Can-Am DS 90 Problems & How to Fix Them

Can-Am DS 90 Problems

Have you ever experienced issues with your Can-Am DS 90 ATV like loss of power, transmission problems, or electrical gremlins? As a Can-Am DS 90 owner, you want to keep your high performance ATV running in tip-top shape for recreational riding and racing. But like any vehicle, the DS 90 can develop problems over time that sap performance and leave you stranded.

So what are the most common Can-Am DS 90 issues owners need to look out for? Engine problems, transmission problems, electrical issues, and brake problems rank among the most frequently reported Can-Am DS 90 faults. By learning to recognize common DS 90 problems and troubleshoot issues yourself, you can save on costly repair bills and keep your ATV tearing up the trails.

In this 2500+ word guide, we’ll cover the key Can-Am DS 90 issues to watch for, how to diagnose problems yourself, steps to try fixing common faults, and when to take your ATV to a professional mechanic. Let’s get started exploring the origins of typical Can-Am DS 90 problems and how to get your beloved BRP vehicle back up and running smoothly.

Introduction to the Can-Am DS 90 ATV

First, let’s briefly introduce the Can-Am DS 90 for context before diving into common issues. The DS 90 ranks among the most popular youth ATV models from Bombardier Recreational Products (BRP). Introduced in 2002, this sporty ATV packs serious performance into a nimble, lightweight package perfect for young riders.

Key DS 90 specs and features include:

  • 89cc 4-stroke single cylinder engine
  • 5-speed manual transmission
  • Double A-arm front suspension
  • Single shock swingarm rear suspension
  • Hydraulic disc front brakes
  • Rear drum brakes
  • Electric start
  • Auto clutch

With nearly 20 years of production behind it, the Can-Am DS 90 enjoys a huge following among amateur racers and recreational riders. Its potent powerplant delivers surprising acceleration and torque given the engine’s small displacement. The sporty chassis carves through corners with ease.

However, even well-designed ATVs like the Can-Am DS 90 experience wear and tear over years of use. Some common issues can leave owners stranded trackside or on the trails. Let’s look at the most frequently reported problems with the DS 90 and how to diagnose and fix them.

Frequent Can-Am DS 90 Problems

While individual results depend on how well you maintain your DS 90, a number of issues consistently plague Can-Am’s 90cc sport ATV model over the years. Here are the four major problem areas to keep an eye on with your aging DS 90:

1. Engine Problems

Given the engine powers every aspect of riding, failures here can completely disable your DS 90. Some of the most common Can-Am 90 engine issues include:

  • Loss of power – Over time, compression and engine output declines. You’ll notice lack of acceleration and torque.
  • Overheating – ATVs run hot and the DS 90 is no exception. Clogged cooling fins, leaks, and failing water pumps can cause overheating.
  • Excessive oil consumption – Oil leaks and worn piston rings let oil creep past pistons into combustion chamber. Check levels frequently.
  • Engine noises – Knocking, ticking, and other odd sounds signal internal engine issues. Don’t ignore noises!

Often, several engine issues compound one another. For example, overheating can accelerate wear of internal components like piston rings, leading to loss of compression down the road. Catching problems early helps prevent more expensive repairs later.

2. Transmission Problems

The Can-Am DS 90 transmission experiences its share of problems after years of shifting and towing loads:

  • Gear slipping – Worn shift forks allow gears to slip coming out of engagement. Acceleration suffers as a result.
  • Hard shifting – Gears resist engagement or pop out of gear entirely due to worn shift components.
  • Grinding noises – Typically a symptom of damaged transmission or gear damage. Never ignore grinding noises while shifting!

Transmission issues make the DS 90 frustrating to ride and accelerate wear of other drivetrain components. It pays to diagnose and repair any shifting problems promptly.

3. Electrical Problems

With so many electrical components relying on tight tolerances and connections, the DS 90’s wiring harness and electronics can cause headaches:

  • Battery not holding charge – Caused by worn out batteries, corroded terminals, or charging system issues.
  • Lights and accessories not working – Check fuses, bulbs, connectors. Electrical shorts are common.
  • Intermittent electrical gremlins – Loose wiring and weathered contacts cause electrical components to cut in and out.

ATVs already pose an electrical challenge with their vibration, moisture, and hazards. Add years of use on top and electrical issues are practically guaranteed on older DS 90s.

4. Brake Problems

Reliable brakes are a must for controlling your DS 90 at speed. Some potential issues include:

  • Weak brakes – Brake pads and shoes wear down over time. Loss of stopping power and fade result.
  • Brakes dragging – Contaminated pads or caliper problems cause brakes to drag or lock.
  • Brake noises – Squealing brake noise signals wear. Grinding or groaning point to more serious issues.

Given the DS 90’s performance potential, brake problems pose serious risks. Always correct any brake warning signs immediately before riding.

Diagnosing and Fixing Common Can-Am DS 90 Issues

Now that we’ve covered the major problem areas to look for, let’s look at steps for diagnosing root causes and fixing typical Can-Am DS 90 issues.

Armed with a few tools, a service manual, and some mechanical know-how, many common DS 90 problems can be sorted out in your own garage. We’ll break down by each system.

Diagnosing and Fixing DS 90 Engine Problems

When your DS 90 starts losing power, overheating, leaking oil, or making odd noises, how can you pinpoint the root cause? Here are some troubleshooting steps and potential fixes:

  • Check air filter – Clogged air filters restrict airflow to the carburetor. Clean or replace air filter if excessively dirty.
  • Inspect spark plugs – Remove and check condition of spark plugs. Replace if fouled or heavily worn.
  • Check fuel system – Clogged fuel filter, pinched fuel lines, or failing fuel pump can cause power loss.
  • Test fuel pump and pressure – Ensure fuel pump generates adequate pressure to feed the carburetor.
  • Do compression test – Use compression gauge to test compression in each cylinder. Helps identify ring or valve issues.
  • Inspect valves – Remove cylinder head and check for bent valves or heavy carbon buildup on valves and seats.
  • Check valve lash – Adjust valve lash per spec if too tight or loose. This can rob power.
  • Inspect piston rings – Worn rings allow compression to leak past pistons. Causes loss of power.
  • Check head gasket – Blown head gasket allows coolant or oil to mix with combustion gases.
  • Adjust carburetor settings – Lean or rich fuel settings can sap power or cause backfiring.
  • Inspect timing chain – Check condition and adjustment of timing chain. Critical for ignition timing.

Don’t continue riding if you suspect engine issues. Diagnose and fix promptly to avoid worse damage.

How to Fix Can-Am DS 90 Transmission Problems

Transmission issues make riding your DS 90 frustrating. Here are tips for diagnosing and fixing common problems:

  • Check transmission fluid level – Low fluid causes premature wear and hard shifting. Top off if required.
  • Inspect clutch plates – Worn or warped clutch plates can cause slipping. Replace plates as needed.
  • Check clutch springs – Weak or broken clutch springs prevent full engagement. Replace if worn.
  • Adjust clutch cable – Improper freeplay causes hard shifting. Set clutch actuation and freeplay to spec.
  • Inspect shift forks – Bent or worn shift forks cause sloppy shifting. Replace any suspect shift forks.
  • Check gear dogs and teeth – Chips or wear on gear teeth lead to slippage and grinding. May require gear replacement.
  • Eliminate clutch drag – Excessive clutch drag makes shifting difficult. Lubricate or replace as needed.
  • Check shift drum – Worn shift drum grooves cause loose shifting. Replace shift drum if excessively worn.

Be methodical troubleshooting transmission issues. Correctly diagnosing problems saves time and money on repairs.

Troubleshooting Electrical Issues on the Can-Am DS 90

Electrical problems range from annoying to hazardous on a DS 90 ATV. Use these tips for diagnosing gremlins:

  • Check fuses – Number one cause of electrical issues on any vehicle. Verify key fuses are not blown.
  • Inspect battery – Check battery age and voltage. Load test to confirm adequate cranking amps. Replace if weak.
  • Clean terminals and connections – Corroded battery terminals or loose connectors cause problems. Clean thoroughly.
  • Check stator output – Weak charging output allows battery to gradually die. Test stator AC output per service manual.
  • Test the regulator – Faulty regulator allows over- or under-charging. Test regulator per specs.
  • Inspect wiring harness – Look for chafed or melted wires shorting to ground. Repair or replace damaged wiring.
  • Check switches and relays – Cracked or sticking switches and corroded relays cause shorts.
  • Look for binding – Ensure wires are not rubbing on frame or components, binding up.

Be methodical tracking down electrical gremlins. Don’t ignore warning signs of issues.

How to Diagnose and Fix Can-Am DS 90 Brake Problems

Let’s round out common problems with advice on troubleshooting DS 90 brake issues:

  • Check brake pads – Inspect pad thickness. Replace if under the minimum thickness spec. This is the #1 cause of weak brakes.
  • Inspect brake rotors – Check rotor thickness and runout. Resurface or replace rotors if excessively scored or warped.
  • Check brake fluid – Ensure brake fluid is clean and at proper level. Flush lines and replace fluid periodically.
  • Lubricate brake caliper pins – Stuck or binding caliper pins cause uneven pad wear and dragging. Lube pins.
  • Inspect brake calipers – Look for fluid leaks and stuck pistons. Rebuild or replace as needed.
  • Check brake hoses – Bulging, cracked, or spongy hoses require replacement.
  • Adjust brake pedal – Improper pedal height reduces leverage. Adjust to spec.
  • Check brake cables – Fraying or sticky cables cause weak braking. Replace damaged cables.
  • Confirm proper tire pressure – Under-inflated tires reduce braking traction. Maintain pressure spec.

Stop riding your DS 90 immediately if brakes feel weak, grab, or exhibit other problems. Diagnose and repair brake faults before the next ride.

Preventing Future Can-Am DS 90 Problems

While repairs will inevitably be needed to keep your aging DS 90 running strong, you can take steps to minimize problems and extend the machine’s useful life:

  • Follow maintenance schedule – Don’t skip oil changes, fluid flushes, filter replacement, and adjustments called for in owner’s manual.
  • Replace fluids and filters regularly – Old fluids lose effectiveness and build up contaminants. Stick to recommended change intervals.
  • Wash ATV after muddy rides – Rinse off mud which can prematurely wear components and hide problems.
  • Fix problems early – Don’t delay diagnosis and repairs. Small issues become bigger ones over time.
  • Use fuel stabilizer – Add stabilizer if storing DS 90 over winter. Prevents stale gas issues. Consider draining fuel.
  • Check tire pressures frequently – Under-inflated tires accelerate wear and compromise traction for starting and stopping.
  • Adjust drive chain periodically – Keep drive chain adjusted to spec. Insufficient slack strains drivetrain.
  • Store indoors – Avoid temperature swings, sun damage, and moisture by storing DS 90 inside when possible.

An ounce of prevention equals a pound of cured when it comes to minimizing big-ticket repairs down the road. Take care of your DS 90 and it will take care of you.

When to Take Your Can-Am DS 90 to a Mechanic?

While routine maintenance and minor repairs can be handled in your garage, more complex issues require a qualified ATV mechanic’s expertise. Consider taking your DS 90 to a shop if:

  • You lack the tools, skills, manuals, or comfort level to safely diagnose and repair the issue yourself.
  • The problem persists after troubleshooting basic causes.
  • The repair requires engine removal or disassembly.
  • Internal transmission components need replacement or rebuild kit.
  • Electrical issues involve the ECU/ECM or other integrated electronics.
  • The problem worsens suddenly or renders the ATV undriveable.

Unless the issue is very minor, repairs to critical systems like brakes and steering should be left to professionals. The machine’s safety depends on it.

An experienced DS 90 mechanic has the specialized tools and know-how to properly trace problems, replace worn components, and get your ATV running like new again. Weigh the cost of professional diagnostics and repairs against the risks and your own mechanical skills.


While no machine lasts forever, the Can-Am DS 90 provides years of reliable fun when properly maintained and repaired. By learning to recognize common issues like engine problems, transmission faults, electrical gremlins, and brake wear, you can identify problems early before they leave you stranded.

Don’t ignore warning signs of trouble. Follow the troubleshooting tips outlined to diagnose issues yourself. Fix minor problems promptly and leave bigger repairs to qualified mechanics. Your diligence will keep your beloved DS 90 tearing up tracks and trails for years of off-road fun.

With some mechanical know-how and prompt attention to issues, the Can-Am DS90 continues to deliver lightweight, nimble performance perfect for younger riders. For an affordable entry-level racer or all-around sporty recreational quad, it’s easy to see why the DS 90 remains popular after two decades on the market. Stay on top of maintenance and repairs to maximize the enjoyment and longevity of your Can-Am.

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