Top Ten Pre-Season Snowmobile Tech Tips
Prep your sled right in the Fall, Be Ready to Ride when the First Snow Lands
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Original Publish Date: October 1, 2008
I get pinged from time to time from folks asking what the best way to get a solid launch on the season would be. I wrote up my Top 10 for the fine readers of ORC in hopes that it would help you get ready for the season to come.
Remove and clean. Any crud that has built up inside them can cause your sled to run poorly but it could result in a burning a hole in a piston when you're ripping down a frozen lake - or ""skipping"" over one not so frozen. A little effort here saves a lot of frustration, and money, down the road.
Put new gas in the sled before you head out. This is especially important if you are running a sled with carbs that does not have a anti-knock sensor built into the the head. Drain the tank, dump it into your truck (as it's equipped to deal with less then prime fuel) and put fresh fuel in the sled.
Before I store my sleds I always remove the drive belt and then spray the clutches down with a shot of storage spray to prevent them from getting a chalky white layer of oxidization over the summer. When you get the sled out in the fall, be sure to clean the the storage spray off the clutch faces. Otherwise you could wear an hourglass shape in your belt and ruin it. A little acetone on a rag and the quick wipe on the clutch sheaves does wonders.
I always remove the skid frame from the sled each year and then give it a good once-over. You're mostly concerned about the bearings in the skid and the sliders. To check the bearings give each wheel a spin and if it makes noise replace it. When the bearing is still inside the wheel it's amazing how smooth you will think it's running, even if the bearing is bad. Slides have wear marks on the side of them and check the full length of the slide to see if it's worn close to the mark anywhere. If you spend a second guessing whether they can make it through the season, replace them. If they wear out on a hot spring day the track clips will wear through the slide rails of your rear suspension, making the repair bill go from $40 for slides to $300 for slides and slide rails plus time served. It's also a good idea to check all the skid frame bolts for tightness...early 2000 Arctic Cats were famous for bolts coming loose and auguring large holes in the slide rails.
While you have the skid out check the shocks in it. Cycle the shocks through to see if they make any squishy sounds. If shocks are making hissing noises as you cycle them up and down it's time to either rebuild or replace (depends on which shocks you have). While you cn convince yourself that you could get away with a lower ride quality, keep in mind that shocks can also totally let go, or worse, freeze. If they let go they spray shock oil everywhere and you get a very bouncy and dangerous ride. If they freeze it will be like you're riding a brick.
Sometimes it's easy to overlook the obvious, but the track is not something you want to forget. Taking your sled over a few rocks during a spring climb is a great way to rip lugs free of your boot and greatly weakens the track. Same for studs that have pulled through, which is easy to do on the outside of the clips. If your track lets go usually it busts in half and lays out on the ground as you roll over it. No track means no brakes, and that's not cool to find out when doing 45mph heading down a 30% grade. To inspect move the lugs back and forth and see if you have any ready to come loose. If studs are about the pull through then it sounds like you should be making a call to http://www.tracksusa.com/ to see what they have in stock. If you find you have to replace a track then half your work is done while your skid frame is out of the sled.
There are two ways to change your chaincase oil, but keep in mind that broken chains mean no brakes on most sleds. The easiest and most popular way most shops go about changing the oil is they pull the dipstick, suck the oil out the dipstick hole with a vacuum drainer and then pour new oil in (note: on Polaris sleds you can undo the drain plug from the bottom of the chaincase). This leaves all the crud in the bottom of the chaincase and doesn't leave anything actually cleaned. The best way is to drain the chaincase, pull the pipe and canister, pull the cover off the chaincase and clean up the mess inside. Then replace the cover and fill with the recommended amount of oil. Another thing to keep in mind is that some sleds with electronic reverse have been known to have the bolts that hold the gears on come loose time to time causing a lot of damage. Again, another case where doing it right wins out.
Pull start cord
An easy thing to overlook but nothing will make you more angry then getting ready to go for a ride and you end up with the pull start cord breaking, and you're left with the end of it in your hand. If it's frayed either get it replaced or do it yourself.
Before you pull your shoulder out of that socket....
This is a little trick that fellow ORC contributor Dan Canfield showed me one time when we were sledding in Utah. It doesn't apply to fuel injected sleds but if you have a sled with carbs it will save you a lot of time and energy. Now that the sled is ready to started with a full tank of fresh fuel, take your air gun from the compression and put the nozzle into the gas tank. Hold your hand over the opening to seal th air gun over the gas tank and *gently* shoot some air into the gas tank, leaving your hand over the fill nozzle. Do this for about a minute or so. This pressurizes the tank and will force the gas down into the fuel pump and up into the carbs. Doing this usually results in sled starting on the 3rd pull.
Personally I find that putting new plugs in a sled before the fogging oil is burned out is a waste. I always start the sled on last years plugs and run it until the fogging oil has burned out. Once the exhaust cleans up I put in the new plugs. No sense getting the new plugs covered in burnt fogging oil.
You've heard the expression 5 dollar helmet for a 5 dollar head? After spending so much time and money on you ride do you want to find out that your goggles or visor are toast? Do yourself to make sure your gear is in order. I can't tell you how many times met my buds to go for our 1st ride and there is always something screwed up. Helmets with busted visors, they can't find their goggles, jackets with zippers busted. A very frustrating mess for all.
Hopefully this little checklist will help you get ready for the snowy season ahead.
Keep it shiny side up,
Like Tony's tips? Want to ask him a specific question? Send your question to Editor@Off-Road.com or enter it in the box below, and we'll have the SnowMan take it on next month!