While this feature story actually pertains to an ATV and a utility vehicle, we thought it to be important information to showcase an actual account of a real life run-in with a manufacturer's customer service. And since our experience tells us that the actions of one division typically spread to the others, this information is pertinent to whatever type of vehicle you are riding.
This article actually pertains to our own 2005 Polaris Sportsman 800EFI ATV. Purchased new in 2005, the vehicle is indeed outside of the factory 6 month warranty. To Polaris' defense, they don't HAVE to cover anything on the ATV since it is out of warranty. But, since we are entitled to OUR opinion, we think they should have. You decide...
Our Sportsman 800 EFI is used mainly as a family quad, driven mostly on our own tiny trail system. The vehicle has seen no real "heavy-duty" action as far as we are concerned, only finding its way into anything really considered muddy a few times. Nearly all of its time is spent on well groomed "grassy" trails.
As recent as a few weeks ago, we started experiencing a serious problem originating from the machine's front end. Periodically, a left or right turn would initiate a popping/snapping noise from the front end. The sound is an ominous one, disheartening to say the least when it comes from your front end. Visual inspection showed no signs of any foreign objects, while a thorough cleaning and extra unscheduled lube didn't help either. Further testing, in an attempt to locate the exact source of the sound, only proved the problem was getting worse through continued use, so a decision was made to make the trek to the dealer.
Upon visual inspection at the dealership, the techs quickly noted a LARGE lateral play in BOTH outer CV joints (to the hubs). Our assumption was the shaft play caused the popping noise at each turn as the shaft is pushed outward due to the force applied to the outer CV during a turn. As the turn subsides, the shafts relocate themselves and settle back toward the inner position. Each subsequent turn IN EITHER DIRECTION initiates the process over and over again, providing a very unsettling feeling that the front is about to come apart.
Some quick research online indicated that we weren't alone in this problem. We also accidentally ran across another front end issue that we discovered recently on our 6X6 Ranger, whereas another unsettling front end noise was caused by a loose front hub bearing. Apparently, the fix is to remove and replace the bearing and snap ring, and apply a locking compound on the bearing to prevent its movement (OUCH...$400 PRICE TAG!). This would eliminate the problem that we have experienced a few times on our Ranger. Important note: Failure to fix this problem promptly is said to ruin the hubs; a very costly repair.
At the dealer's suggestion, we waited to hear word from Polaris whether there was a known issue with the ATV's outer shafts being shipped too short. This would explain our issue for our own 800EFI, and we eagerly awaited a response from the factory. To our disappointment, Polaris denied any knowledge of the problem and didn't offer much help in solving it either. We figured that with front end issues we found searching the Internet, Polaris would have offered some kind of fix/solution.
With the Dealer's hands tied, their suggestion was complete CV replacement, BOTH SIDES! They also suggested a complete front end teardown, to a tune of approximately $500 (for disassembly and reassembly), in order to confirm the shaft issue completely. This totals nearly $1200 in repairs for a pristine ATV with only a few hundred miles on it of easy work. A bit tough to swallow.
We quickly contacted Polaris customer service to advise them of the situation and explained that we believe this is clearly a manufacturing defect that needs to be fixed by them. While we are fully aware that the ATV is off warranty, we were a poster child for owning a HUGE inventory of Polaris vehicles, and good faith coverage of the defect, at minimal cost, would be appropriate.
In the end, Polaris chose a bit of a hard-line position. While the dealer and the customer service representative both agreed and understood our position, we were advised that Polaris would not fix the problem, and offered no real help in solving it either. We felt a bit put-off by Polaris and received a little rude treatment on the phone.
In the end, we will probably need to have the nearly $1200 repair performed soon. We also don't see ourselves keeping this ATV much longer either. Most people can relate to that irritating feeling of buying such a high price tag item, only to pour a fistful of money back into it just 40 some odd running hours later. Another ouch...
While we understand that not all Polaris vehicles are bad or have this issue, we can't help but see a pattern here. Front end issues with both our Polaris Ranger 6X6 (having less than 100 hours on the clock) and Sportsman 800 EFI kinda leaves a bad taste. We understand that problems happen from time to time, but usually a manufacturer helps solve them, especially if the problem is a fairly blatant one.
We also can't help notice Polaris' latest marketing campaign: The Polaris Duel. Polaris CEO Tom Tiller is found challenging the other ATV manufacturers to prove once and for all, Polaris makes the toughest ATVs anywhere. All we can say to that is that our Ranger 6X6 and Sportsman 800 EFI both have relatively serious front end issues, and between the two, will require over $1500 to fix. These are vehicles that have been driven easy, so this ruggedness challenge also leaves a bit of a bad taste as well.
Durability is an important feature for a manufacturer and we have tons of contacts, feedback, and comments to say that Polaris is tops. Maybe our issues are relatively isolated. But in any event we simply feel that customer service should have stepped up on this one.
Again though, the warranty period was over and we fully understand that. But a $1136.32 repair bill for a $8000+ ATV with less than 48 hours on the clock? A tough pill to swallow, alone...