How to Maintain Your Snowmobile Like a Pro
Taking good care of your snowmobile is easier when you break down the machine into its major systems. Much like a motorcycle, your snowmobile consists of motor, drive train, steering, breaking and lighting systems. By looking at each of these individual systems carefully, you can help ensure that your sled is ready for the snow ahead.
Keep a log of key details on parts and their life expectancy
Do yourself a favor and keep a log book of important maintenance milestones so you’ll know when the time has arrived to change out parts. If the manufacturer’s guide mentions that the engine’s alternator is good for 10,000 hours, good notes made after each trip can help you to stay ahead of routine maintenance and prevent breakdowns on the trail. It can also help to keep your snowmobile healthy. Store that owner’s manual with your notes for easy reference and maintenance instructions.
Start with the shell of the snowmobile
Inspect the cosmetics of your machine. If you spot any cracked or deteriorated hood latches, windshield fasteners or areas of your snowmobile that require replacement – get them fixed right away. Because your snowmobile has likely spent the warmer months in storage, take a walk around the vehicle and inspect it for cracks, dents or other issues that may mandate parts to be ordered.
Swap out filters, spark plugs as necessary
At the start of each season, get in the habit of replacing your air, fuel and oil filters. Your engine will run more smoothly even if you’re swapping out a part earlier than necessary. Be sure to change the oil and safely drain old fuel out of the gas tank if you didn’t use a fuel stabilizer before you put it to rest for the summer. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for changing out the spark plugs, gapping them as required before installing.
Pull debris out of the air box
Your snowmobile’s air intake can get clogged with material spit up by sleds ahead of you on the trail. Take time to check the air box every time before you start up the machine. If the intake’s partially blocked, low oxygen levels can quickly compromise your engine’s lifespan.
Inspect the lights and lamps
The last thing you need to learn out on the trail at dusk is that a fuse is blown and you don’t have running lights. Take a few moments and run through all the various lights and signals. Wipe the casings of the lamps down and verify brake lights, tail lights and headlamps are all operational.
Inspect the brakes
Test the brakes as a matter of course each time you start the snowmobile. Pop the hood and look at the brake fluid reservoir, topping off as necessary. Look under the machine for signs of oil leaks. Because brake fluid is very corrosive, it’s important that you wipe up any spills or internal leaks inside the machine quickly.
Look at the suspension system
Inspect your slides and hyfax for signs of wear. Replace any broken items before getting out in the snow. Shocks and suspension shouldn’t allow the sled to bounce up and down. Instead, movements like these should be quickly suppressed.
Check in on your drive belt
Like a motorcycle’s chain, your drive belt carries the energy from the motor to the tracks that rotate across the snow. Inspect your snowmobile’s drive belt for cracks or fraying. Indications of wear should be taken seriously. Remember to always travel with a spare drive belt, and be sure to pack the tools you’ll need to change it out in the field if necessary.
If your machine’s got a direct drive system, check that your snowmobile’s drive axle and sprocket assembly are secure.
Take a look at the cooling system
Review your owner’s manual for details on the proper tension for your fan or water pump’s belt. A shiny belt may be indicative of a belt that loose and has been slipping. Take indications of fraying seriously and replace as necessary.
Inspect the slides
Inspect your sled’s slides and replace worn slides before you hit the trails. Compare the relative thickness of the slide at the tips vs the center. If they’re worn out and much thinner on the ends versus the middle, it may be time to replace them. Check the track. Look for tears, missing lugs or track clips. If the track is torn, have it replaced right away.
Log your miles in that maintenance journal each time you bring your sled back from a trip. You’ll be able to chart your miles and have a better idea of when those slides are due for replacement.
Inspect the skis
Look at your skis and runners to make sure they're straight. If you have steel skis, check for holes. If you have plastic, check that they aren’t cut or gouged.
Check your throttle, brake, hydraulic and oil lines
Look for wear or damage to these systems and make sure they’re fastened securely. Verify that exhaust springs and mounts are secure, present and tight. Check injection oil, coolant, and chain case oil levels and fill to specs in your owner’s manual. Lubricate all fittings.
Clean the carburetor
This can be done with a can of carburetor cleaner, some basic tools and instructions from your owner’s manual. If any of these tasks are too much to do on your own, remember you’ve always got your local snowmobile dealer. They’ll be able to help you order or replace parts as necessary.