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Pre-Season Snowmobile Maintenance

Be prepared for the snow to fly, by reviewing these must-do maintenance items before the season starts.

After a summer in storage, your snowmobile and its parts will be in need of some attention before you hit the snow. Be prepared for the snow to fly, by reviewing these items before the season starts.

Lubricants & Fluids

Snowmobiles are comprised of many moving parts. When these parts sit for a while, they can become rusty and lose their lubrication. Ease your snowmobile into action by greasing and lubricating its parts. The most efficient way to grease your snowmobile is with a grease gun. Utilize your owner’s manual to locate the grease fittings (or zerks), pumping new grease into each one.

Meanwhile, chaincase fluid is relevant to the reliability of your machine’s drivetrain. The drivetrain oil may absorb water through a bad seal or leak, and its viscosity will break down with heat. All of the above are reasons to get in the habit of changing the fluid each fall. You’ll want to drain the oil, refill it with fresh oil, and then set the chain tension to the manufacturer’s specifications. Chains stretch over time, so they need to be adjusted accordingly.

Things to Inspect

With a careful eye, you should take your time inspecting a few specific components of your snowmobile. Start with the skis—both their alignment and the state of the carbides underneath. Your snowmobile will handle the best if the skis and track are properly aligned. Meanwhile, missing chunks of carbides and a worn or bent host bar are both indicators of carbides that should be replaced.

Next, check the wear indicator on your hyfax. If they’re at or very near the wear mark, it’s time to swap them out for a new set. Doing so will help your track spin more freely throughout the season. While you’re in the vicinity, inspect your track for damage. That might include cracks in the rubber, missing lugs, and separation of the rubber. If you have track clips or studs, check to see if any are missing.

With these exterior elements inspected, it’s time to open up your machine. Start with the drive belt—it’s easiest to do a thorough inspection of the belt with it removed from the machine. That way, you can carefully look over both sides completely. What you’re looking for are thin spots, layer separation, missing lugs, and frayed edges. Also look for glazing on the belt, which can cause belt slippage. If you see any, use a scuff pad to scrub away the glaze. Once you reinstall the drive belt, complete your inspection with a check of its deflection (the amount of slack in the belt when it’s pushed down). Your owner’s manual will specify the preferred deflection.

While the drive belt is removed, it’s a good time to address the clutch. Inspect the sheaths for glazing, using a scuff pad to remove it. After that, clean the clutch with warm water or spray it clean with brake cleaner. Wipe it with a clean cloth to finish. If possible, it’s not a bad idea to have an experienced mechanic inspect the clutch weights, bushings, rollers, and springs.

What to Double Check

The easiest items to check off your checklist will often have the greatest impact on your safety. For example, the easiest way to avoid collisions out on the trail is by making sure your brake lights are functioning. Similarly, you’ll hinder your vision in difficult weather conditions if your headlight is out. The moral of the story is: check your lights, as well as your machine’s fluid levels. Not only should you refill fluids to the appropriate level but check for leaks on those that have gone low.

Another easy, but essential, check is the cable operation. Squeeze and release the throttle and brake levers to make sure the cables are moving without catching or sticking. Finally, it’s not uncommon for suspension components to freeze up after sitting for long periods. Standing on the snowmobile, move and bounce around to see if the suspension is rebounding as it’s supposed to. 

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