What kind of problems does a Can-Am Defender normally have? In this blog, we’ve outlined all the most important things you should watch for when you’re in the market for a Can-Am Defender. In the rest of the article, we’ll discuss every single problem in detail. Furthermore, we’ll tell you how to identify it, fix it and how much it costs to fix. Read on!

Also read: Are Can Ams Reliable, Check Your Model Here!

Can-Am Defender Problems

Join our free Facebook group and ask your question there. We promise you, you’ll get an answer from one of our team members or group members. Join the group here!

1. Air Intakes

The intake system location is one of the most common customer complaints. Many Defender owners who use them in dusty or sandy situations encounter issues with the intakes because of their poor stock location. The design flaw may cause many expensive problems.

For example, airflow to the engine can be drastically curtailed when too much dirt and dust get upon or into the air filter system. It can create a fuel-rich mixture, which contains too much gas and insufficient air, affecting how well the engine starts, idles, and runs. It causes the engine to run at an improper air-to-fuel ratio.

Bigger issues could also result from this design flaw. When debris like dust, dirt, grit, or grime bypasses an intake filter, it is delivered directly into the engine cylinders. And, is likely to do significant harm. Tiny sand and dust particles can rip a running engine apart from the inside, often causing it to fail.

A relatively simple upgrade to the filters will solve this issue. Upgraded filters cost around $72.95. You can also consider relocating the intake with a Snorkel kit. It extends the air intake points more towards the front or back of the rig, ensuring that they stay free from dust and dry. You can get a riser Snorkel kit for around $289.95.

2. Starting and Running Issues

A customer reports that, 

“I plow snow with my CAN-AM Defender. It occasionally becomes idle after running for extended periods. After restarting, it runs for a while and stalls. Also, starting it is particularly difficult after letting it rest in a chilly climate for a few days. The engine becomes frozen and needs numerous tries to start. The fluid in the valve doesn’t seem to be appropriate for the circumstance. Furthermore, the fuel pressure seems to add an extra burden to the engine. How can I resolve the issue?”

Fuel must enter the engine cylinders for it to run. Most current engines use fuel injectors instead of carburetors, mechanical components that combine gasoline and air in older engines. Insufficient fuel will flow into the cylinder where the fuel delivery system is not functioning as intended. Too much air and little gas result in a “lean” mixture, which can easily cause starting issues.

So, if you are sure the battery is in good working condition and the fuel and oil levels are fine, check the fuel delivery to establish the probable cause of your Defender’s failure to start. To check the fuel pressure and injectors:

  • Listen for the gasoline pump while turning the key, but do not start the machine.
  • You can use a fuel pressure gauge to check the pressure if you hear the gasoline pump. Pressure should maintain near 51 PSI and not drop immediately.
  • If the fuel pump doesn’t respond, it is probably the culprit behind your Defender’s failure to start. A defective fuel pump causes hard starts, sputters, backfires, and the engine shuts down while driving. Replace it. An OEM CAN-AM Defender fuel pump costs approximately $70.00

Note that although your Defender might start, there is no assurance that your air-to-fuel ratio is not excessively lean or excessively rich. Engines having trouble starting and shutting off are warning indicators of a potential fuel or air issue. Consider having it checked by an experienced technician.

Also read: Can-Am Outlander, Defender, Commander Fuel Pump Problems!

3. Shifting Problems

If the rig has an original belt and the idle is normal, the shifting problems may stem from shift cable issues, dirty clutches, worn EBS washers, worn or shredded drive belts, or a worn one-way bearing on the primary clutch. To get rid of any water or rust, it is a good idea to frequently check and change the oil in the front differential, rear differential, gearbox, and engine.

For example, a customer says,

“Have a 2016 Defender with 600 miles. Known issues primary and secondary clutch not operating properly due to water incursion into clutches below the center of bolts. The problem is the gear doesn’t engage in high or low, reverse partially, park, locks wheels. Checked shift cable adjustment doesn’t like to engage. What could be the problem”

A cable attached to the gear lever shift the gears. If the cable is moving, have someone rotate the gear lever from park to high, low, neutral, etc., to see if the cable is moving the small cam on the gearbox top. If not, you have a cable issue. If it moves and the gearbox doesn’t respond, the shift mechanism in the gearbox is defective. Check the clamp at the cam end to see whether it is tight where the cable moves, but the cam does not. An OEM CAN-AM Defender shift cable replacement goes for about $66.99.

Take the belt guard off, check the primary and secondary clutches, and give the belt a visual inspection. The belt may be damaged from trying to run with the belt guard full of water. With the engine switched off, remove the belt to check that the primary is open. Start the engine in neutral and have someone slowly rev it to observe whether the primary starts to close over 2000 RPM. If it does, the primary is good, but you should use compressed air to blast out the front of the primary to remove any belt dust, etc.

Use a Scotch Brite pad to clean the primary and secondary surfaces and remove the black belt residue. You can use brake-clean and a clean towel to carefully clean and polish the surfaces. Replace the belt and start the machine; in neutral and the wheels blocked. As you rev the engine and the RPM rises past 2000–2500 RPM, the primary should grab the belt and start turning the secondary. The primary will close, and the secondary clutch will open, indicating that both are functional. Otherwise, work on the clutches.

Also read: 4 x Most Common Can-Am Clutch Problems!

4. Safety Switch Issues

Although many people only use the Defender for fun, it is also a popular option for snow plow vehicles. A design error in the safety limit switch location can be inconvenient and frustrating when attempting to use your CAN-AM Defender to its working capacity. Also, a minor mistake could prevent the switch from working. The safety limit switch is helpful when mounting machinery, typically plows, to the Defender.

The safety limit switch controls lifting cables and guards against damaging the UTV and its equipment. Unfortunately, Can-Am installed this crucial control under the hood behind the solenoid. It is not an accessible location from inside the cab. Its awkward location hampers efficient work and raises safety issues, since users have circumvented the safety of this control to avoid the inconvenience.

To avoid the design inconvenience, a simple rewire can move this switch to the cabin interior. With some basic electrical understanding, you could rewire this yourself or buy a kit.

5. CVT Air Intake Fire Hazard Recalls 

The CPSC and BRP issued a recall because of a fire hazard for 20 CAN-AM Defender models for 2020 and 2021. The BRP side-by-side has track kits, the Apache 360 LT, and the Apache Back country track systems.

Snow can clog the stock CVT air intake, causing the drive belt to overheat and break, creating a fire risk.

Consider installing a CVT air intake relocation kit to relocate the intake in the cab area or an engine Snorkel kit to move the CVT air intake point higher at the back of the rig to keep it dry and dust free. A relocation is $53.03. You can get a Defender engine Snorkel Kit for $679.99.

6. Belt Squealing

Many CAN-AM Defender owners report belt squealing. It is common for engine drive belts to make high-pitched noise. It can occur for various reasons, including a worn belt, improper tension, and contaminants. Even though this is not a significant mechanical issue, it can be inconvenient if you have to spend a lot of time in the vehicle.

If tension is the issue, a simple adjustment may be able to resolve it. Another method for preventing this is belt dressing. But this will most likely only work if pollutants like dirt and oil are to blame. If the belt is fractured, worn, or old, replace it. An OEM CAN-AM Defender drive belt replacement costs $134.99.