Snowmobiles are built to last between 10,000 and 15,000 miles on average. However, routine maintenance can help you keep your sled in peak condition and on the snow for much longer than that. Taking care of a sled and replacing worn-down parts are important parts of responsible snowmobile ownership. With the proper tools, a little patience, and our guidance, you should be able to make your snowmobile last for many seasons. In this beginner's guide to snowmobile maintenance, we highlight some of the common tasks and repairs you should make to your sled on a regular basis. Don't let a loose bolt or leaky exhaust manifold ruin your ride.
Snowmobile Maintenance 101
Though we can all agree that riding the snowy trails is much more fun than being stuck in a garage, working on an old or broken-down machine, routine maintenance is essential to your safety and ensuring the smoothest ride possible. Many of the tasks listed below are easy to do and take less than 10 minutes to complete!
- Change the chaincase lube. With each heating and cooling cycle, chaincase oil breaks down and can even become contaminated by water or metal slivers from the chain and sprockets. Most sleds produced since the 1990s come with a drain plug to make draining the chaincase oil fairly simple and straightforward. Chaincase oil should be changed at least once per year to keep things cool and working smoothly.
- Scour the clutch sheaves and adjust your belt. The clutch is essential to riding uphill in deep powder snow, keeping the engine at maximum RPM without shifting into a higher gear. You will need to check belt traction and tension. Start by scouring the sheaves using an emery cloth or an abrasive cleaning pad, such as Scotch-Brite, to remove any glaze. Work from the center of the clutch to the outer edge, covering every square inch. Avoid using steel wool, as it will only polish the surface. Once the sheaves are scoured, reinstall the belt and reset its tension to the manufacturer's specifications.
- Inspect the exhaust system. A snowmobile's exhaust system is prone to numerous problems. Take a look at the exhaust manifold and work your way around to the outlet in order to fully inspect the system. If there is a leak coming from the cylinder's exhaust manifold, your manifold may need some attention. Shot gaskets are inexpensive to replace and simple to install. Remove the Y-pipe from the cylinder and clean the mount surfaces using a carburetor cleaner and a putty knife or a wire brush. Install new gaskets and torque the Y-pipe to spec.
- Grease the skid frame and inspect the torque arms. The rear suspension of a sled is composed of many arms, bushings, shafts, and wheels. Your skid frame, and the rest of the chassis, should be greased every other ride. Use only low-temp grease, because regular grease may cause moving parts to bind in cold temperatures. While you lubricate the fittings, inspect the slides. Grease the front suspension, jackshaft, and other steering parts, too.
- Inspect the reed cages and petals. Reed petals deteriorate and need to be replaced periodically. Simply unbolt the carburetors, remove the reed cage from the engine, and inspect the assembly. If the petal is pulled away from the cage, cracked, or missing a chunk, it is due for replacement. Don't forget to inspect the suffer and cage.
- Adjust the track and align your skis. A misaligned front end will not only compromise your machine's efficiency but also add rolling resistance. Adjust the track so the sled rolls true, align the skis, and set tension to spec.
- Replace the carbides. When carbides wear thin, a crash is just waiting to happen. Your carbides should be changed each or every other season, depending on the trail conditions.
- Get to wrenching. Loose bolts and fasteners are much more common on old sleds than they are on modern sleds, but you should always inspect the chassis' hardware and tighten any loose bolts. In terms of hard-to-reach areas, such as the rear suspension, you can roll the sled on its side to tighten bolts and nuts. You should also inspect all the fasteners on the suspension rails, making sure that the chassis mount bolts are tight as well. Tighten any loose hardware on the A-arms, radius rods, spindles, and trailing arms, too.
Don't let anything get in the way of a fun-filled winter of snowmobiling. Hopefully this guide to snowmobile maintenance gives you a better glimpse at all that goes into keeping your favorite machine in great running condition. One of the best places to start would be your owner's manual, which should provide detailed instructions and diagrams explaining what you will need to do at the start of each season. If you have any questions about this guide or would like to learn more about our selection of OEM and aftermarket snowmobile parts, please contact Polaris Parts Nation today!