Nicholas Fluhart

August 8, 2009

Project: Honda Foreman 450 to 475

Filed under: Project: 475 Foreman — Nicholas Fluhart @ 9:18 pm

Most of the ATV’s I’ve owned (my personal ATV’s I buy to keep, not to be confused with the many ATV’s I buy and sell as part of my business) have been sport or racing bikes, so when I had the opportunity to purchase this 1998 Honda 450 Foreman I envisioned building a magnum industrial/utility machine. And that’s just what I did.

Before

After

I had a friend who received this ATV from his cousin who is a poultry farmer in northern Arkansas. The ATV was used daily on the farm and from 1998 to 2004 acquired over 15,000 miles. Yes, that’s a lot of miles for an ATV. But even harder to believe is the engine, differentials, and axles were all completely stock and in good condition.

Lots of miles and lots of hours

Lots of miles and lots of hours

That was until he handed the key to his son who promptly sunk it in a mud hole and drowned out the engine. He brought it to my shop and I completely rebuilt the engine from top to bottom. A few months later the same thing happened again. This time, due to the digestion of sand and sediment, other components in the engine were beginning to fail, such as the cam chain adjuster and the clutch. Rather than continuing to dump money into something his son would systematically destroy, he decided to sell it. I offered him $500 and he gladly took it. I knew I could part it out for twice that amount, so I felt safe with my offer.

– Initial Inspection

Now it was time to inspect the machine from front to back and determine if it would be worth restoring and what parts would be needed. I knew the engine would need a complete overhaul, but the axles and differentials were sound. It did, however, need most of the bearings replaced and both front and rear brakes needed to be completely rebuilt. I obtained parts pricing from my extensive parts networks and calculated it would need about $500 in parts. I estimated an additional $500 may be needed for unseen damage and the many accessories I planed to install. This would put my total investment at $1500 and I would have a completely rebuilt, ready to ride, excellent ATV loaded with all the accessories and equipment I needed, like which I could not have bought one for that amount. Of course, as with many personal projects, you can’t really put a dollar value on your time invested. It has to be a labor of love.

– Chassis

The first thing I did was strip it down to the frame. The frame consists of square backbone rails and round tubing. Frames can easily rust through in places unseen, so I painted the entire frame in a semi-gloss black. On the front, the A-arm bushings and ball joints were in good condition so I just painted the A-arms. I inspected, adjusted, striped, and painted the tie rods in a low-gloss silver. The front axles and boots were in great shape, but I did have to replace the wheel bearings and seals. The front differential was in excellent condition and clean inside so I polished the exterior to a shine and applied a clear coat to prevent oxidation. I performed the same procedure on the rear including replacing the axle bearings in the axle housings.

One thing that really showed the mileage on the machine was the left foot peg on the gear shift side. The teeth were worn smooth from extensive use of the gear shifter. See the difference between the left and right foot pegs below. Aside from that, they were straight and functional so I gave them a shot of paint and let them go.

Left Foot Peg

Left Foot Peg Worn Smooth

Right Foot Peg

Right Foot Peg

Up on the handlebars the grips were also worn smooth so I replaced them with a pair of OEM Honda grips from a new TRX450R race bike. Another thing I considered was to replace the instrument cluster because, as you can see in the odometer photo above, the LCD display is damaged. However, upon further consideration I decided to keep the unit. Although it is damaged, it is perfectly functional. But the main reason I decided to keep it was due to the fact that the odometer is the only way I can prove how many miles are on this ATV, because I’m confident no one would believe it otherwise.

The suspension needed some attention. Believe it or not, the shocks themselves were in great shape but the bushings were worn. I cut new bushings and added some shims where needed and they work great.

Left Front Shock

Left Front Shock

Left Rear Shock

Left Rear Shock

– Brakes

The front brakes were still moderately functional. The hydraulic system was sealed but the shoe adjusters were completely frozen, the shoe linings were worn, and the drum seals were damaged. I completely rebuilt the front wheel cylinders. I honed the inside of the wheel cylinders and replaced the seals. I sand blasted the adjusters, soaked them in penetrating oil, and eventually freed them. I installed new shoes and springs as well. I then sand blasted the drums, polished them, and installed new drum seals. I bled the system and it is now functional. I will note that due to the rough drums it doesn’t really stop on a dime, but they will slow you down and eventually lock up. If I get the energy, I may install new drums at some point, but they work well for my purposes.

The rear brake was a disaster. The pedal was frozen and the hand brake cable was broken. The shoes were worn and the whole enclosed brake was full of dried mud. I disassembled the entire assembly and cleaned everything. I had to apply heat to the brake pedal to get it off. Once removed, I cleaned, painted and reinstalled it with plenty of grease on the pivot shaft. I installed new shoes and springs on the brake plate after I freed the brake cam and cleaned and reinstalled it with plenty of grease. I also installed new axle bearings in the brake plate. I sand blasted the drum and installed a new seal in the drum cover after painting it. The brakes worked great.

– Engine

After preparing the chassis, I shifted focus to the engine. I completely disassembled the entire engine to clean and inspect all the components. What does sediment from a mud hole do to the internal components of an engine? Here’s what I found after flushing the sediment from all the parts:

-The wrist pin eye in the connecting rod was worn (a common failure for all the longitudinally mounted Honda engines).

– The main bearings had slack.

– The main clutch plates were worn a little beyond spec.

– The clutch sprag (also called a one-way bearing, although technically it is not a bearing) was defective.

– The cam chain adjuster/tensioner had completely failed.

While surfing the web for parts, I was able to find a nice used crankshaft with main bearings for about $50 plus shipping. This took care of the worn rod and bearing problem. I bought a set of EBC clutch plates (fiber plates) and I happened to have a new set of steel plates that worked. The new clutch sprag was about $80. The centrifugal clutch shoes showed some wear, so I cut new grooves in them to displace the oil and it works great. I purchased a used cam chain tensioner locally for $20. I stumbled upon a 475 big bore kit from Highlifter for less than $200. It included the complete piston kit, cylinder sleeve, gaskets, and a 480 grind Web cam. I hadn’t planned on going with a big bore, but I couldn’t pass up the deal. I did some research and found that this kit had a good reputation, so I went with it. It allows for the use of the stock valve train, carburetor, and intake. I took the cylinder to a friend’s shop who installed the new sleeve. I reworked the head myself and now it was time to assemble the engine starting with the bottom end.

Assembling the Bottom End

Since the engine had been sunk in the mud, I really had to clean the cases, transmission, and bearings thoroughly. One thing that really helped on this project was my pneumatic gasket scraper seen setting on the left side of the table in the photo above. Using Permatex gasket remover also saves a lot of time.

After assembling the bottom end, the top end went together easily. When I first went to start the engine, the starter didn’t have to spin the crank a quarter turn before it fired right up. I ran it at a certain RPM to break in the cam, then it was ready to ride. It has the sweetest sound.

Unfortunately, I don’t have many photo’s of the build, but here’s some pics of the finished product…

Omni Recovery ATV Omni Recovery ATV

If you’re looking for a solid, workhorse ATV, this is one of the best.

Omni Recovery ATV Omni Recovery ATV

For more information and some general specs, as well as a list of all the accessories and equipment I have on my Foreman, see the Honda Foreman 475 Omni Recovery ATV page here.

August 5, 2009

Honda Foreman 475 Omni Recovery ATV

Filed under: Bikes, Trikes, ATVs,Project: 475 Foreman — Nicholas Fluhart @ 1:45 am

What started out as a stock Honda 450 Foreman S is now the utilitarian king of my ATV collection. This is the finished product of an in depth rebuild project after about 16,000 miles…..yes that’s right; a bunch of miles and a bunch of hours. This page provides some general information on my particular machine. I’ve posted a few specs, equipment and accessory info as well as some pros and cons from my perspective. Overall, I have to say I am more than satisfied with the performance capability of this machine as it relates to what I wanted from a utility ATV. I wanted a reliable, bulletproof, machine that could handle everything from normal recreational riding to industrial applications. Check out theForeman project page for more on what went into building this bike. Also, here’s some history of the Honda Foreman line.

1998 Honda 475 S Foreman - Omni Recovery ATV

1998 Honda 475 S Foreman - Omni Recovery ATV

– Engine

The stock Foreman utilizes a 433 cc, longitudinally mounted, single cylinder, four stroke cycle, overhead valve, engine. During a massive and successful rebuild effort, I took the stock displacement and raised it to approximately 475 cc by installing a larger cylinder sleeve as part of a bore kit offered from Highlifter. Along with a high compression piston kit, the bore kit also came with a 480 grind Web cam. The goal here was to achieve the maximum possible torque for pulling and hauling and this configuration did the trick. Another great thing about this setup is it allows you to run the stock valve train and carburetor.

Pulling the Tractor

– Intake/Exhaust

This machine sees service in dry, dusty conditions, and in the interest of building an ATV for maximum durability and dependability, I went with a foam filter and pre-filter from UNI. On the exhaust side, I’m running a Supertrapp exhaust system specifically designed for utility ATV’s, meaning it’s not overly loud but it is free-flowing enough to unleash the power produced by the 475 cc engine. I’ve built, repaired, driven, bought, and sold a lot of ATV’s over the years and I believe this is the best sounding exhaust system I’ve heard on a utility ATV.

– Suspension

I’m running the stock suspension and ride height on this ATV, and for good reason. I built it for industrial applications that include pulling, hauling, and winching on extreme inclines. I do a lot of hill climbing, creek crossing, and driving through rough terrain. I need maximum stability in these situations and I found that the stock ride height could achieve this more effectively than using a lift kit because it keeps the stance low and wide. Although I don’t typically seek out deep mud, I often find need to go through it (usually to winch out other ATV’s) and I’ve never had any significant problems with ground clearance. However, if you are building a bike specifically for mud, a lift kit may be beneficial in allowing enough fender clearance for larger tires which provide more ground clearance. One thing to keep in mind with lift kits is they change the steering and suspension geometry which causes ball joints and CV joints to wear out approximately twice as fast as the OEM geometry.

– Brakes

The front brakes are hydraulic drum type. As long as the wheel bearings and the drum seals are good, the hydraulic drum system works well. If the wheel bearings get slack in them it causes the drum to move against the backing plate and wear out the seal which then allows mud to enter and chew up the components. Unlike disk brakes which are self-adjusting, the drum type requires periodic adjustment. Aside from that, they are pretty much maintenance free because they are hydraulic. The rear brake is a cable operated mechanical drum type. Like the front, the key is to keep them clean. As long as the seals are good and you keep your cables adjusted, they provide good service. But if you don’t do that, they go down quick, especially if you ride in a lot of mud or water.

Front Wheel

Front Wheel

Rear Brake

Rear Brake

– Tires

The current tire selection was on the ATV when I purchased it. I typically prefer to run the same tire on both the front and rear, but after operating in a variety of conditions, I’ve determined it to be a very effective combination. On the drive axle I’m running 25 inch GBC Gator tires. The Gator is a 6-ply, aggressive, directional tire that operates well in soft terrain, and since the directional lugs overlap the centerline, it also offers a surprisingly smooth ride on hard surfaces. I rarely loose traction with these tires which make them great for pulling. On the steer axle I’m running 25 inch GBC Dirt Devil tires. The Dirt Devil is also a directional tire with overlapping lugs. Although the directional lugs aren’t quite as aggressive as the Gator, they do have very aggressive side-lugs that really assist in paddling through soft terrain. This formula not only provides excellent traction, it also provides a smooth ride which makes it easier on the operator. I’ve found them to be an excellent choice for a steer tire.

UPDATE: I’m experimenting with another tire combination. Check it out here.

UPDATE #2: I’m experimenting with yet another tire combination. Check it out here.

– Equipment and Accessories

Winch: No utility ATV is complete without a winch. I wanted a machine that could not only winch itself out of a bind, but I also wanted the ability to easily winch other ATV’s, equipment, logs, junk, or whatever else I may need to winch. Many ATV winches are mounted in locations on the bike that make them hard to access and use. I wanted to easily access and operate my winch with no hassel. With this in mind, I was also considering mounting two winches on the machine, one in front and one on the back. You never know which direction you may need to winch from and in critical situations, you don’t want to be limited on options. The logical solution is to have a winch on both ends of the machine. I had a 3,000 lbs winch and while looking for mounting solutions, I found a great multi-mount system from Warn. This allows you to use one winch that easily dettaches and reattaches to the front or rear of the ATV by using receiver hitches. The kit also comes with a dual wiring setup that has quick-connecters at the front and rear of the ATV which connect to one toggle to operate the winch. I typically use the rear mount for the transport/driving position to keep the winch out of the mud, brush, and debris. In the front, I have a D-ring hitch in the receiver. One thing to keep in mind if using the multi-mount setup: the rear receiver mounts in place of the tool box, so you’ll loose the factory tool box. To solve the ‘no tool box’ issue, I made some L-brackets and mounted a smaller tool box to the bottom of the winch mount. The new box (I think I got it from a ’97 Polaris Sport) is only a fraction of the size of the original box, but it’s enough to keep some vital tools.

Winch & Mount

Winch & Mount

4WD Selector: The 1998 model Foreman is full-time 4WD. To obtain the optional four wheel drive capability, I installed a Warn 424 Select 4×4 selector (no longer in production). This is an ultra heavy-duty but low profile unit that replaces the front drive shaft and is operated by mechanical cable which allows the driver to disengage and re-engage the four wheel drive on the fly. Having the option of running the ATV in 2WD for normal riding allows for smoother drivablity and less wear on the drivetrain components.

CB Radio: Communication is a great asset when working or riding in remote locations. I installed a Cobra CB radio on the top of the instrument cluster and headlight housing by attaching the mount to the headlight guard. I ran the coax to the rear rack and mounted a 64 inch steel whip to the factory dune flag mount on the rack. Surprisingly, the reception distance is great. The radio is easily installed and removed by using the mounting knob screws that came with the radio, and I’ve wired a standard 12V power supply receptacle to the stock location on the headlight housing.

Controls

Controls

Auxiliary Lighting: I mounted a utility light under the rear receiver hitch and wired it to a toggle switch. It serves as both a reverse light and work light when using the winch or working around the rear of the ATV. 90% of my riding is done at night when it is cooler, so lighting is very important.

Rear Light & Tool Box

Rear Light & Tool Box


Skid Plates and Guards: On the front I’ve installed a diamond plate aluminum guard to protect the bumper and frame from rocks and to keep sticks and brush from being forced into the front portion of the ATV. I cut a small square for the receiver hitch. I’ve also installed a set of Oxlite steel A-Arm and CV boot guards to protect the A-Arms from rocks and the CV boots from sticks and brush. I’m using the stock belly skid plate and the stock rear differential skid.

Front Guards

Front Guards

– Pros

This machine is very dependable. There’s never been a time when I couldn’t hit the switch and start it right up. With the 475 big bore kit, the torque is monsterous. You would be hard-pressed to bog this engine down. Before that happens, it will either loose traction or break something. It’s very impressive. The Supertrapp exhaust sounds great. The bike also has a smooth ride. If you spend much time in the saddle, you know how important ride quality can be. Overall, I’m very pleased with this ATV; it has exceeded my expectations.

– Cons

The only thing I can really complain about is the top cruising speed. The machine is geared really low and is obviously not a high-speed ATV because the Foreman line by it’s very nature is an industrial, workhorse type of ATV, but it wouldn’t hurt to have another high gear. When riding with other ATV’s on an open road, the Foreman has to work hard to keep from getting left behind. With the tires I’m running, the highest comfortable cruising speed is just a little over 30 mph. It will go faster, but I wouldn’t want to hold it at much more than about 38 mph for any amount of time. The fastest I’ve run it is about 50 mph.

You may also be interested in the Honda Foreman 450 to 475 project page here.

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