This information is offered to you as a guideline to different types of maintenance and riding tips.
An unlucky snowmobiler might say that if there weren’t bad luck, he’d have no luck at all. Whether it’s a shelled chaincase, blown drive belt or lost drag race, this guy can’t seem to catch a break. While No-Luck Chuck always blames something else — the repair shop, the belt manufacturer or the kid at the dealership who sold the belt to him — he should look at a mirror to find cause for his funk. If Charlie would spend a few hours in the fall to carefully check over his snowmobile and replace a few parts, his sled would be more reliable and make it through the weekend without a breakdown. Heck, he might even win that drag race. To make sure your sled doesn’t end up broken and back on the trailer by Saturday afternoon, work through this list of pre-season check-ups and repairs.
1. Change Chaincase Fluid
Replacing chaincase fluid is important in order to maintain reliability from the drivetrain. Oil viscosity breaks down with heat, and a lot of BTUs are generated within a snowmobile chaincase. Snowmobile drivetrain oil might also have leaked out or absorbed water — it will be a milky-white color — through a bad seal, so changing the fluid could enable you to discover these problems and repair the cause. Most sleds built in the past 15 years or so have a drain plug on the bottom of the case. After it has been refilled with fresh oil, set the chain tension to the manufacturer’s specification.
2. Inspect Carbides
When is a bad time to find out your snowmobile needs new carbides? Immediately after it comes to a sudden halt because the razor-thin wear bar broke and hooked the edge of the trailer deck while trying to load up for the season’s first ride. If the cutting carbide is dull but the wear bars have otherwise suffered minimal damage, there’s no need to replace them — as long as handling isn’t compromised. But if chunks are missing, the host bar is bent or worn thin, replace the set.
3. Scuff Clutch Sheaves
Glazed clutch sheaves won’t necessarily leave you stranded on a trail, but they will cause the belt to slip, which hurts performance and can overheat the belt and clutches. No good. Remove the drive belt and lightly scuff both sheaves of both clutches with emery cloth — about 150-grit. Don’t use steel wool because it will polish the metal; scuff pads are OK, but they’re not as good as emery cloth. Slide your hand in a straight line, in and out, between the outer edge and center of the sheave. After there is an even scuff pattern on each sheave, wash them with warm water. If you leave the fine metal dust on the clutches, it will get into the rollers and bushings and accelerate wear of those parts.
4. Inspect Belt
Thin spots, layer separation, missing lugs and frayed edges are all reasons to replace a snowmobile drive belt. Before you reinstall the belt from the previous maintenance step, closely inspect it for damage. Scuff used belts with emery cloth or a wire brush to remove glaze. Belts on some modern sleds might look OK, but they could be the cause of reduced peak engine RPM or a generally anemic response when you squeeze the throttle. Aggressive riders might notice these problems after using a belt for less than 1,000 miles, so when considering whether to install a new drive belt, think about how well your sled performed last season.
5. Grease Chassis
Grease keeps the suspension and steering systems working smoothly so they deliver a comfortable ride and safe, easy control on the trail. The number of grease zerks on sleds has decreased in the past 10 years, but use a flashlight to closely inspect your machine and find all of the zerks. Look near pivot points in the suspensions, bearings on the drivetrain and shafts inside the bellypan that are part of the steering system. Select a quality grease and stick with it for the life of the sled because, like Hollywood starlets, some greases don’t mix well with others.
6. Check Lights
Safety first, right? Oh sure, being safe is boring and you probably don’t want to read tips about safety, but have you ever followed at night a snowmobile that has a burned out taillight? It’s annoying. So make sure your snowmobile’s taillight works, and while you’re checking that make sure the brake light, headlight and kill switch are working, too.
Ride Safe on your Snow machine!
Operating a snow machine can be very rewarding, giving you the chance to see and experience many areas of the state that often aren’t accessible during our cold winters, but don’t become a statistic! All snow machine riders should review safety precautions and ride responsibly.
The following are some key snow machine safety reminders:
- Most important, be prepared for extreme conditions. Cold temperatures can be dangerous, so wear clothing that is appropriate for your winter activities.
- Know your abilities and understand the capabilities of your snowmobile. Every operator and every machine have different capabilities. Identify these levels and stay below them, and you are virtually guaranteed of having a safe and enjoyable ride.
- Remember trail conditions are forever changing, so make sure that you operate at a speed that is reasonable for the existing conditions. For example, at night or when operating in other low-visibility conditions, reduce your speed so that you can identify and avoid sudden hazards on the trail or lake. Always be aware of the conditions of the trail or frozen body of water when operating a snowmobile.
- Don’t Drink and Ride. Never operate a snow machine after drinking alcohol. There are strict laws prohibiting operating any type of recreational vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. If you take the chance, you will lose your privileges to operate any type of recreational vehicle or motor vehicle and pay substantial fines.
- Be especially careful on winter weekends that draw large crowds outdoors.
- Always be careful to test ice safety, even freezing temperatures have occurred. Many factors affect how ice freezes, so ice thickness will not be same throughout a lake. Always check the thickness and condition of the ice before going out and while you are heading to your secret ice-fishing spot. Avoid inlets and outlets and other areas of the lake where there is current, such as springs or natural formations. The ice in these areas will be thinner and not as strong. Avoid objects embedded in the ice; these warm as they attract sunlight, weakening the ice.
- Skimming is a dangerous practice of operating snowmobiles on open water.
Snow machine safety is all about personal responsibility. "Accidents are usually caused by people driving carelessly, too fast, beyond their skill level, or under the influence of alcohol. Combine one or more of those factors with iffy ice and trail conditions, and things can go very wrong."
So be smart — use caution and common sense, and you’ll have a memorable and safe winter adventure on your snow machine.
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