reason for the incredibly wide price range between different materials available. Obviously, glass is the most expensive because it requires mounting in a thick, heavy frame (it’s already mounted in the frame for you), and is usually of the same quality as automotive windshield. These are usually the only windshields that have a wiper option available. They are an excellent choice for most applications other than racing, where the weight and added drag will slow you down. They are virtually impossible to break and are usually DOT approved (street legal). Most states require a windshield for any four wheel motor vehicle, and if you are ticketed for driving without one, the ticket may be close to the cost of a new windshield. Don’t get busted without one!
Most plastic Polaris RZR windshields fall into two categories: Acrylic (buy at least 1/4″ thick for strength) and Polycarbonate (usually 3/16″ thick). Both are sturdy enough to handle the elements, but usually only the thicker polycarbonate is DOT approved. If you plan on having your windshield on your UTV most of the time, it makes sense to spend a little extra on the heavier polycarbonate. It’s considerably stronger than acrylic and the way most owners beat up their machines, you’ll likely be glad you did. The strongest option (next to glass) is hard coated MR-10 Lexan, a super-hard material used in demanding applications like light aircraft windshields and medical grade instruments. It will never haze or yellow and it is safe to leave on when trailering your side by side. No matter what windshield you decide on, be sure to verify that the manufacturer warranties the windshield for trailering. This is the most common reason for UTV windshield breakage. EMP makes a great fixed Lexan windshield for the Polaris RZR and Polaris Ranger, among other models. It even includes a wiper option on some models.
There are essentially two mounting options to consider when purchasing any windshield. Will it require tools to remove it from your machine or not? Glass windshields are too heavy to take on and off regularly, so go with plastic if your application requires this flexibility. Most easily removable options include some form of “lock and ride” system that allows easy removal with thumb screws. They can usually be removed anywhere by one person as long as they are strong enough to lift the windshield off the cage. Most windshields do not require drilling, but use clamps that secure the windshield to the roll cage.
While windshields are usually great for protecting passengers from the elements, backdraft dust can be another issue, particularly if you have a windshield/roof combo on your side by side. This is where cab backs are a great option. These rear windows that bolts to the rear of the cage to keep dust, snow and rain out of the passenger area. Most offer the same easily removable thumbscrew system as the “lock and ride” windshields, and they are available from Kolpin and others for around $200.
No matter the type of windshield you decide on, it makes good sense to invest in a Brand made by a quality manufacturer such as those mentioned in this article. Bargain-basement models made of thin acrylic that are passed off as a “one size fits all solution” are often cheaply made sheets of plastic with a couple of clamps made by retailers who are trying to squeeze maximum profit out of their customers. Name brand warrantees will protect you from junk that might break your first time out. Take it from someone who has replaced more than one windshield on the same vehicle.
Thanks for taking the time to read this post. My hope is that it has addressed all of those major considerations when purchasing a quality UTV windshield.