Working on your snowmobile yourself is pretty common place among most sled enthusiasts. Snowmobiles require lots of maintenance and since it’s expensive to take it into the dealer all the time for maintenance and repairs, doing in your own garage can save you money and time if you know what you’re doing. With that in mind, we’ve created a list of some of the most common mistakes people make when tuning, repairing, and working on their snowmobile themselves. We hope it can save you a few headaches later on down the trail.
1. Your Belt Is Too Loose — No, we’re not talking about your waist belt after a big meal, but the drive/clutch belt on your sled. Just because the belt sticks out of the secondary clutch a little bit does not necessarily mean that the tension is correct. The most accurate way to check belt deflection is to push against the belt with a finger midway between the two clutches and measure how far the belt moves. Pressure and deflection varies by make and model. If a belt needs replaced, you can never go wrong with OEM drive belts but aftermarket snowmobile belts are often just as good and may save you some cash.
2. Tighten the Track — We recently wrote a post on how to adjust your track tension. Make sure that it’s not too lose. A lot of people think that having it a little lose is always better for less resistance, but with today’s high speed track speeds your track is pushed outward from centrifugal force and can cause damage to your tunnel and track if it’s too loose. Conversely, if the track is too tight, you can also cause premature slider wear and loss of power, and excessive bearing wear.
3. Inspection the Minor Stuff — Checking and tuning the little things can make a difference in overall performance. Check free play in bushings, ski and track alignment, slider and carbide wear, fluid levels, and check for loose nuts and bolts regularly to keep your sled in tip top shape. Often times the small things that get neglected year after year end up being the cause of sled failure out on the trail.
4. Traction Factor — “With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility”, was quoted by Spiderman’s uncle Ben. He wasn’t talking about snowmobiles, but the principle still applies. If you have added a turbo (or supercharger) to your sled or modified your snowmobile to increase horsepower, then you’re responsible for making that power available with more traction in the form of studs, cleats or a new track with deeper lugs. You can’t use the added power if you don’t have good traction! Please drive responsibly as well.
5. Not Measuring — When you are measuring belt slack, track setting, or bolt torque specifications, don’t just go by feel or eye ball it. Invest in a proper torque wrench if you don’t already have one so you know your bolts and nuts are tight enough and measure your track and belts with a ruler or tape measure instead of your finger and you’ll get consistent results and have a safer more reliable sled.
6. Use A Repair Manual — Even though you may have an above average mechanical knowledge, a repair manual is very useful and will usually pay for itself after one repair job by saving you time and money by avoiding mistakes and improper repairs. In addition to showing step by step instructions for repairing your sled, a good repair manual will also give you fluid capacities, belt tension measurements, torque settings, valve and spark plug gap settings, and more, all in one easy to find place. That way you’re not trying to watch a Youtube video of someone else making a repair or scouring snowmobile forums for the specs on a specific bolt or nut.
7. Know Your Limits — Sometimes a repair job is over your head due to not having the right tools, knowledge, skill, or time. Know when you’ve been beaten and take it to a dealer or trusted repair shop to get fixed by someone who has been trained and has the right tools. Too often, people bring their half torn apart machines in after realizing they couldn’t fix it themselves or broke something even worse trying to do so. This story usually results in an even more expensive repair since the mechanic has to figure out what you did wrong.
8. Put It Together Right — Take the time to put everything back together the way it was from the factory, especially electrical wiring. Whether you’re adding an aftermarket light, swapping out the steering column, or changing the tail light, make sure you route the wiring the way it was before. Many electrical problems are caused by wires grounding out after their insulation was melted or rubbed off from being routed wrong during a repair job. Those zip ties wire stays, and factory electrical tape were put there for a reason. If you’re not good at remembering where things were, take pictures as you are taking things apart so you can follow them in revers when putting things back together.
We hope these tips help you avoid some common mistakes shadetree mechanics make while working on their sleds. Do you have a tech tip idea or question? Email your ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org and it may be featured in our next post.