Project DS450 MX: Prep for Racing in Advanced Classes

If you want to run with the Pros, get out the wrench and the checkbook

Nov. 20, 2008 By Justin Waters

2008 Can-Am DS 450 Project
My race-prepped 2008 Can-Am DS 450

In Part I of our Project Can-Am DS 450 we told you about many of the must-have parts you need for your Can-Am DS 450 ATV to put it on a motocross-style race track.

In Part II we talk about many of the tricks and DETAILS to be truly competitive in the A class and above, and make sure you FINISH the races. Many of these issues and items will only be of concern to the A level rider and above, but other DS 450 owners may want to pay attention just for longevity of their machine.

I have spent a full year now riding and racing the DS 450 and have accumulated these tips both from personal experiences and what we have learned from the factory teams and their experiences.


In some weather and track conditions, the DS 450 has had cooling issues. We have experienced this problem on our DS 450 in certain situations. Here are some of the solutions and fixes.

First get down to the dealer and have them re-program your computer. The stock computer has a very low temperature setting that will make your DS 450 go into what they call "Limp" mode as soon as it shows a reading above this temperature. Can-Am released a new version in mid-2008 to their dealers that raises the temperature at which the DS 450 will go into limp mode. Ask your dealer to re-program your computer with this new version.

Look closely:
1) Holes around gas tank under front fender. 2) Holes above tank under handle bars. 3) Holes in front of seat below gas filler.

Next make swiss cheese out of your plastic. The heat gets trapped in and around the top of the engine and radiator. You need to take a 1" hole saw and vent the plastic so that cool air will flow in and the hot air will flow out. See the image below. You will cut around 23 holes in your plastic. Get out your hole saw and go to work.

Don't put a big number plate in front of your radiator. This will block the air flow and cause overheating problems even with a short 10 minute moto or less. You want a low profile bumper and small number plate mounted low so as to not block air flow to the radiator.

Don't buy a heavy-duty aftermarket radiator. This does NOT seem to help. I am not sure why not but we have talked to many users who have tried this without any improvement in the cooling. Some teams have tried putting a radiator cap on the stock tanks. We don't believe there is a big benefit to this either. You are less likely to get air in the system but you have less fluid flowing and testing has been non-conclusive.

Do buy a couple Pro Design super coolers and install them in-line. These are relatively in-expensive and seem to give you a few degrees cooling improvement. You can install one both going in and out. You can get them here.

Use good radiator fluid like the Spectro coolant or Engine Ice. These will help cool the engine and don't expand like some radiator fluids. This should give you a few degrees improvement over stock fluids.

Spectro Coolant
Pro Design Super cooler installed in-line in our CV4 hoses. We have found that the Spectro coolant works exceptionally well.

Install some CV4 radiator hoses. These are a little more expensive and I am not sure if these really help the flow, but they do get rid of those plastic T's and junctions, and are a much nicer system than stock. We have had one of those plastic T's crack and start leaking. Spend a couple hundred and make sure you don't experience that problem during a race.

While you are changing the hoses, we recomend also changing as many of the hose clamps as possible. The OEM clamps don't seem to work very well, and replacing them with some from any auto parts store will help reduce oil and coolant leaks on the quad.

Notice how the bumper AND number plate are both below the radiator and factory fins. The factory fins are vertical rather than horizontal like the stock OEM ones.

Install or build some factory style fins. We have only seen these made available to the factory teams and don't know of an aftermarket option. We have used these fins on our bike and this is what we have found.

We are not sure they really give better cooling but what they do seem to do very well is keep the crud out of the radiator much better than the stock radiator fins and guard.

The vertical fins seem to block mud and roost much better than stock fins. As soon as you get a bunch of crud in your radiator you are doomed.

Install a small pusher fan on the front of the radiator for EXTREME conditions. The factory teams have tried lots of different things and this option seems to work the best for extreme conditions. With a small pusher fan on the front of the radiator you can basically tape up the front of the machine to keep all the mud out and still keep it running cool. Wire it in so that it runs all the time. This is the key for long muddy races.

See PAGE 2 for tech tips on Clutch, Ignition, Fuel temperature, swingarm arm carrier and brakes


The clutch on the DS 450 is a problem area for most of the pro riders. There are a couple things you need to do.

Order some heavy duty clutch springs. This will help your clutch last longer although may make the pull slightly heavier.

Install a billet clutch basket. The stock baskets are prone to failure. The baskets themselves are not real expensive to replace but sometimes they will basically self destruct and that can send small aluminum pieces everywhere necessitating a full engine tear down. You have three options that we know of. One is to get hold of one of the billet baskets available from Can-Am for the factory teams. Two is to get a Hinson clutch basket. These are not readily available because they require Hinson to remove the gear off your stock basket and rivet it on the new basket. You can get these from HotSeat Powersports for around $239 with your core. Option 3 is a complete clutch from Motoworks. This is a billet basket, inner hub, and pressure plate and will set you back $650. Motoworks had these made specifically for their race team and are not sold through their dealers but ARE available if you call them direct.

hinson clutch
Hinson billet clutch basket for the Can-Am DS 450 ATV

We have used both the Hinson basket and the Can-Am billet basket. Both work but the Hinson basket is a much nicer unit. We have not tried the Motoworks setup.

NGK High Performance wires installed on the Can-Am DS 450


Some owners and racers have experienced miss-fires. These have been tracked back to the wires and caps on the stock DS 450. While we don't know of anyone that has experienced a DNF because of this problem, it will cause a performance issue. There is an easy fix

Replace both wires with a high performance replacement made by NGK. You can get these from HotSeat Powersports as a kit with both wires that you need.


Fuel Boiling

CV4 Thermal Film
CV4 thermal film applied to the Can-Am DS 450 gas tank.

Some users and racers have experienced fuel boiling. Again, we don't believe this is a common occurrence but we do know it is happening in some conditions. We also know that cool fuel means better performance. We expect the cheese project mentioned earlier helps your fuel temps also but to further protect yourself -

Order some CV4 Gold thermal film. One kit will more than do you tank and will set you back about 50 bucks Wrap the under side and sides where the most heat can be reflected away from your fuel tank. We know many factory Motocross and ATV teams use this trick, not just on Can-Am DS 450's.

TIP - if you decide to install a Precision Racing Products steering stabilizer - which we recomend very much - you can use the left-over termal film to cover the mounting bracket of your stabilizer. This will decrease the chance of it fading during a moto.

Swingarm Carrier

The stock DS 450 carrier in the 2008 model does not hold up well to 50" axles. We experienced more than one failure in our test unit. We only know of one fix for that.

Order a replacement carrier from RPM. This carrier uses tapered bearings and they seem to hold up well. They are available from HotSeat Powersports, among other RPM dealers. It is much easier to replace a good carrier than one that is destroyed. Trust us. :-)

The other issue with the carrier / axle is that you need to pay attention to the location of your axle in the carrier. The DS 450swingarm design allows the carrier to turn 360 degrees. This can mean a difference in wheel base of over an (1") inch and also a difference in ride height. For a motocross setup you want your axle towards the rear and towards the bottom. Pay attention to this when changing chains and sprockets.


Make it easier

A couple things to make maintenance easier.

Cut the plastic battery box so the electronics under battery can easily be removed, for full rear plastic removal without disconnecting the wires and threading them through the plastic. Another is to cut your rear plastic around your rear shock bolt. This will allow rear shock removal much easer without unbolting the rear plastic.

Cut battery box plastic CanAm DS450
Cut a piece out of the battery box to make easier to remove and install the rear plastic. Notch your plastic to allow easy access to rear shock bolt.



Want a better feel and slightly improved front braking? We learned this one from the factory teams.

Many are using a Honda master cylinder and prefer the feel to the stock DS 450 master cylinder. That said, I do personally prefer the feel of the stock lever. If you are going to change the master cylinder, you will also have to change the front brake lines as this master cylinder uses a straight banjo connection rather than the 90 degree one on OEM unit. You can get a Streamline kit with this configuration.

On the rear side. Keep an eye on your pads. The OEM pads work well but don't last very long. DP makes some pads that will last much longer than the OEM ones.


After a year with our long term Can-Am DS 450, it has been a constant learning process with the new machine and its first-model-year quirks. We have experienced and seen that the machine can be competitive at the Pro level - just check out the results that Team Epic's Jeremy Lawson and Motoworks' Josh Frederick have had during the 2008 race season.

We hope that you can use some or all of these tips to put your Can-Am DS 450 on the podium.

-jw Newsletter
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