Axle Replacement Guide: Choosing the Right Fit for Your Kawasaki ATV/UTV

Axle Replacement Guide: Choosing the Right Fit for Your Kawasaki ATV/UTV

Anything on two or four wheels and bearing the lime green colour guarantees hours of pure riding fun. Kawasaki might not be the first name in the growing ATV and UTV market, but the brand has had a few key milestones that have shaped vehicles throughout the years. 

From the first 3-wheeler, the KLT 200, in 1981 to the game-changing Bayou quad in 1985, today’s lineup consists of the established Mule workhorse, the Teryx sports-oriented side-by-side, and different guises of the well-regarded Brute Force ATV. All models have a cult following, with Kawasaki now featuring in the top five brands for enthusiasts of all-terrain riding pleasure.

Much of the success has been due to all-round reliability, sturdy frames and chassis, and grunty engines that can handle any task you throw at them. Stock parts are well-built, maintenance is low, and prices are affordable, undercutting major rivals. But, like all ATV and UTV models currently sold, some parts will need replacing. 

Axles are meant to be abused through different terrain and in different driving styles, and with some vehicles nearing 2000 pounds, more weight and higher torque numbers are expected from engines pushing close to 120 horsepower. In a word, both the front and rear axles come under a lot of stress, and some fail prematurely, along with the connecting CV shafts and boots. Finding replacement Kawasaki ATV axles, though, is easy and can even give a performance boost.

Basics of Constant Velocity Axles

Constant-velocity axles on any Kawasaki ATV, UTV, or side-by-side do a lot of work. They transfer power from the engine and transmission down through the wheels while allowing drivers to steer and turn over any type of terrain. Driven axles come in different configurations, with many Kawasaki models now featuring full-time or selectable 4×4 drivetrains. These parts come in front and rear, left and right units, and half-shaft or straight, non-driven types in 2WD vehicles. 

Like all ATV components, they undergo their fair share of wear and tear. Depending on how and where you drive, the suspension setup, and whether you’ve slapped on a lift kit or bigger tyres for more ground clearance, they can last anywhere between a few miles and a few thousand miles. 

Granted, we use our all-terrain vehicles for different purposes, and parts can start to fail earlier than quoted factory figures. Particularly punishing is the high torque output from larger engines, the bending in the joints in vehicles with longer travel suspension, and the accompanying heat that eats away at the joints and boots. Related issues come from impacts from rocks and debris, loss of grease and lubrication, and moisture and mud making their way into torn or cracked boots.

Signs that your half-shaft or solid axles are nearing their end-of-use date include loss of steering feel, clicking and popping sounds when accelerating or braking, excessive vibrations when hitting the throttle, and grinding or buzzing sounds when slowing down. 

Different parts endure varying levels of damage, from boots to internal bearings, but the sight of bent or broken shafts isn’t all that uncommon either. In such cases, you not only lose power but also risk causing major damage to other parts of the vehicle, notably the suspension.

Replacements are a sound solution, whether you’re looking for a few hours of high-speed off-roading fun in a fully-featured Teryx or Brute Force or use your Kawasaki Mule for work purposes. You won’t run the risk of being stranded in the middle of nowhere or losing valuable time by not getting work done.

Spares come in different guises and at different price points, so with a bit more cash, you can go with more longevity or more performance (or both). What’s more, broken and faulty units are also easy to swap out with a few basic tools and a bit of know-how in a matter of minutes, letting you get on with what you’re doing.

OEM vs. Aftermarket Axles

There are two routes when looking for Kawasaki ATV axles. You can shop OEM parts directly from a Kawasaki parts dealer or choose from dozens of aftermarket brands that often go with thicker diameters, better materials, and stronger overall builds. 

Aftermarket options also do away with any fitment issues, as units are marketed for specific models and production years. Most brands also offer limited-time guarantees, regardless of how or where you drive, so any axles acting up early should be replaced free of charge. But possibly the best part of going aftermarket is the lower pricing as well as the choice of fitting sturdier options if you’re thinking about any mods, such as lift kits. 

What to Look For

Branded aftermarket units are usually offered in tiers, with heavy-duty and severe-duty models. Both, though, score higher in durability and longevity when compared to what came on the vehicle. 

Heavy-duty axles are built around thicker, high-grade steel bars, have puncture-resistant boots, and can cope with more spirited driving and higher temperatures. They’re what you want in everyday work tasks too, with high strength. These are the options suited to different driving styles, speeds, and terrain and will give you years of service.

Severe-duty axles go that bit further, offering more in every respect. Bars are made of heat-treated Chromoly steel, so they are exceptionally strong, handle engine torque better, and won’t succumb to higher temperatures when you’re bashing your Teryx or Brute Force at full throttle over uneven ground or have the Mule loaded to the brim and towing on an incline. 

These are the CV axles you want for extreme applications. They’re built for all driving conditions and meant to last. The good news is that they cost just a few dollars more than standard heavy-duty variants. but pack a lot for the money. 

When buying, you can opt for single left and right and front and back axles, but you’re best bet is going with pairs. This way, you get to save some cash, and have consistent performance at both left and right wheels. Full kits are even cheaper, and allow for major upgrades over stock, especially when fitting different tires or adjusting the suspension. 

Whichever axle and configuration you pick, having a spare is just common sense. Axles are what literally get your Kawasaki ATV or UTV moving, and without them in proper functioning order, you won’t be going anywhere. Replacements are available for all major brands, including Kawasaki, in all well-stocked ATV and UTV parts stores and are cheap to buy. Just remember to get what’s compatible with your vehicle.