Sporting an older Trail Boss/Magnum style body, the Polaris Sportsman 400 had been around since 1994. Following its launch, the four-wheeler evolved and was characterized by a distinct body, unique instrument/headlight pod, and improved transmission. These elements remained unchanged in the 2004 Polaris Sportsman 400.
The 2004 Polaris Sportsman 400 was the 9th release of the Sportsman 400 lineup since its inception in 1996. Featuring On-Demand AWD/2WD driveline modes, aggressive styling, enormous fuel capacity, and Lock & Ride attachment system, this vehicle was undoubtedly the best-value ATV on the market.
With an MSRP of less than $6,000, the 2004 Polaris Sportsman 400 offers a lot of value for its price. However, some consumers feel differently about the vehicle, saying that it is nothing more than a Sportsman 500 with a smaller engine and tons of engine braking problems. Whether or not this sentiment is true remains irresolute. But if you want to decide for yourself, then continue reading this article.
A Dated Sportsman
While the differences in design and functionality between a 2004 Polaris Sportsman 400 and its 500-class sibling is not great, many off-road enthusiasts and riders feel that the four-wheeler has fallen behind its competition. In truth, the design of the 4×4 has remained dormant since 1996. What may have worked for riders in the past may no longer be relevant or sufficient for then present-day aficionados.
The fact that it did not have a High Output powerplant like its siblings is one thing. Another is that it is still carbureted. Having a carburetor is not necessarily a bad thing. But with the advent of stricter emissions guidelines and more knowledgeable consumers who seek a fuel-efficient machine, fuel-injection would have been a welcome feature.
Its brake system was also something that consumers feel Polaris should have paid more attention to. Out of all the Sportsman vehicles, the “04 Sportsman 400 seemed to be the model most bombarded with brake issues. As if this were not enough, the resolution for these problems was also quite obscure.
There was only one model with three trims released in 2004, as follows:
|2004 Polaris Sportsman 400 (green trim)||A04CH42AA|
|2004 Polaris Sportsman 400 (red trim)||A04CH42AB|
|2004 Polaris Sportsman 400 (yellow trim)||A04CH42AC|
This trim count is considerably fewer than that of higher-displacement Sportsman models. But because dealerships offered customers hunter-themed accessories and body panels, this did not seem to matter.
Despite the shortcomings of the four-wheeler, it is still a well-loved and cherished off-road companion. Farmers especially love this capable and reliable workhorse. Because of its hardy appearance and robust engine, the Sportsman 400 became a favorite mode of transport when riding on rough straightaways and wooded trails. Its 850-pound towing capacity makes it extremely useful for accomplishing chores and yard work.
2004 Polaris Sportsman 400 Specs & Features
The 2004 Polaris Sportsman 400 is brought to life by a four-stroke, liquid-cooled single-cylinder engine with a bore-stroke ratio of 87.9 x 70 mm (3.461 x 2.756 inches) and a 9.2:1 compression ratio. Engine displacement is 425 cm3 (25.94 in3), delivered by a 34-mm Mikuni BST carburetor, and mated with a lubrication system (dry-sump).
It has a 5.25 US gallon (19.9 liters) fuel tank capacity – better than its fuel-injected 500-class sibling. Recommended fuel is either regular leaded or unleaded gasoline with a minimum PON rating of 87 (oxygenated) or 89 (non-oxygenated).
Oil capacity is 2 US quarts/1.89 liters of Polaris 0W-40 Synthetic Engine Lubricant or any API-certified SJ engine oil. For top performance, ensure that your preferred oil variant meets manufacturer specifications and JASO T903 MA standards, apart from having the correct API classification. Castrol 03101 Edge 0W-40 Advanced Full Synthetic Motor Oil (view on Amazon) is a good alternative in lieu of the manufacturer-recommended engine oil.
A 30-mm automatic Polaris Variable Transmission belt with driven Helix handles power. It comes from a direct rear driveshaft and a Hilliard-type clutch assembly. A gated H-shifter (with a H/L/N/R/P gearshift pattern) controls wheel spin.
Like other Sportsman models, the 2004 Polaris 400 Sportsman offers AWD/2WD modes controlled via a thumb switch located on the right handlebar. Since the Sportsman 400 is carbureted, the vehicle requires jetting adjustment when traversing terrain at altitudes above 6,000 feet.
The four-wheeler has a CDI (Capacitor Discharge Ignition) electric start system with a recoil starter for backup. The auxiliary outlet and other electronic accessories use a 12V, 12 Ah 210-CCA (Cold Cranking Amps) 2004 Polaris Sportsman 400 battery.
Current YTX14AH-BS battery formats like Yuasa YTX14AHL-BS Battery (view on Amazon) will perfectly fit in the ’04 Sportsman 400. However, many owners dread changing the battery because of its location in the quad.
Tires & Brakes
Front and rear steel wheels have a recommended tire pressure of 5 psi. Like the 500cc Sportsman, the 400’s front brakes are hydraulic discs. The rear is hydraulic, opposed piston caliper, fixed discs, and secured to the driveline.
A MacPherson strut front suspension with 6.7 inches (170 mm) of travel, 2-inch tubular shock absorbers, and 9.5 inches (241 mm) of travel lends to the 2004 Polaris Sportsman 400’s impressive maneuverability and handling. Its overall turning radius of 5.42 feet (165.1 cm) makes for tighter turning.
The 2004 Polaris 400 Sportsman’s overall dimensions are 81 x 46 x 47 inches, with a height of 41 inches (1,041 mm) if measured from the ground up to the saddle.
The minimum ground clearance when unloaded is 9.25 inches (235 mm), and the wheelbase is 50.5 inches (1,283 mm). The dry weight is 697 lbs/316 Kg, and the seat height is 34 inches (864 mm).
Hitch towing rating is 850 lbs (386 Kg) and ± 1,200 lbs (544 Kg) with a brakeless trailer. Tongue weight capacity is 30 lbs (13 Kg) and should not exceed 180 lbs (81 Kg) when combined with rear rack weight.
GVWR is 1,200 – a combination of the curb weight, 270-lb total rack capacity, passenger weight, and accessories.
Its Gen IV type steel frame has a medium gloss black finish, with a plastic body panel available in green, red, and yellow. Standard features include front and rear fenders, mudguards, front and rear composite utility racks, side panels with vents, hand grips and handlebars, full floorboards, and a full-length skid plate.
Mossy Oak Camouflage, Mossy Oak Break-Up, and Ducks Unlimited Wetlands accessories were available at dealerships and can be included in the package of a brand-new Sportsman 400.
A 60-watt Halogen pod headlight, 8.26-watt taillight, and 26.9-watt brake light provide the 4×4 superior light distribution. You may replace stock lights with LED ones for improved visibility during late-night wheeling and outdoor adventures. Led Light Bar Nilight 2PCS 9″ 96w Red Round Spot Light (view on Amazon) will go well with your red 2004 Polaris Sportsman 400.
2004 Polaris Sportsman 400 Value
The 2004 Polaris Sportsman 400 base model’s list price is $5,899 (exclusive of special-edition-themed accessories). This value is only $700 less than its higher-displacement sibling. Depending on package inclusions, the vehicle’s MSRP could increase by up to $2,000, making the 400-cc Sportsman more expensive than a 2004 Sportsman 500 High Output (Mossy Oak Camouflage) trim.
Average retail pricing and auction listings can be anywhere from $1,125 to $3,000. Most of these resale units are farm-owned with low mileage and little to no mechanical problems. Some have gun scabbards, closed front storage, ITP wheels, recovery winch, and glacier blade system included.
Depending on the quality of upkeep done by the previous owner, a secondhand Sportsman may have faulty resistors, torn seats, damaged CV joints, or a defective cooling fan. On the contrary, some vehicles may be in near-mint condition.
2004 Polaris Sportsman 400 Problems
You may notice that your quad will suddenly stop moving, accompanied by the sound of the belt hitting the clutch housing. If you experience this, you have PVT belt issues with your Sportsman, assuming that the belt is loose. To figure out if the belt is either glazed or stretched, owners take the vehicle apart. But at times, it would be difficult to tell if there is something in the clutch causing the malfunction or if the sheaves are grooved.
From here, you will need to have your service manual handy, as it is your best reference in addressing this problem (more so if it is your first time to do so). Additionally, you need to narrow down if the problem is coming from the front or rear clutch. Push the front clutch in and see if it retracts out.
If so, the problem could be in the rear clutch. Note that you will need a clutch puller to remove the drive (or front) clutch and a spider tool to separate it. Inversely, the rear clutch can be pulled off and taken apart manually.
Probable causes of this issue include plugged or embedded materials on the brake pads or discs, premature or excessive pad/brake disc wear, loose wheel hub or bearings, and warped or misaligned brake discs. The noise could also be from other 2004 Polaris Sportsman 400 parts, such as the chain, axle, hub, disc, or wheel.
Customarily, the first thing to do is clean your brake system components. Spraying the brake discs and pads with CRC Brakeleen or its equivalent helps remove foreign material potentially stuck in the disc or pads.
If this initial step does not work, inspect the front calipers, ports, controls, and switches if they need to be adjusted or repaired. The worst-case scenario is that you might have to replace your wheel hub or brake discs if you know the issue is not due to dirt or misalignment. Finally, look into other quad components if parts replacement does not eradicate the brake noise.
Parking Brake Not Holding Pressure
According to Sportsman owners, this problem usually happens when they engage the parking brake while on a slope. Although the brakes will stop on a dime, the four-wheeler will eventually start rolling after a minute. Pressing the hand brake provides plenty of resistance at first. But after repeated squeezes, the lever eventually closes to the handlebar grip. This incident has bewildered many Sportsman users, who could not quite point their finger at the cause of the problem.
The air in the lines, leaking seals, worn-down pads, pushing calipers and pistons out to the point of leaking, or bled-down master cylinder seals are some of the reasons behind the Sportsman 400 brakes not holding pressure. If the cause is simply air in the lines, bleeding the brakes to get rid of the air can easily resolve this. However, seals leaking in the master cylinder or calipers require a rebuild.
Unfortunately, rebuild kits do not exist for this Sportsman model. As such, you would have to replace the affected by getting an aftermarket part or a cheap Chinese alternative. Conversely, caliper piston seal kits are available for both front and rear calipers if you need them.
Some riders assume that they would see signs of leaking if their calipers were pushing out too far. While this is true, sometimes seals (especially small, worn-out piston seals in the master cylinder) distort only enough to allow air in – thus preventing a leak from being visible.
Additionally, the small master cylinder on the foot brake is known to have seals dry up or crack due to non-use. It is worth checking if you suspect that there is something wrong with your parking brake.
Polaris Sportsman 400 Top Speed
Sans upgrades, the marketed top speed of a ’04 Sportsman 400 is 54 mph. Putting in an HMF Engineering Titan XL Slip On Exhaust Muffler (view on Amazon), new clutch kit, less-restrictive air filter, and taller tires can give your quad a gain of at least 3-4 mph. Professional racing outfitters do additional tweaks that allow them to raise the Sportsman’s top-end speed to 65 mph:
- Swapping the stock power mill for a bigger carburetor
- Getting Hot Cams that will improve torque and power output at low RPM
- Porting the cylinder head
- Increasing the quad’s compression ratio without going over 10:1
Polaris Inc. is an American firm known for introducing consumers and enthusiasts to ground-breaking innovations such as automatic transmission, Independent Rear Suspension (IRS), and Electronic Fuel Injection (EFI). The maker of the 2004 Polaris Sportsman 400 traces its humble beginnings to producing farm equipment before successfully spawning the snowmobile industry in 1954 and releasing the Sno Traveler in 1956. Through its best-selling utility product line and many other off-road creations, the American manufacturer has and continues to strengthen its foothold in the ATV landscape.
Conclusion – 2004 Polaris Sportsman 400 Review
Setting the absence of an H.O. engine and EFI fuel system aside, the 2004 Polaris Sportsman is one powerful and capable mean machine. Its drivetrain and braking system still had a long way to go, but in 2009 it eventually got there. And while the vehicle’s flaws were all the fuss in 2004, at present, they would be close to negligible – given the multitude of upgrades and performance parts that can be fitted into ATVs.
Thanks to online tutorials, excellent aftermarket and riding community support, and an increase of savvy ATV owners, we can surely breathe new life into the iconic Sportsman 400.
Kris is an avid off-roader and outdoor enthusiast who loves to brave the elements and take on challenging terrain. He also enjoys sharing his passion and knowledge with others so that they, too, can appreciate the ride.