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Diagnosing, Fixing, And Modifying The Electric System In A Can-Am Commander

Jan 19th 2020

An important, yet often underrated, part of the Can-Am Commander is its electric system. Riders often pay it no mind, that is, until it’s not working properly. While accessories like aftermarket winches, radios, and light bars get a lot of attention, little emphasis is placed on the electric system that powers all of these accessories. But regardless of whether you’re wanting to augment your Can-Am Commander electrical system to handle more draw from aftermarket accessories, of simply trying to remedy an issue stemming from a particular electronic component, below is some information that should get you familiar with common issues with and possible modifications to the Can-Am Commander electrical system. 

Augmenting The Can-Am Commander Electrical System  

Unless you are adding a bunch of electronics, things like dual battery kits, relay boards, and more powerful staters may not be compulsory. Some Commander owners would tell you to use your funds to first upgrade your tie rods or to get aftermarket tires, but there is something to be said about having the added security of knowing that you’ll always be able to start your machine no matter what. 

A second battery with an isolator will make sure that your main battery — which is used to start your Commander — will never run out of energy. When the engine is off, your electric system will only only draw from the secondary battery, making it so that you can run light bars, whips, music, and your winch all without having to keep your UTV running. If you use things like a bilge pump fan and a Pro Comp Offroad fan in your engine bay to keep heat out while also using high beams, a winch, and a light bar, there is little chance a single battery could support all that on its own. 

There is plenty of room under the drivers seat for a secondary battery, or you might be able to put it right beside the existing battery with an aftermarket battery tray. Wiring your Commander batteries in a series will ensure that both get charged while the machine is running, but there are other ways/kits you can use to wire in Can-Am Commander batteries. Many riders go with Optima batteries, but the Odyssey battery is a good one as well. You should be good as long as you use a dry-cell battery. Not only are dry cell UTV batteries both durable and very powerful, but unlike wet-cell batteries, dry-cell batteries won’t drip battery acid on you or your passengers in the event of a bad crash or roll over. 

If your battery isn’t charging, the problem could be with your voltage regulator. And because the computer in the Can-Am Commander doesn't shut off — even when the keys is removed — your machine might need a jump if you let it sit for long periods of time. If this is the case for you, it would be beneficial to get a battery maintainer like the Deltran Battery Tender. Plug it in when you put your Commander in the garage, and leave it plugged in until you ride again. This will always put the battery at peak voltage, which is important because the starter motor is generally the highest amp-drawing power consumer in your Commander. 

Aftermarket or home-made relay boards can also be used to bolster the Can-Am Commander electrical system. Keeping your electronics on key power is important, as you don’t want them to continue drawing despite the machine being off, and the auxiliary power plug in the dash seems like the most easily accessible place to make this happen. We would suggest, however, to get a constant duty solenoid, power it from your secondary battery, and turn it on using your ignition circuit.

Mount any relay or aftermarket electronic component in the most dry place you can, and never forget to ground your Can-Am Commander electrical system. We’d also highly recommend swapping your relays for sealed relays, especially if you mount them upside down or in an exposed area, as they will go bad the first time they get wet

Issues With The Can-Am Commander Electric System

A common issue with the electric system in the Commander has to do with bad switches. If your machine is acting strange — like throwing weird check engine lights and error codes on the screen, flashing air fault codes, and showing the speedometer bouncing around — or your high beam switch only works now and then, you likely have a faulty switch. If these problems happen intermittently, coming and going seemingly haphazardly, we’d suggest checking you’re switches. 

If the headlights are flakey, you can give them a hard tap from low to high a few times to make them work in the short term. But a longer-term solution would be to swap out or clean the switches. When opening up the switches, be careful, as there are some very tiny springs inside that you don’t want to loose. Once open, look at the connectors and check for areas that appear partially or fully corroded. If they’re still in tact, you should be able to clan them with a light sand on the brownish burnt spots. Add some dielectric grease, put the switch back together, and you might get it working without having to buy a new one. 

Low batteries will also throw the computer off and cause your machine to flash false codes. Charge your battery to full capacity or swap it out with a different one to rule this out as the cause of your electrical issues. Once you've determined that your battery is not to blame, try the voltage regulator, then the stator. There could be a bad connection to either, or the voltage regulator could be bad. Making sure that the wires and cables are tight is also a good thing to check. 

Protecting Your Commander’s Electronics

Many new Can-Am Commander owners are rightly worried about washing their machines, taking care not to damage the Can-Am electrical system. But we can assure you that the Commander is almost a hundred percent waterproof. You're not going to hurt a thing with a power washer. Besides, a water hose puts out way more flooding water than a power washer, so go ahead and pound the crap out of the dash electric connections, ECU, winch, and engine, you're not going to hurt a thing — these things will swim if you'll put snorkels on them!

You won’t void the warranty for washing the Can-Am Commander. Walk into any Powersports dealership they will have at least one pressure washer, and probably a steam cleaner also along with the standard cleaning supplies. They are off-road vehicles, and made to withstand water. You are much better off keeping your machine impeccably clean than letting it get dirty. Glass the engine, blast everything, get it clean and keep and it clean, and your Can-Am Commander will last a lot longer.