The Dennis Kirk Blog
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With the first flakes flying around the Snowbelt, our favorite time of year is fast approaching. The riding season will be here before you know it (hopefully) and you need to be ready to take advantage of the first solid snowfall. That means, get out in the garage and get your sled ready to rip. If you haven’t done it yet, now is the time to get all of your pre-season snowmobile maintenance done.
Check out the list below and start ticking off boxes so your sled can be at its best for the season.
A snowmobile is made up of a lot of moving parts. And those parts need to be lubed and greased to be able to operate properly. Fortunately, greasing the rear suspension, front suspension, steering components and the driveshaft bearing is a fairly easy job to complete. With a grease gun and a can of low-temp grease, you can have the job done in under ten minutes.
Locate all of the Zerk fittings located on each component. Most are easy to find, while others can be a little sneaky. Refer to your shop manual if you are unsure. Hook your grease gun on the Zerk and pump new grease into it until you see it coming out of the component.
Change Chaincase Lube
One of the often forgotten about maintenance tasks is changing out the chaincase lube. It’s one of those things that you don’t see and isn’t front of mind. But it can make a serious impact on the health and performance of your snowmobile. Chaincase lube can shear and break down over time, which reduces its lubricating properties. Metal shavings from the chain and sprocket can build up over time as well. It’s recommended that you should change out the chaincase lube every year.
Many sleds have a drain plug in the crankcase, while others need to be drained by pulling the cover. Once the lube is drained, remove the cover if you haven’t yet done so to clean the case. Use a degreaser and a rag to wipe away all of the sludge and metal shavings build-up. You can also check the condition of the chain and sprockets at this point too. When everything is clean, reinstall the cover and plug. Be careful not to over-tighten the drain plug as this can cause major damage. Refill the case with the proper chaincase lube.
Adjust Chain Tension
While you’re maintaining the chaincase is a good time to adjust the chain tension. Chains “stretch” over time and need to be adjusted to make up the difference. Check your sled’s book for the manufacturer’s specifications for chain deflection. If you don’t have access to the specs, a good place to start is ¼ inch of free play.
Check Wear Rods/Carbides
Take a quick look under your skis to see how much of a cutting edge is left on your carbides. If they are flattened off with no usable carbide left, it’s time to swap them out.
Most sets of hyfax have a wear indicator on them to let you know when their lifespan is up. If yours are at or very near that mark, swap them out for a new set and your track will spin freely for the upcoming season.
Look over the track for cracks in the rubber, missing lugs or separation of the rubber. If you see any serious damage, a new track is needed. A blown apart track at high speeds is no joke. Also check to ensure that you aren’t missing any track clips or studs if you are running them.
Check Drive Belt & Clutch Sheaves
Remove your drive belt to make your inspections. With it off, make sure there are no loose cords or defects in the shape of the belt. If the sides of the belt seem glazed, you can take a scuff pad to it and scrub away the glaze. While the belt is off, take a look at the clutch sheaves as well. You can clean and scour them with the scuff pad and some brake cleaner as well.
Check the belt deflection once you reinstall the drive belt. Run the sled for a bit, enough to engage the clutches, whether that is a short ride or on a lift. Ensure that the belt is sitting slightly above the secondary sheaves. If it isn’t, either your belt is too worn or your clutches are not aligned properly. If it is fine, check the deflection. This is the amount of slack the belt has when pushed down on in the middle. Your book should have the proper specs, but slightly over an inch is fairly normal.
Squeeze and release both the throttle and brake levers to actuate the cables. Make sure the cables are moving smoothly with no catches or stickiness. Ensure the throttle cable opens and closes the throttle properly and be sure the brake cable is activating the brake as it should be as well.
Inspect Brakes & Fluid
Check to see how much usable pad is left on the brakes and to see if it needs to be replaced. Also, take a look at the brake fluid. Top it off it is low. Brake fluid should be changed about every other year to perform at its full potential.
Top Off Coolant & Engine Injection Oil
Take a quick peak at your engine oil and coolant levels. If either are low, top them off. If your coolant hasn’t been changed in a while, it’s not a bad idea to change it out.
Inspect Function of Shocks
Suspension components can “freeze” up after sitting for long periods of time. Hop on the sled and do some bounce tests to ensure that your rear suspension is rebounding as it should. Also make sure the front shocks are damping and rebounding properly.
Ensure that all of your lights are working as they should, including both high and low beam headlights and your tail and brake lights.
Use Fresh Gas/Add Fuel Stabilizer
By now everyone knows that today’s gas is not the best, especially ethanol-blended gas. Ethanol-blended gas breaks down by a process called phase separation. When this happens, the octane value of the gas drops. Ethanol also has a nasty habit of “varnishing” your fuel system as it breaks down.
Hopefully, you added a stabilizer when you first put your sled in summer storage to mitigate these problems. But even if you did, it’s still not a bad idea to drain out this old gas and add fresh gas before your first ride. This will ensure that you are getting the best/cleanest combustion as possible. You can learn more about about the effects of ethanol here.