2001 Polaris Sportsman 500 Specs and Review

Demands for increased power output and additional features quickly rose as ATVs became more a part of people’s everyday lives. Luckily, Polaris was already two steps ahead with the 2001 Polaris Sportsman 500, which was ready for launch in the market. This sweet ride retained its functional design, was 26% more powerful, and (for some trims) a tad larger than its predecessors.

The 2001 Polaris Sportsman 500 belongs to the world’s best-selling automatic ATV lineup. Featuring two Special Edition trims, longer-lasting brakes, easier steering, and a High Output engine with 26% more power, this 4×4 is undoubtedly the most powerful four-wheeler in its class.

Learn more about the 2001 Sportsman 500 in this article, and discover how Polaris has succeeded, once again, in offering consumers an off-road gem packed with tech innovations and monstrous power – all these while keeping the vehicle’s unique design.

Green 2001 Polaris Sportsman 500 HO ATV

A Revamped Best-Seller

Polaris launched the 2001 Polaris Sportsman 500 in response to consumer reviews of the quad feeling underpowered. With this model, engineers upgraded the original power mill to a High Output engine. Likewise, the carburetor size changed from 34 mm to a 40-mm Mikuni BST, translating into a 26% power gain. Paired with tried-and-tested functionality and sleek design, the new features of the Sportsman 500 strengthened the 4×4’s foothold in the ATV scene.

In addition to an advanced engine, the Sportsman 500 offered two limited-edition trims – the Ducks Unlimited and Remington Special Edition – hunting-themed versions that were slightly heavier and packed with more accessories than base models. These SE models provided customers with more options for their purchase while keeping within a sustainable number of trims per production year. Not to mention that all 2001 trims still showcased a robust exterior and impressive tow capacity.

Trims & Models

Below is a list of trims and models produced during the 6th year of the Polaris Sportsman 500 lineup:

TrimModel
2001 Polaris Sportsman 500 H.O. (High Output, base)A01CH50AA/AB/AE
2001 Polaris Sportsman 500 DUSE (Ducks Unlimited)A01CH50AD
2001 Polaris Sportsman 500 H.O. DUSE (High Output, Ducks Unlimited)A00CH50AF
2001 Polaris Sportsman 500 H.O. RSE (High Output, Remington Special Edition)A00CH50AJ

Despite its earned accolades, the 2001 Polaris Sportsman 500 is not a perfect machine. While you can appreciate the wheeler’s stiff suspension in rough trail conditions, driving can become tiresome (or worse, a wrist-wrenching activity) over obstacles. The vehicle also does not ride as smooth as it should on downhill slopes. Steep descents on snow and mud become daunting, as the front wheels would not lock into the drivetrain despite being in AWD mode. Unfortunately, this also happens on steep inclines with the quad in reverse.

Yellow 2001 Polaris Sportsman 500 ATV

2001 Polaris Sportsman 500 Specs & Features

  • Engine – The quad uses a four-stroke, single-cylinder SOHC engine. It has a 92 x 75 mm (3.625 x 2.955 inches) bore-stroke ratio and a 10:2 compression ratio. The engine displacement is 499 cm3 (30.45 in3) delivered by a Mikuni BST40 carburetor, and maximum power output is 41.5 HP (30.57 kW or 35.275 WHP) based on Polaris’ marketing claims. It has a 5.25 US gallon fuel tank capacity of regular unleaded gasoline with a minimum PON rating of 87 (oxygenated) or 89 (non-oxygenated).

In this video, TheDIYMechanic does a carburetor teardown and rebuild on a 2001 Polaris Sportsman 500 H.O. he recently bought in an attempt to fix leaking carb issues with the utility quad:

  • Lubrication – Oil capacity is 2 quarts of SAE 0W-40 Polaris Premium 4 synthetic engine lubricant or its equivalent. For optimal engine performance, use synthetic oil with an API classification of SJ or higher – one that meets manufacturer specifications and JASO T903 MA standards. Oil variants without molybdenum additives protect the 4×4 against possible rust, corrosion, and damage to internal 2001 Polaris Sportsman 500 parts.
  • Drivetrain – An automatic Polaris Variable Transmission with E-Z shift high/low and reverse, a 30-mm belt width, and compound EBS handles power, delivered by a direct rear driveshaft and a Hilliard-type clutch assembly (view on Amazon) with a left-foot-operated gearshift. It offers dual driveline modes – AWD and 2WD – controlled via a thumb switch found on the right handlebar.
  • Ignition – The 2001 Sportsman 500 has a solid-state DC-CDI (Capacitor Discharge Ignition) electric start system with an auxiliary recoil starter. Ignition timing is 30° BTDC @ 5,000 RPM 2°. It has an alternator charging system with a rated output of 250 watts and requires an NGK BKR5E spark plug with a gap of 0.036 inches (0.9 mm). A 12V 190-CCA (Cold Cranking Amps) battery with assembled dimensions of 5.31 x 3.50 x 6.94 inches (134 x 89 x 176 mm – L x W x H) powers up electronic accessories like the digital gauge, odometer, tachometer, indicator lights, and DC outlet. Fully charge your battery before use and apply corrosion-resistant Nyogel grease (PN 2871329) on the bolts with a DEWALT 20V MAX Cordless Grease Gun (view on Amazon) for extended battery life.
  • Tires & Brakes – Front and rear wheels use 25 X 8-12 tires and 25 X 11-10 tires (12-inch rims in 2011). The disc brake system consists of a hand-operated single-lever hydraulic disc, 0.750-inch/0.500-inch master cylinders (front and rear), hydraulic hose, brake calipers (slave-cylinder), 7-mm brake pads, and auxiliary foot hydraulic brakes, all secured to the driveline. Remember that free play of the brake pedal should be within 0.125 to 0.250 inches (3.2-6.35 mm). Use only Polaris DOT 3 high-temperature brake fluid (PN 2870990) when servicing your quad’s brake systems.
  • Suspension – A MacPherson strut front suspension with 6.7 inches/1,702 mm (increased to 8.2 inches in 2011) of travel and a progressive-rate independent rear suspension with an anti-roll/stabilizer bar, 2-inch twin-tube shock absorbers, and 9.5 inches (2,413 mm) of travel lends to the excellent maneuverability of the Polaris Sportsman 500. The overall turning radius of 5.42 feet (165.1 cm) complements this and allows for tight turning and cornering angles.
  • Dimensions – The overall vehicle dimensions are 81 x 46 x 47 inches. The minimum unloaded ground clearance is 10 inches (later changed to 11.3 inches in 2011), and the wheelbase is 50.5 inches (1,282 mm). The dry weight is 697 lbs/316.4 Kg (750 lbs/340 Kg for AF/AJ models), and the seat height is 34 inches (863 mm). Tow capacity with a hitch is 1,225 lbs. With a brakeless trailer, it is 1,786 lbs. Tongue weight capacity is 35 lbs. GVWR is approximately 1,250-1,300 lbs – a combination of 740 lbs (336.3 Kg) curb weight, a maximum combined rack capacity of 270 lbs (122.5 Kg), tongue weight, plus passengers.
  • Exterior – It consists of a medium gloss black steel frame (Gen IV type) and plastic body material available in red, olive green, yellow, Advantage Wetlands Camo for the DUSE, and Mossy Oak Break-Up brand camo for the RSE. It comes standard with composite utility racks with lots of tie-down points, front and rear fenders, hand grips and handlebars, full floorboards, a full-length skid plate, and a CV boot cover. DUSE models come with full camouflage body panels and gun scabbards and appeal to hunters and ranchers.
  • Lighting – Two 27-watt grille-mounted low-beam lights and a 60-watt Halogen pod headlight provide the 2001 Polaris Sportsman 500 H.O. superior light distribution, all of which use multi-reflector lenses. The quad also has an 8.26-watt taillight, 26.9-watt brake light, and single-watt indicator lights. For better visibility during outdoor expeditions, replace stock lights with Nilight 9″ 96w 9200LM Red Round Spot Light Pod (view on Amazon).

2001 Polaris Sportsman 500 Cost

2001 Polaris Sportsman 500 values remained unchanged when compared to its precursor. Base, High-Output models still cost $6,999, while the Ducks Unlimited and Remington Special Edition trim stayed at $7,599. Depending on package inclusions like a snowblower, lawnmower, and winch, the list price can go up by $1,000. Performance upgrades and custom-fit parts make vehicle expenses even higher.

Based on retail pricing, RSE models tend to retain their value the best out of all the trims produced during that year, averaging at $1,325 (low) and $1,745 (mid-to-high). This is also apparent in online auctions and trader site listings, which sell used 2001 Polaris Sportsman 500s from $2,100 to $3,800. These are mostly limited-edition trims, only being sold by former owners due to non-usage. Units are in mint condition and may come with utility or high-performance accessories and mods. For pre-loved quads below this price range, make sure to inspect the condition of U-joints and bearings, belt, axle boots, battery, and tires. Spending a few dollars more on a well-maintained quad can save you a bundle in repair costs in the long run.

2001 Polaris Sportsman 500 Problems & Fixes

Here are some known issues with the 2001 Polaris Sportsman 500:

Clutch/Transmission

This issue is quite rampant in pre-1999 and 2001 Polaris Sportsman 500s. Owners observed that the quad starts to creep in gear and eventually stall the engine at idle beyond 1,000 miles. Less-aggressive riders who recognize the need to replace parts like the CV boot and stock battery may consider this normal wear and tear. Even so, it is not a cheap fix, costing approximately $600 with labor.

At worse, the symptoms escalate to jerking back and forth when slowing down or riding at low speeds in forward and reverse. You may even hear a clanking noise when taking off or pressing on the brakes. Do not worry about the clank as the Sportsman 500 is known to make a lot of noise. But for the jerking, you may want to check on the condition of your U-joints. In some cases, a bad drive belt is to blame. But if the symptom persists after replacing the belt, then you could be dealing with a more complex transmission problem.

Misfiring

Dirty or defective spark plugs cause your vehicle’s engine to run irregularly. When this happens, inspect the spark plug, as it may need to be cleaned or replaced. A faulty or low-voltage battery, fuel contamination, or starting or stopping without adequate warm-up could also be the culprit. Outside of the aforementioned, rev limiter or electronic control malfunctions, mechanical failures, exhaust system air leaks, faulty ignition system, and lean condition could also cause misfiring. To resolve, ask the assistance of your local dealer.

This video by Thomas Brian shares a perfect example of what may cause misfiring. He was either getting only one or no spark, but soon discovered that his kill switch had gone bad:

Overheating

An overheating engine typically stems from a compromised ATV/UTV cooling system. So aside from speculating on piston seizure as the source of the problem, you may want to check on potentially restricted airflow, blockage (in the radiator, lines, pump, or water jacket), cooling fan failure, bad radiator fan switch, or faulty hot light circuit – to name a few. You may want to open up your quad and improve air intake through mods. Correcting your carb jetting and adjustment and following torque specifications also help resolve the problem. More so when you ride on terrain in fluctuating altitudes.

Shifting Difficulties

Check the following things at the first sign of this problem:

  • Adjustment of idle speed, transmission, and engine torque stop, and linkage rod/rod end positioning
  • Quality and type of transmission oil
  • Drive belt deflection
  • Fasteners on rod ends and selector box
  • 1Shift selector rail travel
  • Worn, broken, or damaged rod ends, clevis pins, pivot arm bushings, or other internal transmission components

If you suspect an internal transmission problem is causing the issue, disconnect linkage rods from bell cranks to isolate the transmission. Next, manually select each gear range at the transmission bell crank and take the vehicle out for a test ride. You will know that the probable cause is outside the transmission if the 4×4 properly functions. Otherwise, disassemble transmission and inspect all gear dogs and bearings for wear (rounding) or damage.

As with any other ATV manufacturers in the market, tie rod ends, axle CV joints, suspension bushings, starter Bendix gears, All-Wheel Drive hubs, and clutches eventually wear out or fail and would need a proper repair or replacement. For pre-loved Sportsman riders, you are at the mercy of the former owners’ upkeep discipline. But if you got first dibs on your quad, then preventive maintenance is all you will ever need to keep your off-road companion in tip-top shape.

Red 2001 Polaris Sportsman 500 ATV

About Polaris

Polaris Inc. is an American firm known for spawning the snowmobile industry. Founded in 1954, Polaris originally manufactured farm equipment and only began producing snowmobiles within the same year it was born. It took the company an additional two years to grow its product line from 5 to 300 models. Three decades later, Polaris ventured into other industries and became a key player in the ATV landscape, successfully bringing the U.S. its first-ever American-made ATV in 1985. Since then, the maker of the 2001 Polaris Sportsman 500 has been continuously innovating, resulting in the advent of automatic transmission, Independent Rear Suspension (IRS), and Electronic Fuel Injection (EFI).

Conclusion – 2001 Polaris Sportsman 500

Undeniably, the 2001 Polaris Sportsman 500 is for outdoor adventurers, hunters, and aggressive riders. Its stiff and sturdy suspension, hunter-themed models, and smooth handling are always welcome characteristics, especially for those who love to ride on technical trails and rough conditions. Its ability to address its precursor’s shortcomings in power output makes the vehicle truly remarkable. This quad may not have the most affordable price point. But with what it has to offer, this classic four-wheeler gives you bang for your buck – and so much more.

Kris Peter

Adventure seeker and off-road enthusiast. I love the thrill of going off-road and taking on the elements.

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