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Must-Do Snowmobile Maintenance

Andy Swanson

Despite that a snowmobile is well beyond its youth if it shows 3,000 miles on the odometer, with regular inspections and service it can perform as reliably and as well as it did when it was new. Here are six snowmobile maintenance jobs that must be performed before the next time it’s ridden. Click on the photos to make them larger.

 

It's normal to find a gooey hunk of oil and metal shavings on a chaincase plug.

A gooey hunk of oil and metal shavings is normal on the chaincase plug.

Change Chaincase Oil — Chaincase lube breaks down with heating and cooling cycles, and it might be contaminated by water and normal metal slivers from the chain and sprockets. Chaincases on most snowmobiles built since the mid-1990s have a drain plug, which makes draining the oil fairly simple; some other machines, including Ski-Doo REV-X models, need to have the chaincase cover removed for this service. Arctic Cat snowmobiles with the ACT Drive system should be flushed and filled, too.

The rule of thumb is to screw in the adjuster bolt by hand, and then back it out a quarter turn.

The rule of thumb is to screw in the adjuster bolt by hand, and then back it out a quarter turn.

Set Chain Tension — As long as you’re already changing the chaincase oil, set the chain tension, too. Correct chain tension is equally important as replacing the chain oil because a loose chain might skip and grind on the sprockets, possibly leading to complete failure. A loose chain can be especially problematic in mechanical reverse systems, making it difficult to engage reverse or forward gears.

This bearing race cracked because the grease wore out.

This driveshaft bearing spun for 2,900 miles before cracking because it never was refreshed with new grease.

Grease It — This is one of the easiest services for regular snowmobile maintenance, and taking a few minutes to inject fresh grease in the chassis could determine whether a snowmobile is problem free the next time it’s ridden. Hit all of the zerks in the rear suspension, front suspension, steering components and the drivetrain. Fresh grease for the driveshaft and jackshaft bearings is especially important because without it, a bearing might fail and leave you stuck on the side of the trail or in the backcountry.

A hyfax wear indicator line is on the edge.

Hyfax usually have a line to show wear.

Inspect Hyfax — Hyfax are a slippery surface on the bottom of the suspension rails for the track to slide against. If they’re worn too far, the track and rails will suffer irreparable damage. Look for a wear limit line on the outer edge of the hyfax. If there’s less than about 1/8 inch of hyfax material under the line, it’s suggested to replace the hyfax.

Wear bars on right skis usually wear quicker because they ride on pavement  along road shoulders.

Wear bars on right skis usually wear quicker because they ride on pavement along road shoulders.

Inspect Wear Bars — Inspecting the snowmobile’s wear bars is another easy one, and it must be performed regularly. Make sure the skis have good wear bars underneath that will be able to withstand abuse in case the sled meets low-snow conditions that are likely during early season rides. There should be cutting carbide on each bar. Replace the bar if all carbide is gone or nearly gone.

Check Lights — Tail lights and brake lights are important so trailing riders can see your sled, and dusk is a bad time to find out that a headlight bulb is burned out. Fortunately, inspecting lights is yet another easy job, and replacement is usually pretty simple, too. Start the sled and activate the lights. Replace the ones that don’t work.

Now that you know what MUST be inspected and serviced on a snowmobile before it’s ridden again, here are five more things that SHOULD be inspected. If you don’t do these now, make sure to work through this list within the next few hundred miles.

  • Inspect clutches
  • Check brake pads
  • Inspect wheels and bearings
  • Inspect suspension rails, torque arms and hardware
  • Adjust track, align skis

 

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