UTVs are high performance off road machines. They come with lots of capability right off the dealership lot. Despite this, many UTV owners want to increase their vehicle’s off-roading capabilities and ground clearance. Portal axles are a great way to increase your vehicles ground clearance without having to buy big tires.
Did you know that a body lift for your UTV or truck doesn’t increase the ground clearance of your vehicle? This is because the differential is the lowest part of your vehicle, and a body lift doesn’t raise the diff any higher off of the ground.
The most common modification for off-roading enthusiasts is bigger tires. This modification has two benefits. The first is that they have better traction, and the second is that bigger tires increase ground clearance by raising the differential off the ground. The primary benefit of the body lift is that it allows clearance for the bigger tires. Portal axles allow you to significantly raise your UTV’s ground clearance without having to buy bigger tires.
What are Portal Gear Lifts?
A portal gear lift is basically a housing with three gears that connects the axle to the wheel hub. The housing is sealed to keep dirt, water, and other contaminates out of it. A portal gear lift will require one of these housing assemblies at each of your UTV’s wheels.
I was surprised at the diverse options SuperATV offers for UTV portal gear lifts. If your in the market for a portal gear lift for your UTV, I highly recommend checking out SuperATV’s products on amazon.
With a portal gear lift, the axle is sending its power to housing assembly which turns gears, usually three. At the bottom of the housing, is an output shaft which mates with your wheel hub. The height taken up by the housing and gears causing the lift. These lifts can increase the height of your UTV by 4in, 6in, or in extereme cases 8 inches, like this product from SuperATV.
A portal lift not only increases the height of your UTV, but it also keeps the CV joint angles before the lift. This is a huge advantage over body lifts which change the CV joint angles which can lead to binding, damage, and a shorter life expectancy of your driveline components.
If your looking to add even more lift after your portals, you can still add a standard suspension lift on top of the portals. However Portal gear lifts have a unique advantage over suspension lifts.
What is Gear Reduction?
When most UTV owners install a lift kit, they will also install larger diameter tires. These tires add a lot of weight and rotating inertia that many UTVs need a gear reduction in order to turn the tires easier. This is where a portal gear lift comes in. Not only does it increase the height of your UTV it also provides gear reduction via the gears in the housing enabling your engine to turn the bigger tires with ease.
Gear reduction is basically an arrangement of gears which takes a high input speed and drops that speed down at the output. For a portal gear lift, the high speed input is the axle going into the top of the housing, while the low speed output is the shaft that connects to the wheel hub.
The benefit of gear reduction is that these gears can increase the torque applied to the shaft at the wheel hub. This added torque allows the engine to spin the larger tires with ease.
With this gear reduction, your UTV will lose some of its top speed. However, to get this speed back, you can add larger diameter tires. SuperATV has a great calculator here. It will show you how large of tires you need to get your vehicle back to its stock top speed. The downside is that your engine is still creating the same amount of horsepower and torque, so it will take a longer time to hit your top speed than stock.
SuperATV offers portal gear lifts with 15%, 30%, and a massive 45% gear reduction. So depending on your needs, wants, and riding styles there is sure to be a lift for you.
Portal Gear Lift Pros
Portal gear lifts have lot of advantages, but they’re not for everyone. Here are some of the key advantages.
- Portal Gear lifts keep the same CV Joint angles as your stock UTV
- Increases ground clearance by making the differential sit higher!
- Easier to install compared to other types of lifts
- Lots of lift height options
- Built in gear reduction makes this lift ready for bigger tires out of the box
- You can select different levels of gear reduction based on the product
- Built in gear reduction reduces load on the axles and differential
- Increased UTV width offers more stability
Portal Gear Lift Cons
Almost every UTV modification will have its pros and cons. Portal gear lifts are no exception. While there are tons of advantages to portal gear lifts, they do have short comings.
The biggest disadvantage is the price. These lifts aren’t cheap. These lifts are commonly priced in the $2,500 to $4,000 price range. This is much more expensive than a standard suspension lift, but suspension lifts have their own issues. For instance suspension lifts usually have poor ride quality and reposition the CV joint angles which often leads to premature failure on the trail.
Another disadvantage is that portal gear lifts increase the unsprung weight of your UTV. Unsprung weight is bad because its not supported by the suspension. This can decrease responsiveness of the steering, and it will increase strain on several drive components. In particular the components are the bearings, tie rods, and ball joints. Bigger tires will stress these components out too. If you do go with portals, you might want to look into upgrading these components as well since nobody wants to get stuck on the trail.
One thing to keep in mind about portals is that they have oil inside of the housing for gear lubrication. Depending on the type of riding you do will depend on when you need to change this oil. For some applications like rock crawling, it could be every 250 miles for more water or sand riding, you may need to keep a closer eye on the condition of the oil.
The last disadvantage was also listed as a pro. Portals will increase the width of your UTV. A housing is usually 4in wide so it will increase your UTV’s width by 8inches total. This could be an issue for you if you only want to do tight trails.
Overall a portal gear lift itself is very reliable. The gears housing is sealed and has oil inside of it for lubrication so they last a long time. The lift is easy to install, and the built in gear reduction makes it a great choice if your planning on adding bigger tires.
A portal lift can work for all kinds of UTV drivers, but they are probably best suited for rock crawlers and mudders. That doesn’t mean they can’t do other styles of riding, but those are the applications where they will shine.
If you like reading about UTVs, be sure to check out our guide on the beset electric UTVs on the market here.