Polaris Sportsman 850 Complaints and Problems – Is Your New ATV A Lemon?

Battery, power steering, electrical and engine fire issues among the top complaints from vehicle owners

Updated on Author: Brian Jones

The Polaris Sportsman 850 continues to be one of the top-sellers in the ATV market. The company claims it brings “legendary toughness” with it. That’s exactly what most off-road riders want to have, but this model isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. It seems that the four-wheeler regularly suffers from battery problems, engine malfunctions and even a fire risk.

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Battery Problems

The battery on an ATV needs to maintain power at all times so users can start it anytime and anywhere. When the battery doesn’t supply the necessary power, riders can find themselves trapped in the middle of nowhere.

One user wrote this on the Consumer Affairs website about the Sportsman 850, “Bought an 850 Polaris single up, brand new. First year had a parasitic drain on the battery. I took it back to the dealer 3 times to get fixed. Second year the transmission went. Had only 350 miles on it and I am flipping the bill on it. Worst thing I have ever bought. I will be contacting the BBB.”

It’s clear that this owner’s issues go beyond the battery, although that was a nuisance in itself. Once that was finally resolved after THREE visits, it was then time to deal with further transmission problems. What a pain. From where we sit, this ATV doesn’t seem to have the “toughness” needed to handle being off-road. It might do better as a golf cart for grandpa.

Here are some actual complaints logged with ConsumerAffairs about the Polaris ATVs Build Quality and Reliability Issues

2018 Polaris 850sp – So far this atv has been in shop 7 times for coolant fan, power steering 3 times, display screen went out, brakes and now the motor went out and Polaris won’t fix it. They said I got dust in the motor through air cleaner so they won’t cover it because the air cleaner had ripples in it which came from me blowing it out with a air gun. They tried to say it’s from getting wet. I have never got water in airbox. I will never buy a Polaris again. They won’t back their junk up.

Have owned two new sportsman, 600 and 850, both junk, money pits. Traded in 600 because of constant issues, was told the 850 addressed all our issues and was a good machine. Not true. Have spent around $6000 just keeping it running. All Polaris manufacturing issues and they stand behind nothing. We are afraid to use it because we do not want to break it or wear out the cheap parts it is made from. Unless you know a dealer that will take some of the hit towards fixes run away from polaris. Just spent $3000 in parts for normal wear and tear. So, go ahead, buy a Polaris, I Dare You.

Electrical/Engine Problems

While heading down the trail in the woods, users want to know that they have a reliable and consistent engine to get them to where they are going. When problems begin, it causes insecurity and makes many question their purchase.

One user on the Polaris ATV forums discussed some concerns with their four-wheeler. “I purchased the bike and had a lot of fun on. The power it has is unbelievable. We were riding with friends and I was on my other ATV and my wife was on the 850. She came up to me and said the four-wheeler cut off. I said let me jump off and get on with you. Take me down the same path you went and do all the same things you were doing. Sure enough the bike was killing the power for about a second and then firing back up. Lost all power, lights, etc. I called the dealer and when taking it off the trailer to take it in. I turned the bike hard left and the bike died. Turns out there was a wire on the left side that was getting pinched and killing the bike. The dealer had to take and redo the connection”

What is discussed later in this forum is how the problem did come back after the repair. This time, it was not related to the wire and the dealer was unable to find the problem. The customer was told to contact Polaris to get more guidance. In the meantime, they are just supposed to have unreliable off-road transportation, which is completely unacceptable, especially considering this ATV claims to have “legendary toughness.”

Fire Hazard Issues

Polaris continues to battle issues with fire-related complaints. It’s been an ongoing concern for the company for numerous years. Sadly, this doesn’t seem to change on the newer models of the Polaris Sportsman 850.

The same reviewer from above on the Polaris A850TV Forums, also had this to say, “Mine seems to get extremely hot on the right side.”

When looking at the history of the Polaris Company over recent years, it’s evident that dealing with fires is something they are accustomed to. In 2017, a recall was issued related to a right-side panel heat shield that can melt, leaving riders exposed to fire and burn hazards. It took the manufacturer several years before issuing his recall, which means that newer models might be susceptible as well, but the company just hasn’t notified people yet.

Steering Problems

While the complaints related to the power steering appear conveniently buried, it’s clear that there have been issues throughout the past years. It’s been another sore spot for the company. Of course, this equipment is something all of the paid-for advertisements boast about, but Polaris never seemed to get it right.

In fact, a recall issued in 2017 talked about how the power steering unit can malfunction and lead to a crash. The company claims that out of the 15 reports made, no one was injured, but we are sure there has to be more than that. It seems the company is trying to keep everything very hush-hush. After all, it would hurt their reputation if everyone knew that this equipment was faulty. Who would want to pay so much for an ATV that doesn’t feature this sophisticated technology? To drive this machine, one would have to exhibit plenty of toughness themselves.

Your Lemon Law Legal Rights

Think you have a lemon? Sit back and let the experts work out your lemon case at no cost to you. The law makes Polaris pay legal fees. You may be able to get your lemon out of your life. Every year, auto manufacturers buy back, replace or pay cash settlements to thousands of ‘lemon’ owners like you.

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Brian Jones

About the Author:

Brian Jones spent more than 30 years working as an ASE Certified Master Tech and Parts Specialist at multiple dealerships. Brian has become an authority in the industry, traveling across the country to consult for car dealerships and contributing his expertise as a writer for several major automotive publications. In his spare time, Brian enjoys working on pickup trucks, muscle cars, Jeeps and anything related to motorsports.

See more posts from Brian Jones
  • Jason

    Bought a 2022 850 sportsman touring
    Gas pump done
    Starter done
    Electrical problems
    A real piece of s***

  • Roy

    I have a 2022 Polaris 850 sportsman highlifter I had the motor replaced with a new POLARIS crate engine. The engine came out to be defective and because it’s past the 30 day warranty now, they do want to cover the bike. Only have 38 hours on it.

  • Michael C

    I have a 2012 850 sportsman with 1264 miles on it, always garaged only dealership serviced and now it seams that the camshaft has a pressed on timing gear that has slipped throwing the timing out, according to the dealer this is a known factory flaw that I get to pay for.

  • Elizabeth S

    purchased 2021 back in september – 850 touring. has had a rattle since we purchased. brought it in and they said the rattle is “normal”. we left it there saying its not normal, so they replaced part of the exhaust, now the bushing is not sitting right on one, and they said that is normal. This is Tousley motorsports in St Paul MN where we purchased and brought for these issues. SUPER disapointed in this machine. not sure where to go from here, i called Polaris and they said they can’t help.

  • Mary A

    Wow! Just bought a 2022 Polaris 850 Highlifter. Already in for repair after only one month of owning it!!

  • Greg f

    I went and got the brand new Sportsman 850 high lifter. Broke within the first hour of owning it. The dealer held it for 2 month out of the 6 month warranty. Got it back and broke again. The dealer held it for another 2 months. Now I had two hours of ride time and only 2 months remaining on the warranty. Got it back and it broke again. They held it this time to make sure all the warranty was up then fixed it. The problem was that the tires were too big, 29.5 outlaws from factory, were ripping the front diff apart. Polaris used up all my warranty on their mistake and left me with the bag. It never ran right. Got it back with the warranty time card all used up, to find its got electric problems. I can only ride it till it gets hot then it dies, and won’t start till it cools all the way down, an hour, then starts. I can’t drive my new bike cause I don’t know were it will leave me. Can’t sell it cause no one wants a Polaris. I’m so disappointed, I should have gone with can am. I’m a retired vet on a fixed income that needed that bike to get me back into the wild. Unfortunately I had to take up gardening instead ….

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