I’ve ridden and worked on quite a bit of ATVs, but I find myself around Can-Ams more than any other brand.
Since I’ve been around Can-Am mostly, I feel I have a good grasp on their reliability and all the issues they seem to have.
So it begs the question? Are Can-Am ATV and side by sides reliable? I would have to say that Can-Am is just as reliable as any other brand so long as you’re not doing stupid things and take proper care of the ATV.
Most Common Can-Am Problems
The most common Can-Am ATV problems I see are often user errors.
I see many guys burn up their belts, hydrolock their engine, and just thrash the ATV.
I once had a guy roll his Outlander 1000 down the side of the mountain. Besides needing a new frame and plastics, the ATV ran and got him back to his truck.
Even more common problems are always the simple ones that affect all ATVs, like a dead battery or bad starter relay.
In other words, the most common Can-Am problems are just normal ATV problems or user error problems.
Unique Problem For Can-Ams
There is one unique problem for Can-Ams that doesn’t affect other ATVs because they don’t have it.
The digital key can be a problem.
The DESS system is great, it cuts down on theft, and the new style is far more reliable than the old-style or any key cut system.
The problem I see is the old key broke easily.
The new key is a dome that attaches to a knob, while the old-style looks like a key. The problem is that dirt and mud get trapped in the old keyhole and cause all kinds of starting issues.
Then in a few cases, the ATV would forget its key. Either the ROM on the key would wear out, or the contacts of the key or socket would wear out.
Then not only that but the keys can only be programmed by the dealer. You need to bring the whole ATV to the dealership to get it programmed; there is no giving the dealer the VIN; they need the entire ATV there with a charged battery.
Power Steering Was Okay
I hate to talk bad about Can-Am’s power steering, as every manufacturer’s first attempts were not that great either.
I would see a few power steering units go out when they first released power steering out to the world.
As time went on and they started giving 3 modes of power steering, they got a lot better.
A Switch To Different Coolant
Can-Am started to switch to a newer, longer-life coolant for their products.
This coolant was orange/pinkish and very different from the old green coolant they used to use.
The problem came from owners who did not know you can’t mix these coolants, or you create a sludge that clogs the cooling system and makes the ATV overheat.
I do find people complain about Can-Am’s overheating, but I find the engines just naturally run hot.
You do need to keep the radiator clear and allow the radiator fans to freely move, but you should be doing this with any ATV anyway.
When the radiator fans do kick on when riding hard and you come to a stop, you can feel the engine heat, but this is the same with most ATVs as you’re sitting on top of the engine.
The Brake Pads Kind Of Suck
To be fair, brake pads for most stock ATVs from the manufacturer suck.
The brakes on the Can-Am are quite good, along with other manufacturers, but they don’t last long, and when you get a chance, upgrade the brake pads.
How Reliable Are Can-Am Rotax Engines?
Rotax makes a lot of engines, especially for the parent company of Can-Am, BRP.
Other manufacturers like Aprilia even use a V-Twin Rotax engine in some of their motorcycles.
Probably the best thing about Can-Am is the Rotax engines. Rotax makes some of the best engines around, and not only are they quite reliable, but they often push the envelope for tech and power.
Can-Am Pushes Tech And Power
When we talk about Can-Am reliability, we must also consider the manufacturer’s DNA.
Can-Am likes trying new things, pushing the industry in new ways, and sometimes this may come at a cost.
Can-Am is not afraid to try new tech, new HP records, and go crazy with new ideas. Their engineers go crazy and love exploring new ideas that end up making their way to the market. Sometimes they overthink it or get it wrong and may require fixes.
Other manufacturers are slow and steady, rarely doing anything new.
You can’t have both, a company pushing new tech and features while also being boring and taking the safe route. You need both manufacturers, or else the market gets boring, and we all lose.
How Long Do Can-Am ATVs Last?
How long your Can-Am will last will depend on how well you take care of it.
You must keep in mind that the people having no issues with their Can-Ams don’t have the free time like the guy whose ATV is giving him problems. So you can’t go off what the forums are talking about as it’s not getting the full picture.
Just like every company will have its fan base, ATVs are no different. I know a lot of guys who are diehard Honda ATV fans. I know a few who even bought a Can-Am so that he could complain about it.
No matter the manufacturer, they all have some kind of issue. Nothing is perfect in the world, but you can better your odds by doing the proper maintenance when you’re suppose to and replace wear and tear items at the correct time too.
I had a 1999 Can-Am Traxter that was rode daily and rode hard. It was a pain to get started on a cold morning, but that sucker could pull just about anything. The only reason I stopped using it was that I could not get a part for the carburetor. That thing would still be going to this day if I could get that part.
If you want my opinion, I find Can-Am ATVs very reliable and worth the price.
Dealership Matters Too
When buying any ATV, you need to make sure you get a dealership you trust and has a good shop.
Never shop just on price; always consider what their shop cost and how trained they are. Every dealership must stay up to date and in good standing with the manufacturer. A dealership that is up to date and fully trained techs will be a lot better to deal with when something does happen.
When I read a lot of these forums of people complaining, I find it’s not the fault of the manufacturer but the dealership. Maybe the dealership didn’t prep the unit right or didn’t know about a particular problem as well as another dealership.
Getting a good dealership is a must when getting any ATV from any manufacturer.