Used Sled Shopper: 2001 Yamaha Phazer 500

2001 Yamaha Phazer 500
2001 Yamaha Phazer 50

If you’re looking for a cheap, reliable, easy-to-ride and competent snowmobile – perhaps as a “third sled” – a Phazer with trailing arms might be the perfect machine for you. It’s a low-maintenance, lightweight, low-powered snowmobile that’s excellent for young riders, a spouse who rides only once or twice per season or for a brother-in-law who unexpectedly shows up at the cabin and wants to go for a rip.

Even though fan-cooled sleds like the Phazer are typically dismissed as a “wife’s sled,” experienced, grown men can ride a Phazer 500 and have no problem keeping up with his friends. “It’s nice and lightweight with decent horsepower for its size and really is a fun little trail sled,” said Myron Parent, the service manager for Yamaha dealer Waldoch Sports in Forest Lake, Minnesota. “I wouldn’t be afraid to ride that sled all day, today.”

By model year 2001, the trailing arm-based Phazer was three years old, and, sadly for fans of fan-cooled sleds, it would be the final year of the machine until it was reinvented as an FX Phazer in 2007 with a four-stroke, liquid-cooled engine and A-arm front end. Three versions of the Phazer were available that final year: the standard model, the Phazer Deluxe and Phazer Mountain Lite. The 2001 Phazer and Phazer Deluxe look identical, except for the word “Deluxe” on the hood of the fancy version that was equipped with electric start and reverse.

Unlike current-generation Phazer snowmobiles that are known for unsettled handling and marginal suspension performance, Phazers from 1999 to 2001 handle well and are easy to drive. Yamaha updated to plastic-soled, rocker-shaped skis in 2001, which brought a claimed weight loss of more than 8 pounds compared to the all-steel skis they replaced. Also updated for the Phazer and Phazer Deluxe that year was the track, which had the same lug pattern as the rubber hoop on the high-performance Yamaha SRX, and revised suspension calibrations to improve the ride quality and reduce steering effort.

The 485cc, fan-cooled engine was reworked in 1999 with a stronger crankshaft and the oil pump was moved to the center of the engine. The engine includes cylinder-mounted reeds and the Yamaha Energy Induction System, or plastic “boost bottle,” to soothe the airflow into the engine for crisper low- and mid-range throttle response. Peak power is made at 7250 rpm, up 500 revolutions from the previous version of the engine. Clutch engagement is 3800 rpm.

Trailing arm-based Phazers are “totally reliable” without any durability issues, Parent said, though he’s seen buckled tunnels on some 1999 models because they didn’t have the inherent reinforcement from heat exchangers that liquid-cooled models had. Tunnels on 2000 and 2001 models included reinforcement.

If you find a trailing arm-based Phazer that’s in rough condition, hope shouldn’t be lost because its no-frills design makes it easy to resurrect. As with any carbureted snowmobile, make sure the fuel-and-air mixers are clean so that the engine idles and runs well on both cylinders. Parent recommends just one upgrade for 1999 to 2001 Phazers: full plastic skis for better handling.

The Phazer was built with a 150- watt electrical system that was known to be inadequate for nighttime riding compared to more-powerful Yamaha sleds of the era. For example, the SRX from 2001 had a 300-watt magneto that made its headlight shine brighter. The Phazer’s electrical system can handle a higher-powered bulb than what was stock, Parent said.

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3 thoughts on “Used Sled Shopper: 2001 Yamaha Phazer 500

  • Avatar for Steve C

    Yes, they are decent sleds for what they go for used in Ontario ( less than $2k ). However, I remember my friend and I being out on our 500 liquids ( Cat & Doo) , and meeting an older couple who had bought a couple of these 500cc fan cooled Yamaha’s. They liked their sleds – except for the the 11 mpg ! That’s less than 9 mpg US ! They had even brought them back to their dealer to be checked out and apparently that was normal !
    I don’t bash any brand of sled and like them all, just thought that kind of fuel usage was actually ridiculous. Maybe some other owners could chime in and correct me if their experiences were any better.

  • Avatar for Austin Becker

    These Phazers are very decent snowmobiles for the beginner. I rode a 2001 just like the one pictured in the article a couple of years ago and was pretty impressed overall. The gas mileage on the Phazer that I rode on got about 14 mpg. I was riding agressive at times, but mostly low key. If you are in the market for a second sled, the Yamaha SX and SXR 500s are awesome machines. With a few modifications like better skis and track setup, these sleds are a blast. You also may be able to find the 500 liquids cheaper priced than the Phazer.

  • Avatar for Sean in MKE

    I’m going to second Austin Becker in that the 500 liquid twin is a better purchase than the Phazer. Its a bulletproof motor, easy to work on, and has a few of the upgrades missing from the Phazer.

    I picked up a good used 2001 SXR 500 (honestly this is your best bet as it has more suspension travel and adjustable hand and thumb warmers) for $1250, rode for 2 years and sold it for $1250 and only replaced one broken wear bar. It also has a higher output stator for running heater shield, larger bulb, etc.


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