What kind of problems does a Polaris Sportsman 500 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 Polaris Sportsman 500. 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 Polaris ATVs Reliable, Check Your Model Here!

polaris sportsman 500 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. Engine Dies When Accelerating

The Sportsman 500 is known to die when accelerating after a few thousand miles under the engine. When this happens on a vehicle, the common suspects are the carburetor or the engine itself. You could end up spending hundreds, if not thousands, trying to fix the engine or carburetor without actually solving the problem.

So, what is the exact reason for the sportsman 500 to die when accelerating? Often, the problem is caused by a bad CDI. CDI stands for Capacitor Discharge Ignition, and it is the ignition system used on the Polaris Sportsman 500.

The CDI box in the Sportsman controls the timing, spark, rev limiter, and factory safety kill switch. Unfortunately, when the CDI box falters, there is a good chance that your engine will die when accelerating.

Thankfully, this is not a costly repair. A burnt CDI box can be easily replaced. The repair itself is rather easy. A burnt CDI can be replaced and the new CDI box will plug in just like stock. The cost ranges between $40 and $80.


The good news is that the CDI won’t fail out of the blue. You will notice a few different symptoms before the CDI box fails.

Symptoms of a failing CDI are easy to understand. Remember the functions of the CDI box, a failing CDI box will not execute those functions properly. If it is dying while accelerating due to a bad CDI, along with you might also encounter misfires, dying while idle, rough idling, rough running, and starting issues.

Even though the CDI is the prime suspect, there can be other causes why your Sportsman dies when accelerating. Sometimes the cause could be the common suspects, the camshaft or the carburetor. Meanwhile, you will run into the same problem with restricted airflow, damaged, or misaligned throttle cable, or a faulty fuel pump.

2. Engine Not Starting

This is another prominent issue with the Polaris Sportsman 500. Often the cause of this problem is the fuel. For this particular model, the company suggests that you do not use fuel with an octane rating of less than 87. Though this not might be the immediate cause why your engine doesn’t start, prolonged use of low-quality fuel could damage the engine.

Also, consider how long the fuel has been sitting in your tank. Gas older than a year can result in engine knocking, sputtering, or clogged injectors. If this were the case, you need to drain the tank and refill it. The same problems can be seen if there is water in the fuel, and the solution is the same.

Before coming to any conclusions, first, check whether there is fuel in your gas tank. If you haven’t used it in a while, you might have lost the marker on your fuel levels.

Once you’ve got your fuel scenario sorted out, if there were any, turn the cycle key to “on”. Do this 3 times, holding it for 5 seconds each. By then, your engine would have received enough fuel to fire up if the issue was related to the fuel.  

The reason why your engine is not starting might lie in the spark plugs. Sportsman 500 produced after 2000, comes with iridium spark plugs. These are the top of the line, and they can last upwards of 100,000 miles. But there is a slight chance that it could fail, and if your engine doesn’t start, it is worth inspecting the spark plugs.

A physical inspection should be enough to figure out the state of the spark plugs. Check for carbon deposits in the tip, signs of corrosion, or oil on the electrodes. If the spark plugs are damaged, go ahead and replace them.

If none of these solve the problem, then you’ve got a significant issue on your hands. It could be a clogged fuel filter, a waterlogged engine, or some other mechanical issue. Either way, you’d have to visit a mechanic and get your ATV diagnosed.

Also read: 6 x Polaris Starter (Solenoid) Problems and how to Fix It!

3. Engine Overheating

ATV goes through the nastiest terrains. And that leads to our next problem, overheating. There can be many reasons why your engine is overheating. But with the Polaris Sportsman 500, there is one cause that surfaces frequently, and it is associated with the radiator.

The coolant absorbs most of the temperature that the engine produces. And then it moves to the radiator to get the temperature down and make another run at cooling the engine. If the radiator is unable to reduce the temperature of the coolant, then it cannot absorb any more heat from the engine as it circulates the engine.

The radiator uses a series of flaps to manipulate the airflow and uses it to reduce the temperature of the coolant. If these flaps don’t function, that could result in a spike in engine temperature.

The reason why these flaps cease to function is the dirt it accumulates when you ride the ATV. As mentioned, ATVs are taken through the nastiest terrain. This leaves more room for dirt and mud to collect in the radiator flaps.

The solution to this problem is simple. All you have to do is wash the radiator with a hose. When doing so, avoid using a pressure washer. These flaps are pretty fragile, keep that in mind.

This is the common cause of overheating in a Sportsman 500.

If this does not solve the issue, you would have to look at some traditional reasons why an engine might overheat. The fan, thermostat, and the water pump are good places to start.

Also read: 6 x Polaris Overheating Problems and how to Fix it!

4. Backfiring

Backfiring is a common issue when it comes to ATVs. The same problem haunts the Polaris Sportsman 500 as well.

Backfiring occurs when the fuel mixture is ignited outside the combustion chamber. Usually, it happens when the fuel combusts either in the air intake or the exhaust system. Occasional backfired in ATVs are nothing to worry about. But if it does happen frequently, you need to act as soon as possible.

This is caused by unburnt fuel leaving the engine. If one of your spark plugs is not working, that would leave the fuel mixture entering a chamber unburnt. This fuel will leave through the exhaust. If the exhaust valve is open, this leaves room for the fuel to form a fuel/air mixture ready to ignite outside the combustion chamber.

The same result will be seen if your engine timing is off. When this happens, the compression inside the combustion chamber will not coincide with the time at which fuel enters the pistons. Thus resulting in unburnt fuel. Both issues will not only cause backfires, but they will also result in misfires.

What if you are experiencing this issue when all your spark plugs are working fine. In this case, the explanation lies in the fuel-air mixture. If your fuel mixture is too rich, meaning, there is too much fuel and the fuel-air mix is off, the fuel that enters the chamber will not completely combust. The remaining fuel will exit the combustion chamber unburnt.

So, how do you solve this problem? Start by inspecting the spark plugs. If you notice any of them damaged, replace them. If not, check the spark plug gap. Depending on the year and the model of your Sportsman, it could vary between .024 to .028 inches. Check the connection to the spark plug as well.  Make sure they are getting power to create a spark and ignite the fuel.

In the case of a rich fuel-air mixture, often the cause is a clogged air filter. If you have a foam filter, you can wash it to clear the debris. If your air filter is made of paper, you’d have to replace it, it will cost less than $50.

5. Transmission Problems

As the Polaris wears due to age, you might run into shifting problems. Most owners complain that their Sportsman doesn’t shift to reverse or high gear, and it is stuck in low gear.

Often the cause is a worn gear linkage. The answer to how long your transmission would last depends on your driving habits.

The repair is simple:

  1. Start by putting your ATV in neutral and exposing the gearbox by removing the seat.
  2. Now, remove the gear linkage from the shift box.
  3. Inspect bell cranks and ball ends for any signs of damage.
  4. Replace any damaged or worn-out components.
  5. Set the gear on neutral and adjust the ball ends, so they fit perfectly.

This is the most common transmission problem that you might encounter in a Sportsman 500.

Also read: 6 x Most Common Polaris Transmission Problems!

6. Electrical Problems

The electrical problems that you might encounter in the Sportsman 500 are not your typical electrical issue. Usually, when it comes to electrical problems, the battery, wiring, and fuses are the common suspect. But that is not the case with the Polaris Sportsman 500.

The Sportsman 500 has an issue with its voltage regulator. The voltage regulator ensures that the appropriate voltage is supplied to your electronics.

When this component fails, the battery ends up supplying a surplus of electricity. This ends up frying your bulbs. All your lights would briefly illuminate brightly and eventually give out.

The solution is to replace the voltage regulator in your Sportsman. This component could cost anywhere between $40 to $130. But if your bulbs are also damaged, you might have to spend more replacing them as well.

Also read: 7 x Most Common Polaris Voltage Regulator Problems!