1998 saw the release of the mid-sized Arctic Cat 500 4×4. This machine meant good news for the farmer but not so much for the aggressive rider. With its high ground clearance and nonprogressive steering, you might say that this Cat was a hodge-podge of sought-after vehicle characteristics. But thanks to its flaws, the Arctic Cat 400 that followed was able to achieve the perfect balance between being a hardworking behemoth and a trail monster.
The Arctic Cat 500 4×4 is a purpose-built utility vehicle that speaks strength and performance. With its high center of gravity, electronic fuel injection, a MultiRack Platform, and excellent towing capabilities, this quad is the perfect ride for adventurers, hunters, and campers.
Do not let its hunting-inclined features fool you, as this four-wheeler also performs exceptionally well on trails and diverse terrain. All it needs are capable, experienced hands to steer its wheels in the right direction. This 4×4 deserves a little bit more credit than what it currently gets.
About Arctic Cat 500 4×4
The Arctic Cat 500 4×4 is a rec-utility vehicle released in the market by then Arctic Cat (now a subsidiary of Textron Inc.) in the late 1990s. Often confused with the BearCat lineup, this 493-cc UTV fell under the mid-size class, which rivaled big-bore vehicles during its time. Many consider this wheeler odd due to some of its attributes, both pleasant and disadvantageous for riders. But collectively, its features packed a punch.
Consumers can choose between a carbureted trim or the 2002 Arctic Cat 500 with its EFI or Electronic Fuel Injection. Models had either a Duramatic automatic transmission or a five-speed, auto-clutch manual transmission with Hi-Lo range. Depending on model year and trim, riders may pick a quad in camo, red, or black finish. Add-ons were still available through dealerships and online traders – these enable owners to personalize their vehicles according to the function they will serve.
All Arctic Cat 500 vehicles came in TBX, TRV, M4, and LE trims. All had selectable dual driveline modes, Start-In Gear feature, hydraulic disc brakes, dual pistons, and coil spring shock absorbers. Models released before 2001 did not have a lot of options for accessories. But this was later made available for 2001 through 2007 models.
2004 Arctic Cat 500 4×4 Specs
- Engine – Power comes from a four-stroke, air/liquid-cooled, single-cylinder SOHC engine with a bore-stroke ratio of 87.5 × 82 millimeters (3.45 × 3.23 inches). Engine displacement is 493 cubic centimeters. A 36-mm Keihin CVK36 carburetor handles the air-fuel mixture. Fuel tank capacity is 24.6 Liters/6.50 US gallons (base/FIS) and 20.8 Liters/5.5 US gallons (TRV), with a 2.46 Liters/0.65 US gallon reserve. Engine covers protect riders’ legs from heat dissipation while reducing engine noise.
- Drivetrain – The vehicle offers selectable 2WD and 4WD driveline modes. Power travels either via a Duramatic automatic CVT transmission (with EBS Hi/Lo Range, Neutral & Reverse) for the 2001 Arctic Cat 500 or a five-speed dual-range manual transmission with a front locking differential that transfers engine torque to front wheels with push-button ease for the 2004 model. The 2005 Arctic Cat 500 4×4 trim comes with a front-drive selector switch located on the right-side handlebar, similar to its 400-cc sibling.
- Ignition – It is brought to life by an electronic CDI ignition with an auxiliary pull-start system and an NGK CR6E spark plug. A flywheel-Magneto alternator powers up electronic accessories. The wheeler requires a 12V 12Ah, 200-CCA (Cold Cranking Amps) battery with assembled dimensions of 6.00 x 3.44 x 5.75 inches (L x W x H). A NOCO Genius G4 6V/12V 4.4 Amp 4-Bank Battery Charger and Maintainer (view on Amazon) will help keep your 12V battery in perfect condition.
- Tires – Stock tires consist of Carlisle Badlands 25 x 8-12 front tires and Carlisle Badlands 25 x 11-12 rear tires mounted on steel wheels. Aluminum rims were available only for 2005 and 2006 Arctic Cat 500 LE models. Recommended tire pressure for both front and rear tires is 0.8-1.0 bar (according to load and route) for both road and off-road tires. Replace stock rubber with Maxxis Bighorn Radial Tires (view on Amazon) to handle rough terrain better.
- Brakes – Hand-operated, four-wheel hydraulic service brakes with lever lock and an auxiliary mechanical parking brake provide the quad stopping power.
- Suspension – The Arctic Cat 500 features independent double A-arms for front and rear suspension with five-way adjustable preload shocks that allow 8.27-inch/21-cm wheel travel on all fours. The vehicle does not have sway bars, which is a must for aggressive riders who require improved handling and cornering. Otherwise, average riders will find that the factory setup provides sufficient articulation and tire contact. Twelve inches of ground clearance enhance bump absorption and handling over irregular surfaces.
- Dimensions – The Cat’s overall dimensions are 85.8 x 48.8 x 50.8 inches (2,180 x 1,240 x 1,290 mm – L x W x H) for the base/FIS models and 94.1 x 48.8 x 50.8 inches (2,390 x 1,240 x 1,290 mm – L x W x H) for the TRV trim. The vehicle wheelbase is 50.4 and 58.3 inches for the base/FIS and TRV versions, respectively. Dry weight is 310-340 Kg/683.4-749.6 lbs. The 2-inch receiver hitch has a 1,050-lb towing capacity – complemented by a 45-Kg/99.2-lb front and 90-Kg/198.4-lb rear rack capacity.
- Exterior – It is composed of a tubular steel frame and plastic body material. All models feature racy bodywork, integrated footrests, 100-lb under-seat storage (with the battery), and additional storage located underneath the handlebars. The fuel tank’s location is at the front. A side panel conceals the auxiliary pull-start system. In the middle console between the handlebars is where you will find the digital display. Two 35-watt Halogen headlights provide the quad superior light distribution.
- MultiRack Platform (MRP) – This unique accessory system, referred to as SpeedRacks, attaches to the quad’s front and rear fenders. This receiver-rack design conveniently accepts several of the Arctic Cat exclusive accessory attachments to hold and haul gear securely.
This video by ATVTV provides a brief but comprehensive review of the 2004 Arctic Cat 500 4×4 TRV. The added weight and wheelbase of this 500-class vehicle’s two-up version tends to cancel out most of the shortcomings of the base model, making the TRV a better riding option for off-roaders:
Arctic Cat 500 Price
The list price of an Arctic Cat 500 is between $6,300 and $11,000, depending on the year, trim, transmission type, and package inclusions. TBX models come standard with a dump bed, TRVs are two-up vehicles, and LE Hunter’s Edition trims come with add-ons for hunters, making them pricier than the rest. I went ahead and consolidated data from Nada Guides for your reference (please note that these values only cover ’01 to ’07 models):
|Arctic Cat 500 Prices|
|Model Year||Transmission – Trim|
LE – Limited Edition
MRP – MultiRack Platform
|2001||4WD Manual – LE (Hunter)||MSRP: $6,749|
Average Retail: $1,350
|2001||4WD Automatic – LE (Hunter)||MSRP: $6,999|
Average Retail: $1,385
|2001 – 2007||4WD Manual||MSRP: $6,349 – $6,499|
Average Retail: $1,375 – $2,070
|2001 – 2007||4WD Automatic||MSRP: $6,599 – $6,699|
Average Retail: $1,360 – $2,100
|2002||4WD Manual EFI||MSRP: $6,599|
Average Retail: $1,430
|2002||4WD Automatic EFI||MSRP: $6,799|
Average Retail: $1,490
|2002 – 2006||4WD Automatic – TBX||MSRP: $6,999- $7,149|
Average Retail: $1,485 – $1,970
|2003 – 2004||4WD Automatic – MRP||MSRP: $6,749 – $6,949|
Average Retail: $1,515 – $1,605
|2004||4WD Manual – MRP||MSRP: $6,549|
Average Retail: 1,545
|2004 – 2006||4WD Automatic – TRV||MSRP: $7,399 – $7,599|
Average Retail: $1,705 – $2,230
|2005 – 2006||4WD Automatic – LE||MSRP: $7,449 – $7,549|
Average Retail: $1,600 – $2,170
|2006||4WD Automatic – M4||MSRP: $7,249|
Average Retail: $1,995
2005-2006 Arctic Cat 500 4×4 Limited Edition
The Arctic Cat 500 Limited Edition trims sported several aesthetic and functional enhancements compared to the base model. The vehicle’s characteristics made it more desirable for recreational riding as well as regular outdoor tasks. Below are some of the most notable enhancements the four-wheeler had:
- Transmission options expanded to include an automatic CVT shaft drive and Electronic Fuel Injection.
- Stock tires went from Carlisle Badlands to Goodyear Rawhide RS on all Arctic Cats for improved traction, steering control, and durability.
- Brakes had been upgraded to hydraulic discs for both front and rear, complemented by an improved suspension system.
- 2005-2006 LE trims had body-matching painted rims. The wheel composition changed from steel to machined aluminum.
- LE models were standard with heavy bull bar and A-arm protectors (optional with the base model and other trims).
- Hunter’s LE models had a Warn winch (view on Amazon), gun scabbard, Advantage camo covers made of urethane-coated polyester, and rear-mounted cargo bag with 8-point attachment straps.
- Improved instrumentation included a clock/hour meter, along with 13 other critical operation indicators.
- The proximity of the integrated winch mount and winch solenoid allowed quicker winch wiring installation.
Despite the enhancements mentioned, the LE trims were far from being the perfect off-roading vehicle. For one, the driveline lever, located left of the fuel tank, was low and felt awkward. This drawback was a big upset for riders, as this flaw carried over even to the 400-cc model launched in 2003. The suspension geometry for this quad still felt amiss, corrected only by its TRV sibling. Furthermore, the protruding transmission case cover cramped the foot brake and provided operators limited foot room with the scabbard installed.
Arctic Cat 500 Known Issues
Like any other quad, the Cat has a few hitches here and there, but nothing too complex that cannot be rectified. Some of them have been permanently resolved over time (especially with recent-year trims), but others seem to have been passed onto later models. Owners encounter the issues below with secondhand purchases. If you are in the middle of buying a pre-loved Cat, you should know of these Arctic Cat 500 ATV problems ahead of time:
Problems with the actuator seem to be prevalent across mid-size Arctic Cat models. It never fails to leave non-tech-savvy Cat owners puzzled. However, for experienced mechanics, correctly diagnosing the issue (actuator versus electrical) is already half-solving the problem. Naturally, you will still need to refer heavily to your owner’s manual and do fundamental tests for the fuse, power, ignition, and switch. Once these tests reveal nothing wrong in any of these individual components, only then would it be safe to say that the actuator is defective and would require replacement.
Bogs Down on Rough Terrain
This issue is common, especially for operators who ride in 8,000- to 10,000-feet elevations. If you are one of these adventurers, you may notice that your 4×4 bogs down badly and scuffles to hold 18 mph on gravel roads. Jetting the carburetor, cleaning the air filter, testing compression, and checking the choke are some of the things you can do to eliminate the problem. If all these fail, you will need to perform an Arctic Cat 500 carburetor adjustment, which ultimately solves the problem. Here is a video by MatthewMCRepair that shows you how it is done (he does it on a 400 Cat, which has similar components):
Some Cat owners report having issues when cranking but find that the quad is not starved for fuel and that fuel lines are not clogged upon inspection. Interestingly, Arctic Cat Prowler 500 models also have this problem. Should this happen to you, make sure to do the following:
- Take the carburetor off and completely disassemble, then thoroughly clean it
- Check that the float bowl is functional and that there are no crimped vent hoses
- Ensure the overflow drain on the carburetor is not blocked
- Clean your air filter to prevent your engine running rich
- Be careful not to hydro-lock the piston if excess fuel compresses above it
After you have done these initial steps, you may want to do a compression test first before digging deeper into what is causing the problem. Doing this will help you avoid doing complicated but unnecessary procedures such as taking the top end off when it is not warranted. Another trick is to change the oil (note how much oil was added), drain it into a see-through container, and observe if gas floats on top of it (then measure the gas content afterward). If you see no gas-oil separation, then you can rule out fuel contamination as the cause. After you rectify the issue, periodically drain the carburetor float bowl to prevent any recurrence.
- What kind of oil does the Arctic Cat 500 take? The Arctic Cat 500 requires 2.64 quarts/2.5 Liters of engine oil. The recommended engine oil is an SAE 10W-40 lube meeting at least an API service classification of SG or higher and JASO MA standard. For differential and final gear oil recommendations, the manufacturer recommends 275/250 mL of SAE approved 80W-90 hypoid lubricant.
- What fuel should I use for the Arctic Cat 500? Recommended fuel is unleaded gasoline with a research Octane number of 91 or higher. 24.6 Liters/6.50 US gallons (base/FIS) or 20.8 Liters/5.5 US gallons (TRV) of fuel should be enough to fill your tank. Stay away from fuel variants with more than 10% ethanol or 5% methanol to avoid damage to valves, piston rings, and exhaust systems.
Textron Inc., an industrial corporation from Rhode Island widely known for its snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles, is the maker of the Arctic Cat 500 4×4. This American firm is the parent company of Arctic Cat Inc., Cushman industrial vehicles, Cessna aircraft, Bell helicopters, E-Z-GO, TUG, McDonald Douglas, Bad Boy Buggies, and Greenlee tools. Textron’s continuous efforts to strengthen its product line has earned it a spot as one of the Fortune 500 companies. At present, the company’s offerings include gas-, electric-, and hybrid-powered off-road vehicles – among these are the Prowler, Stampede, Havoc, Wildcat, and Alterra lines of SxS and ATVs.
Conclusion – Arctic Cat 500 4×4
The drawbacks that the Arctic Cat 500 had in its initial production years paved the way for mechanical enhancements made evident in 2010 and more recent models. Now, the Cat’s features all work together in perfect harmony. Its lower center of gravity and long-travel suspension, on-the-fly 2WD/4WD modes with differential lock, and revamped seat design have improved the quad’s cornering and steering responsiveness.
Owning an earlier model year would be no different. You can expect a dependable, nifty off-road vehicle built for demanding work and hard play. With the right amount of care and proper maintenance, the Arctic Cat 500 guarantees to deliver a renewed sense of freedom when you ride.