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1999 Polaris Sportsman 500 Specs and Review

The 1999 Polaris Sportsman 500 lineage continues to be part of the top ATVs of all time for many enthusiasts and riders – even after a score from when it first launched. And why not? It was the world’s first off-road 4×4 to sport independent rear suspension, greatly influencing the mechanical design of all-terrain vehicles that followed after. The Sportsman 500 line was such a ground-breaking feat, successfully stopping the Japanese firms from monopolizing the market with their inexpensive, bulletproof dirt vehicles.

The 1999 Polaris Sportsman 500 was a mid-sized vehicle that revolutionized the ATV industry with its independent rear suspension. This system enabled the four-wheeler to go through wooded trails and uneven surfaces unscathed, giving riders a feeling of safety while riding outdoors.

A part of the riding community recognizes Arctic Cat to have introduced the first ATV line with a fully independent suspension (sans a sway bar) in 2002. While there are conflicting views about this, the truth is other ATV manufacturers have taken inspiration from Polaris’ brainchild.

Whether the company gets credit or not for being first, what is ultimately more important is that this ingenious feature has translated into the highly-engineered off-road behemoths of today.

Read on and learn more about this class-leading vehicle – specs, issues, and how to change the oil.

Two People Riding ATVs on Dirt Path

An All-Time Off-Road Icon

Despite its weight, the 1999 Polaris Sportsman was a fantastic machine. It managed to best many Japanese name-brands known for their sturdy vehicles with manual transmission. The revolutionary independent rear suspension, paired with EBS and the PVT system, invited more nouveau riders drawn to the vehicle’s ease of operation and its ability to boost confidence. The wheeler was especially favored by hunters and off-roaders for its hauling capabilities and hardiness.

Combining a powerful engine with a robust frame, the 1999 Polaris 500 Sportsman is an ideal workhorse for yard duty. It is excellent in areas otherwise inaccessible by a full-sized vehicle. The quad came in two versions – a base model and a hunter-themed Remington Special Edition or RSE.

Grippy stock tires, center-mounted digital instrument pod, under-seat air box, cleverly-designed composite racks, and built-in storage are some of the vehicle’s usual features. Consumers enjoy tons of benefits plus an affordable price point with the Sportsman, setting it apart from the competition.

1999 Polaris Sportsman 500 Specs & Features

  • Engine – The 1999 Sportsman 500 uses a four-stroke, liquid-cooled single-cylinder SOHC engine. It has a bore-stroke ratio of 92 x 75 mm (3.622 x 2.953 inches). The engine displacement is 498 cm3 (30.45 in3) delivered by a 34-mm Mikuni CV BST carburetor. Its compression ratio is 10.0:1. It has a dry-sump lubrication system. Fuel tank capacity is 5.25 US gallons/19.87 liters of regular unleaded gasoline with a minimum PON of 87. Do not use variants with more than 10% ethanol for best results.
  • Lubrication – The oil capacity is 2 US quarts. Use SAE 10W-40 Polaris Premium 4 Synthetic (without molybdenum additives) four-stroke engine oil or its equivalent – to achieve top performance. Ensure that it has a viscosity of at least SJ or higher and meets manufacturer specs and MA JASO T 903 standard. Royal Purple 1315 06315 Max-Cycle SAE 10W-40 High-Performance Motor Oil – 1 Quart (Case of 6) (view on Amazon) is an alternative, providing excellent rust and corrosion protection.
  • Drivetrain – A dual-range Polaris Variable Transmission (inclusive of reverse) with fixed-sheave EBS controls the 1999 Polaris Sportsman 500. It has a direct rear driveshaft with a Hilliard-type clutch assembly that reduces steering effort. Its gearshift is left-foot-operated. The air-intake tube is within the rear portion of the front fender. You might need a snorkel riser kit to avoid water ingestion completely.
  • Ignition – It has a Capacitor Discharge Ignition (CDI) electric starter system with an electronic advance and an auxiliary recoil starter. The charging system is a triple-phase output alternator. It has a rated output of 250 w @ 3000 RPM and is powered by a 12V, 190-CCA (Cold Cranking Amps) battery with assembled dimensions of 5.31 x 3.50 x 6.94 inches (L x W x H). Keep a spare MotoBatt MBTX14AU (12V 16.5 Amp) 190CCA Factory Activated QuadFlex AGM Battery (view on Amazon) to ensure uninterrupted outdoor fun.
  • Tires & Brakes – The front steel wheels use 25 X 8-10 tires. The rear steel wheels with 25 X 11-10 tires (later changed to 22 inches). Change stock knobbies to ITP Mud Lite AT Mud Terrain ATV Tires (view on Amazon) for serious mudding. The disc brake system uses a master cylinder, slave-cylinder brake calipers, brake lever, hydraulic hose, 7-mm brake pads, and 3.8- to 4.1-mm front hydraulic disc brakes.
  • Suspension – Enclosed in its frame is an independent MacPherson strut front suspension with 6.25 inches (158.75 mm) of travel and an independent progressive-rate rear suspension with an anti-roll bar and dual shock absorbers, allowing 9.5 inches of travel. The suspension design contributes to the overall turning radius of 5.41 feet (165 cm). This improves handling, especially when maneuvering through twisty trails and overgrowths.
  • Dimensions – The overall vehicle dimensions are 85 x 46 x 47 inches (2,159 x 1,168 x 1,194 mm – L x W x H) with a ground clearance of 11 inches and wheelbase of 50.5 inches. The seat height is 34 inches. Dry weight is 697 lbs (316.2 Kg); GVWR can go up to 1,200 lbs – a combination of 730-lb (331.1 Kg) curb weight, a maximum combined rack capacity of 270 lbs (122.5 Kg), plus passengers. Towing capacities using a hitch and a brakeless trailer are 1,225 lbs and 1,786 lbs, respectively. Tongue weight capacity is 35 lbs.
  • Exterior – The 1999 Polaris Sportsman 500 has a steel frame and plastic body material in red and olive (RSE in Mossy Oak camo). It came standard with hand grips, front and rear fenders, handlebars, full floorboards, a full-length skid plate, a standard brush guard, and a CV boot cover. Composite utility racks with lots of tie-down points are also included, creating room for plenty of gear. Using a Polaris Sportsman ATV Storage & Transport Cover (view on Amazon) is a great way to protect your quad from the elements.
  • Lighting – Two 27-watt grille-mounted low-beam lights and a 60-watt pod headlight all use multi-reflector lenses for superior light distribution. The quad also has an 8.26-watt taillight, 6.9-watt brake light, and 1-watt indicator lights.

Improvements Post 1998

Three years after its inception, some 1999 Polaris 500 Sportsman specs were altered, while most were upgraded. Here are a few of those changes:

  • Carburetor size was increased for the Remington Special Edition (RSE) trim and more recent Sportsman 500 versions – from 34 mm to 40 mm.
  • The main jet changed from 142.5 to 155.
  • Idle speed slightly changed too – from 1,100-1,300 RPM to 1,000-1,400 RPM.
  • Cooling fan settings temporarily differed for 1997 models but went back to original on/off-limits for 1998 and later-year models.
  • Since the 1997 model, the quad was fitted with slightly narrower and smaller 22-inch rear wheels.
  • Light indicator colors of transmission, override, and electronic throttle switches were changed.
  • The rear output shaft brake caliper changed from being controlled separately to either front or rear master cylinders.
  • Front-wheel travel increased from 6.25 inches to 8.2 inches. Rear-wheel travel remained unchanged.
  • The composition of cam lobes changed from soft metal to a sturdier material.

Polaris Sportsman 500 Cost

The standard 4×4 base model cost $6,749, while the Remington Special Edition trim was $750 more at $7,499. These MSRPs are exclusive of any add-on accessories outside of package inclusions. Retail prices for both the quads ranged from $455 to $2,460, making the average retail fall between $1,315 and $1,490.

Most pre-loved ’99 Sportsman 500s in auction listings is from the midsouth and southeast US regions. They are valued between $2,000 and $2,800. Inquire about brake or clutch problems when canvasing anything below $1,000.

1999 Polaris Sportsman 500 Problems


This problem usually results from a piston seizure, which is caused by the following:

  • Incorrect bore clearance or piston ring end gap
  • Compression or engine air leak
  • Faulty ignition timing or component
  • The wrong heat range on a spark plug

Tell-tale signs include black or grayish spots on electrodes with a bluish-burnt appearance, a warped or discolored battery case, or uneven brake pad wear (pointing to a potential brake system problem). Should you encounter this dilemma and the above causes check out, then consider ruling out the following:

  • clutch slippage
  • lean air-fuel mixture
  • cooling system malfunction
  • absence of a spark plug gasket
  • lubrication system malfunction
  • obstructions in the air filter system
  • damaged drivetrain components
  • incorrect carb adjustment or jetting
  • clogged radiator or coolant passages
  • overtightening during spark plug installation

Your 1999 Polaris Sportsman 500 owner’s manual would be your best friend in resolving any of these scenarios.

Cam Wear Issues

The four-wheeler’s cam and exhaust rocker being made of soft metal results in cam wear and manifests as bogging or throttle restrictiveness. Initially, you would want to check on the cams. If there appears to be no wear on the cam lobes, check for burned valves or if clearances are too tight. If the cam lobe is bad, then replace it along with the rocker arm.

Inspect the intake valves to see if gunked up with carbon. What is unusual about the Sportsman 500 is that its mechanical valves tighten up as they age, sometimes even pitting on the seats and valve face. So, make sure to adjust the valve clearance to 0.15mm/0.006 inches for both intake and exhaust. Do a compression test to confirm any speculation – the results should point you to the right troubleshooting steps.

Generally, the Sportsman 500 is bulletproof with no major problems. However, some 1999 Polaris Sportsman 500 parts are prone to faster wear and tear and may require close inspection. Among these parts are as follows:

  • Front and rear lower A-arm bolts
  • Cracked CV boots
  • Standard wear points – tie rod ends, axle CV joints, bushings, starter Bendix gears, AWD hubs, and clutches

Other reported problems dealing with electrical, EBS, or clutch slippage were either driver-inflicted, caused by a lack of knowledge, or have occurred in later-year 1999 Polaris Sportsman 500 models.

How to Change Oil (6 Steps)

Changing oil is one of the most frequently asked questions about the Sportsman 500. And because the 1999 Polaris Sportsman 500 owners manual is scarce, here are steps below:

  1. Lock the motor’s parking brake, start it, and let it idle for 2-3 minutes. Stop and turn off the ignition switch when the oil is warmed (and fluid) enough.
  2. Place an oil pan directly beneath the oil tank’s drain plug bolt. Unplug the drain, and allow the oil to drain completely. Replace the washer from the drain plug bolt with a new one. Reinstall the drain plug bolt of the oil tank by tightening it with a socket wrench.
  3. Pull the oil line off the fitting on the bottom of the oil tank by unscrewing the fitting. Make sure that the fitting’s internal oil screen is clear – use compressed air to clear this. Screw the fitting back into the oil tank until its nipple aligns with the markings. Apply a tiny amount of medium-strength thread-locking adhesive onto the fitting threads while ensuring they are properly torqued. Next, reconnect the oil line to the fitting.
  4. Reposition the oil pan directly below the drain plug bolt. Place it on the bottom of the motor’s oil sump and below the oil filter. Unscrew the oil sump and oil filter completely and completely drain any remaining oil. Discard the oil filter.
  5. Put a thin layer of oil around the gasket of the new oil filter. Then screw it into place by hand until it is against the motor, tightening the oil filter by an additional 1/4 turn.
  6. Remove the dipstick, fill up the tank with 2 quarts of new engine oil, then reinsert the dipstick.

After completing the oil change, determine that the oil pump is primed and ready. Do this by locating the oil tank’s vent line at the front and squeezing it shut with your fingers. Then let the motor run for 30 seconds, stop it, and listen as you release the vent line. Repeat this final step and only stop when you hear air rushing out of the vent line as you release it.

Common Questions

  • What is the top speed of a 1999 Polaris Sportsman 500? The top speed of a stock 1999 Polaris Sportsman 500 is approximately 60 mph. This figure is based on the top speed of a Sportsman 450 (57 mph) and a Sportsman 570 (62 mph). There is no formal review about the Polaris Sportsman 500 that confirms its advertised maximum speed. Luckily, increasing the speed of the Sportsman 500 is manageable. Installing a performance air filter, reducing your ride’s weight, and changing gear ratios can gain you at least five mph.
  • How much horsepower does a Polaris Sportsman 500 have? The 1999 Polaris Sportsman 500 has a maximum power output of 32 HP (23.9 kW or 18 WHP). Expectedly, this is slightly lower versus the Polaris Sportsman 450 HO, which has 33.00 HP (24.1 kW). This is due to the 500’s added weight. If you wish to power up your four-wheeler, the right mods will give you an additional 3 HP.
  • Are Polaris Sportsman 500s reliable? The 1999 Polaris Sportsman 500, like any other Polaris ATV, is designed to take a lot of damage. This fact more than compensates for the quad falling a bit short on speed and power. Although not all consumers find the attributes of the quad appealing, the Sportsman 500 is a top choice by military personnel due to its durability. It is a perfect mission and first-response vehicle.

About Polaris

Polaris Inc. is an American manufacturer that has pioneered some of the most remarkable ATV technology we know of today, namely: the automatic transmission, independent rear suspension, and electronic fuel injection (EFI). The 1999 Polaris Sportsman 500 maker began in the industry as a snowmobile manufacturer – put on the map by the 1956 Polaris Sno Traveler. This success later propelled the company to venture into ATV, motorcycle, and electric vehicle production, where it continued to show its ingenuity through innovation.

Conclusion – 1999 Polaris Sportsman 500

The Sportsman 500 is a testament to the durability of Polaris’ product line. It is one classic off-road machine with all the bells and whistles – the perfect four-wheeler for recreation, racing, or utility. This premium rec-utility vehicle can tackle water crossings, straightaways, bumpy terrain, and twisty trails as you go about your work or outdoor adventure while providing superb ride quality without any hassle.

Even beyond its 15-year production run, the 1999 Polaris Sportsman 500 continues to be a testament to Polaris’ highly-esteemed product line.