The following article concerns oil changes for the Ranger TM. If you are looking for something on changing the engine oil in a Ranger 500 or one of the other higher performance engines, I wrote a brief entry about draining and refilling a dry-sump engine and oil reservoir. You’ll find it below under the title: 14 December, 2012.


If you have mined this deeply into this archive you will realize that I have had some difficulty changing the oil on this vehicle. Today marked 250 hours of service, so an oil change was due. Things went a bit better than before.

Online I found a 2004 Ranger TM manual uploaded by the U.S. Army. It has proven more useful than the one I bought from the Polaris dealer, a 2005 manual.

In particular the Army PDF directed me to the other side of the Subaru/Robin engine for a drain plug located at the centre of the vehicle. Surely enough, a plumbing fitting is attached above a hole in the skid plate, tooled to take an Allen wrench. It’s larger than the Torqz wrench which removes the six screws which guard the dip stick. I dug through my socket set and found two nearly identical candidates. Neither had a label, but the rustier of the two fitted the plug.

I gained access to that area of the underbelly of the beast by running it up a pair of steel ramps I used to use for my truck. After I had the draining underway I realized that if I had backed it up the ramps, the oil would run the right way and there’d be nearly the same headroom underneath as the drain is almost exactly amidships. Next time I’ll do it that way.

I removed the filter without difficulty with my little chain wrench. Now I don’t want to anthropomophize a threaded tin can with some mesh in it, but there’s something about that particular oil filter that gets my goat. Last winter we had a battle royal, and this time no sooner had the thread cleared the shaft than it did its usual trick, leaping free of my fingers and hiding under the transmission. I decided to take control of the relationship by not caring about it. With fingers unsullied by crankcase oil I carefully manoevered the new filter out of its package, removed the cellophane seal, noted with appreciation the prelubricated o-ring and threads, and then gingerly wiggled it into the narrow space behind the engine and, wonder of wonders, even onto the protruding threads. It tightened right up. What a difference having a little dust on one’s fingers makes instead of a coating of synthetic oil.

As usual I had drained the crankcase oil into one of my wife’s stainless steel pots. The oil looked pretty good for sixty-five hours of use, but I noticed a few specks of carbon on the bottom of the pan where they hadn’t been the last time. So much for skipping a filter change. From now on I’ll pay the $20. for the filter and do it right at 50 hours.

Further to the filter question, I downloaded from Subaru/Robin Industrial Engines the service manual for the 18 hp twin. They recommend 50 hour oil change intervals, but call for a filter change only every 200 hours. Strange, based upon what I have observed. As well, they make no mention of synthetic oil at all, appearing to prefer single grade lubricant like 30 oil, warning that the engine may use oil if you use multi-grade in hot weather. I haven’t noticed any oil consumption with the synthetic 0W-40 Polaris insists this engine must have.

Oh yes, the errant used filter: I ran the Ranger up a steep bank, teased it out from under its hiding place with a stick, discovered there’s no way to take it out the normal way if the new filter is in place, so I removed two screws from the bottom of the belt guard, folded it up enough to reach in, and nabbed the little sucker.

Come to think of it, I might be able to reach in that way with a fresh filter, too.

Next oil change will likely be in a snowbank, so I’ll keep you posted.

BTW: please feel free to provide advice on simple procedures here. Obviously I write better than I wrench.

UPDATE:  12 May, 2010  345 hours

Last week’s weed spraying put a lot of low-speed hours on the Ranger, and it ran much better after I gave it new spark plugs.  A flash of red light on the dash while starting suggested that the oil had better go as well, even though it was a bit early at 343 hours.

I finally managed to complete an oil change without difficulty.  With the back wheels up on ramps, I sat down beside the machine and removed the oil filter with the chain wrench.  Then I manipulated it out through the very narrow space without mishap for the first time.  The new filter went in the same way, held in place by fingertips and a bit of luck.  It is essential that there be no oil on the body of the filter for this operation.  I even improved my grip by rubbing my fingertips against the dried mud on the gas tank at one stage but the thing seated easily and screwed into place without complaint.

Underneath, I used the Allen wrench in a 3/8″ ratchet and popped out the plug.  It went back in fine, and I added 1 1/2 quarts (U.S.) of 0W40 oil.  Because the machine was still on a slope and the filter empty, I couldn’t check the oil at that time.  Turns out I should have added 1.6 quarts, so the engine is not quite full of oil, but it’s 3/4 of the way up between the fill marks, so I’ll leave it that way until the next time I check it.

The engine runs much more happily with the fresh lube.

Update, 13 May, 2014 1.55 litres to fill a TM

Twice now I have put 2.55 litres into this engine, only to remove a litre to reach the fill mark. Call it middle-aged forgetfulness or whatever, but I have even written on the whiteboard where I record oil changes that the TM requires 1.55 litres. My Bolens G174 tractor takes 2.5 litres of the same oil. Oh, well. 703 hours and counting.

This Ranger TM is a very good machine. In the last year I have replaced an ignition switch and a gas cap/fuel gauge. That’s the third version of each of the failed components, but the rest of the machine is pretty durable.

A couple of months ago I added a new roll cage/cabin frame which the dealer offered me for $250. He had three of them in his warehouse. Then came a $150 stamped metal roof from another dealer, and a $50 automotive-style mirror to hang from the roof. Everyone likes the new additions to the machine, though it takes practice for the driver to enter the vehicle without knocking the mirror out of focus.

14 December, 2012

If Google directed you to this site when you were trying to find out how to change the oil in a 4WD Ranger such as the 500, I may be able to help a bit. I picked up a 2003 Ranger 500 at the dealer’s for a friend and asked the technician “What is the trick in changing oil in the dry sump engine?”

He explained that the drain plug for the crankcase is very hard to get at, so most technicians drain the sump, then remove the spark plug and pump the oil out of the crankcase by rolling the engine over in short bursts, never more than ten seconds, allowing time for the starter to cool down, until no more oil comes out of the sump drain. Then after changing the filter he pours two litres of oil into the sump and starts the engine for a brief run. If the dip stick reads all right, that’s it. If it still reads high, grab the crankcase vent hose, a wide, soft hose connecting the crankcase and something else, maybe the sump. It was dark in there but I squeezed the hose to check. If you squeeze that hose and turn the motor over, apparently the oil pump will prime itself and you’ll be underway.

UPDATE, 24 March, 2014: The paragraphs above reflect what a Polaris mechanic told/taught me a year ago. This section is different. This morning I actually changed the oil in my friend’s 2003 Ranger 500. First of all, it’s much easier to service a 500 than a TM. The dry sump oil reservoir sits below the battery, a triangular tank with a 9/16″ plug holding the oil in. Any sort of pan placed below it will do. Remove the drain plug. Note that the plug wasn’t very tight. It came out of a vinyl tank. The oil drains out slowly.

Back out the oil filter located between the tank and the spark plug, only lower. I used a self-adjusting oil filter wrench on a 3/8″ ratchet with a 12″ extension. Off it came with a little drip before I could turn the old filter up and dispose of it.

Now things get a little weird. Remove the spark plug. It takes a 5/8″ socket. About 2 cups of oil remain in the engine, and you need to use the engine’s oil pump to get it out. Run the starter for bursts of five to ten seconds until there’s no more oil dripping out the drain. Take your time at this, allowing the starter time to cool off between pumping sessions. Remember that synthetic oil bonds very well to metal and this isn’t hurting the engine.

Next comes the new filter. Note that the filter is small, like the TM’s, but the threaded hole is about 1/10″ larger in diameter than the TM filter’s. The new one twisted neatly on and I tightened it by hand only.

Gently put the drain plug back. Make sure it’s tight enough, but not too tight.

Give the engine a new spark plug.

I poured synthetic 5W40 oil into the reservoir with a plastic litre pitcher liberated from my wife’s kitchen. The engine takes exactly 2 litres, and this is important: if a vapour lock forms and the oil isn’t drawn up into the engine when it starts, the first warning is that the dip stick will read overfull.

I massaged the pliable hose which feeds oil from the sump to the engine as it ran at idle for a few seconds. When I checked the stick, it was at the proper level. A one mile run and a check for leaks, and the thing was done.

It’s much easier to change the oil on a 500 than on a TM because there is much more room to work on it than in the case of the TM.

One Response to “Polaris Ranger TM (Part VIII) oil change [with notes on Ranger 500]”

  1. june Says:

    Some people may find this a little daunting to do on their own, but really almost anyone could do it, just take the time to learn how and you will find it quite easy after getting the hang of it.

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