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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