The Polaris Trail Boss 250 marked the transition of American firm Polaris from being a snowmobile manufacturer to a producer of four-wheeled all-terrain vehicles. Launched in 1985, the Trail Boss aimed at going head-to-head with the Japanese giants in producing quality off-road vehicles that sported more creature comforts and an automatic transmission.
The Polaris Trail Boss 250 goes down in history as the first American-made production ATV. Featuring a two-stroke 244 cm3 power mill, automatic transmission, and a rear-wheel-drive system, this iconic off-road vehicle was launched alongside the Scrambler and was produced from 1985 to 1995.
From its inception, the Trail Boss 250 was a huge success and eventually became an inspiration for its higher-displacement siblings. Consumers grew to love the four-wheeler as a reliable workhorse and a speedster when put up against its four-stroke counterparts.
Conversely, others felt that despite its ingenuity, the automatic transmission killed the vehicle’s sportiness. Did the Trail Boss fit better as a utility or as a sport quad? Read on and be enlightened.
“Proudly American-made” – this phrase means more to Polaris than just a bragging statement. For the company and the Trail Boss 250, it signifies the beginning of the American firm breaking through the Japanese monopoly of the ATV landscape. And it successfully did so, considering that its concentration was previously on making farming equipment and snowmobiles.
Many enthusiasts consider the 1985 Polaris Trail Boss 250 to have a long ways to go before being on par with Kawasaki, Honda, or Yamaha vehicles. But for an entry-level quad, it did better than what many had expected.
This new player surprised everyone with its functionality and design and even managed to introduce the public to some company-exclusive features like an automatic transmission. While some aspects of the wheeler were quite conservative – such as its lighting and instrumentation – it nevertheless made for a very capable recreational and sport quad.
Polaris Trail Boss 250 Top Speed and Horsepower
With the Trail Boss, Polaris seemed to want to fuse the Honda ATC200E Big Red and the Suzuki LT250R Quadracer into an all-purpose quad. The result? Polaris released a total of four trims and 28 installments into the Polaris Trail Boss 250 lineup. These vehicles boasted a top speed of 54 mph (86.9 kph) and spewed 22 HP stock – similar to the Trailblazer.
Here is an epic sales video by Polaris that highlights the features of the company’s first four-wheeled off-road vehicle:
1992 Polaris Trail Boss 250 Specs & Features
The Polaris 250 Trail Boss is brought to life by a two-stroke, air-cooled reed valve single-cylinder engine. It has a bore-stroke ratio of 72 x 60 mm (2.83 x 2.36 inches).
The engine displacement is 244 cm3 (14.89 cubic inches) delivered by a 37-mm VM30SS Mikuni round-slide Polaris Trail Boss 250 carburetor (VM34SS Mikuni carb for 2×4 and 4×4 models), and its compression ratio is 6.1:1.
The fuel tank capacity is 4 US gallons/15.1 liters of regular gasoline with a minimum PON rating of 87 (oxygenated) or 89 (non-oxygenated).
An automatic Polaris Variable Transmission with E-Z Shift for forward, reverse, and neutral controls the Polaris Trail Boss 250. A rear two-wheel drive system handled by a 520 O-ring chain transfers power from the engine to the wheels. Similar to the Trailblazer, the gearshift is left-foot-operated.
The air intake is standard and attached to a plastic water snorkel, preventing water ingestion when traversing shallow water crossings. The final drive ratio is 13/34 84P (13/38 86P for 2×4 and 12/42 88P for 4×4 models).
The Trail Boss 250 uses an electric starter system. It has a triple-phase output alternator charging system with a rated output of 150 w @ 4,000 RPM and a 12V, 14 Ah 190-CCA battery powers it.
Any 14A-A2 battery (view deal on Amazon) formats will work on the Trail Boss 250. The vehicle also requires an NGK BR8ES spark plug with a gap of 0.028 inches (0.7 mm).
Oil injector capacity for the Polaris Trail Boss 250 is 2 US quarts/1.9 liters. Using Polaris Premium TC-W3 2 Stroke Oil or any equivalent variant without molybdenum additives makes for optimal performance of your quad. Just make sure that it meets manufacturer specs and MA JASO T 903 standard.
Front steel wheels across all trims are equipped with 22 X 8-10 tires, while the rear steel wheels with 24 X 11-10 tires. You can replace these stock tires with ITP Mudlite Mud/Snow AT Front Tires (view deal on Amazon) in the event of wear and tear.
The disc brake system consists of a Type II hydraulic master cylinder, front and rear hydraulic calipers, a single-lever front hydraulic disc brake, and a foot-operated rear hydraulic disc brake.
When servicing your brakes, remember never to interchange the master cylinder assemblies. And make sure to identify brake levers for proper reinstallation.
Enclosed in a steel body frame is a MacPherson Strut A-arm front suspension with 6.5 inches (165 mm) of travel and a progressive rate-independent rear suspension with 2-inch gas-charged mono shocks and 8.5 inches (215.9 mm) of travel.
This suspension design, mated with a 49.5-inch wheelbase, lends to the overall turning radius of 10 feet, making for more stable handling when traversing diverse types of terrain.
The overall vehicle dimensions are 73.2 x 44 x 44 inches (L x W x H) with 5.5 inches of ground clearance. The seat height is 33 inches for the base and 2×4 models (34 inches for the 4×4 trim). Dry weight ranges from 425 lbs to 490 lbs (192.8 to 222.3 Kg), depending on trim. The combined rack capacity is 200 lbs (90.7 Kg) with built-in racks and 725 lbs (328.9 Kg) if it has a rear cargo box with a 650-lb capacity.
The Trail Boss 250 has a steel frame and plastic body material in Aqua Marine, Bright White, Fire Red, and other colors standard with hand grips, front and rear fenders, handlebars, utility racks, full floorboards, a brush guard, and a CV boot cover.
Accessories such as a snow blade, an 8-hp mower, a boom spray, windshield, mud kit, and fairing can be added to the quad as an option. A speedo protector and a recovery 3,500-lb WARN AXON 35 Powersports Winch with Steel Cable Rope (view deal on Amazon) are also good pieces to have.
The vehicle has a 60-watt headlight lamp, a 5-watt taillight, and 2-watt indicator lights. You can replace stock bulbs with Nilight 2PCS 9″ 96w 9200LM Black Round Spot Light Pod (view deal on Amazon) on the Polaris 250 Trail Boss for better light distribution.
Polaris Trail Boss 250 Value
The MSRP of a Polaris Trail Boss 250 ranged from $2,648 to $4,099, depending on model year and trim – with the 1993 Polaris Trail Boss 250 4×4 version having the heftiest price tag. Unfortunately, MSRP for pre-1987 models is almost impossible to find, with obscure resources online.
At present, secondhand units resell for an average of $400-$600 (per Nada Guides data). Interestingly, its last three production models (marketed between 1994 and 1996) dropped at least $800 from the vehicle’s peak list price.
|Model Year & Trim||List Price||Retail/Trade-in|
|1985 Polaris Trail Boss 250||N/A||$100 – $870|
|1986 Polaris Trail Boss 250||N/A||$105 – $880|
|1987 Polaris Trail Boss 250||$2,648||$100 – $815|
|1987 Polaris Trail Boss 250 4×4||$3,298||$110 – $910|
|1988 Polaris Trail Boss 250 2×4||$2,799||$110 – $805|
|1988 Polaris Trail Boss 250 4×4||$3,599||$120 – $940|
|1988 Polaris Trail Boss 250 R/ES||$2,749||$100 – $715|
|1989-1990 Polaris Trail Boss 250||$2,749||$100 – $715|
|1989-1990 Polaris Trail Boss 250 2×4||$2,999||$115 – $845|
|1989-1990 Polaris Trail Boss 250 4×4||$3,699||$130 – $950|
|1991 Polaris Trail Boss 250||$2,899||$100 – $730|
|1991 Polaris Trail Boss 250 2×4||N/A||$115 – $845|
|1991 Polaris Trail Boss 250 4×4||N/A||$130 – $1,000|
|1992 Polaris Trail Boss 250||$2,949||$100 – $730|
|1992 Polaris Trail Boss 250 2×4||$3,349||$115 – $845|
|1992 Polaris Trail Boss 250 4×4||$3,999||$130 – $950|
|1993 Polaris Trail Boss 250||N/A||$400 – 1,200|
|1993 Polaris Trail Boss 250 2×4||$3,449||$400 – 1,200|
|1993 Polaris Trail Boss 250 4×4||$4,099||$400 – 1,200|
|1994 Polaris Trail Boss 250||$3,299||$400 – 1,200|
|1995 Polaris Trail Boss 250||$3,399||$400 – 1,200|
|1996-1999 Polaris Trail Boss 250||$3,499||$120 – $850|
Polaris Trail Boss 250 Pros and Cons
The Polaris Trail Boss 250 is an excellent quad for experienced young riders and even first-timers. However, it is far from perfect, with some trims performing better than others. A good example of this is the 2×4 trim, which provides riders that needed low range and front rack that are not present in a standard base model. On that note, here are some of the pros and cons of this 36-year old wheeler:
- Its automatic transmission, full floorboards, and good suspension make the Trail Boss one of the best-riding machines during its time.
- This two-stroke machine is relatively quicker when pinned against its 250-cc counterparts.
- Testers liked its Macpherson Strut front suspension and 6.3-inch wheel travel.
- When given proper care and upkeep, it will last for a long time.
- Tightening the chain is relatively easy on a Trail Boss. Just keep it at the proper adjustment, not too loose that it jumps off – 1 ½ inch slack (unloaded) with a ¼ inch to ½ inch (0.6–1.3 cm) deflection will do. Below is a video by Bob’s Lawn Service & Plowing that shows you how:
- Stock tires are better replaced with newer knobbies due to reliability issues.
- Having a two-stroke engine, the Trail Boss 250 tends to need half a choke to start even in the summer.
- Its engine noise does not make it suitable for hunting. Adding a muffler does not mitigate the noise level as much.
- The intake boot is very sensitive to dirt and, if not cleaned, will make your engine idle irregularly. When cracked or damaged, it can be a cause of hard starting.
- The standard Trail Boss 250 models do not have low range, which does not make them the right fit for hard pulling of heavy loads or driving in very steep inclines or rough country.
- Polaris Trail Boss 250 parts are hard to come by, which may come at a disadvantage should you encounter any trouble with it.
- It is pretty heavy for its class and has received differing reactions from riders. Some find that the added weight supports stability and rider safety, while others think this takes away from the quad’s overall handling.
What to Check on a Used Machine
Since you are now familiar with the advantages and disadvantages of owning a Trail Boss, knowing what to expect from a secondhand purchase will be equally useful. Below are a few things/parts of the vehicle that you will need to check to ensure that you get a hassle-free riding experience when on the road:
Check on the intake manifold.
This is the soft rubber boot between the engine and the carburetor that absorbs all the engine vibration. Ensure it’s not cracked or damaged to prevent your engine from idling irregularly. You can easily change the intake boot with an Allen wrench, a couple of screwdrivers, and a 3/8-inch end wrench. Plus, all you need to take out is the air cleaner box, the carb, and the boot – no need to unhook the gas, oil, or throttle control lines on the carb.
Inspect the plastic air filter box for any cracks or leaks.
Take the air cleaner lid off (all four wing nuts) while you are at it. Remember that a clean, serviceable air filter is crucial to the performance of your quad. Otherwise, an air filter not serviced regularly may result in shortened engine life and carburetor component wear. Take note that gas/oil staining into the airbox is normal. When cleaning, make sure never to immerse the air filter in water – this will keep dirt from being transferred to the clean air side of the filter. Likewise, never exceed a pressure of 40 psi if using compressed air.
Examine the gas and oil lines for looseness or leakage where they enter the carburetor.
The steel hose nipples press into the metal carburetor body of the quad. If these become loose, the only official fix is a new carburetor body. To prevent this from happening, some owners have their gas and oil nipples glued in.
Inspect the front wheel bearings and suspension bushings for looseness.
The ball bearings are easy to change and available from any bearing wholesaler or auto parts store. When installing new wheel hub inner bearings, make sure that they slide freely into the spindle. Otherwise, the wheel bearing torque will be affected. As for suspension bushings, ensure that the MacPherson strut cartridges are not in bad shape, apart from the bushings torqued to spec. Replacing struts should not be daunting. However, the strut cartridges are not inexpensive. So, you may need to consider that.
Other Polaris Trail Boss 250 parts you need to watch out for are the front master cylinder, fuel lines, hubs, battery, turn-key ignition, and pistons. If not scrutinized, these components may cause a lot of headaches and inconvenience for riders. Additionally, doing a test drive helps immensely with whether or not to go ahead with your secondhand purchase.
Most buyers can only hope to buy a problem-free vehicle. This 1996 Polaris Trail Boss 250 featured in a video by CombustionMonkey is a perfect example of a secondhand unit in mint condition:
Polaris Inc. is an American manufacturer known all over the world to have spawned the snowmobile industry. Founded in 1954 in Roseau, Minnesota, the Polaris Trail Boss 250 maker has grown from a humble farm equipment manufacturer into one of the big names in the snowmobile and all-terrain vehicle scene. Since its success with the 1956 Sno Traveler, the firm has carried over its manufacturing practices into the production of top-caliber motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles, electric vehicles, and combat/military vehicles.
Polaris’ core values are evident not only in its highly-successful off-road vehicles and motorcycles but also in its entire array of product offerings. To date, the firm’s continued pursuit of excellence has garnered itself a reported revenue of US$ 7B and a workforce of 12,000 employees worldwide.
Conclusion – Polaris Trail Boss 250 Review
In all honesty, the Polaris Trail Boss 250, being more of a utility than a sport vehicle, is largely dependent on the individual rider’s preferences. This is exactly the reason that Polaris opted to make the 4×4 into an all-purpose quad. With its utility components, low-end grunt, agility, and simplistic design, you can have this brute serve whatever function you deem it fit.
Furthermore, there are tons of upgrades you can do to this two-stroke machine. For a few hundred dollars, you can increase its power output from 22 to 30 hp, get a full exhaust silencer and clutch kit, and add more to its top-end.
Many owners have attested to enjoyable rounds in the farm, and thrilling runs out in the woods with this little overachiever. With an excellent pre-loved unit and the right mods, you will soon experience the same, too.