Snowmobile Maintenance

Snowmobiles must be maintained regularly. Fixing and checking the small things not only keeps snowmobilers from an accident or break down on the trail, but can save owners from costly, major repairs.


The drive belt is one of the easiest things to check, but so often people don’t bother to look at it until it’s blown to little bits. This is a problem on the trail as pieces can wind into the clutches, tear off the speedometer cable, or possibly even grind the crankshaft seal out and blow the engine. Plus, if you aren’t carrying a spare – you will certainly have to walk home! And if you are carrying a spare, changing a belt on the trail with cold hands and limited tools can be a frustrating experience.

snowmobile belt

While they may not be easy to see in this photo, what we are looking at are several problems with the drive belt. First of all the lugs are worn completely flat in one portion – that’s a huge problem. This belt should be discarded. The second thing that you can see is where the edge of the belt is starting to shred, or tear away. This is an indicator that the belt is wearing out. If you continued to use this belt it could explode!


The snowmobile track is another part of the machine that riders often take for granted, even though there are a variety of small maintenance things that should be checked. One of the most important of these is the track clip – shown on the track below. These clips help to keep the track from derailing. A track such as this one, which is missing several clips in row, could derail on the trail. That, of course, would once again leave the rider on foot! If any of the track clips are bent they can chew up the sliders.

snowmobile track

Second, the sliders, or slide rails, should be checked periodically. Once sliders are thinned out, they should be replaced. The highest point of wear occurs at the front, just behind the curve of the rail. Running your sled without good sliders will cause damage to your sled’s rails, and will grind the track clips down.

For long term maintenance, instead of basic safety, if your track looks like this one, it’s time to think about purchasing a new one! Once the edges are peeling, and the re-inforcement rods are broken, it’s worn out. You may also wish to replace your track if the lugs on the exterior are worn down, or if it is stretched and you can no longer achieve the proper track tension.


Wear bars (or rods) are a high maintenance item, especially during low snow conditions. They should be checked frequently! A quick way to check them is to simply lift the front of the ski up and feel how thick the wear bar is. They are round rods in most cases, and should feel at least half there.

The photo below shows a carbide wear bar in place on the ski, and a worn wear bar crosswise on top of the ski. The top wear bar is worn down in diameter – which you can see by comparing the width of the front bent tip to the remainder of the wear bar.

If these wear bars are not replaced soon enough, the ski can also be worn away. A steel ski may actually become thin enough to break in half – which gives the snowmobiler a ride he may wish to forget!

Wear bars

Check your ski alignment. There is nothing more important on the trail than being sure your sled will go where you aim it!

If you decide you need to change your ski alignment, first check to determine why it went out of alignment in the first place. Generally it will have been caused by bent steering rods, or tie rod ends (ball joints).

Tie Rod End

If that all seems to be okay, and you change the alignment, be sure not to thread the ball joints out of the steering arms too far. This will make them weaker, and more apt to bend or break, such as in the photo below.

Tie Rod End


  • Check before you leave that your lights are working. Not only will tail lights keep you visible to the sled behind you at night, but I’ve been in stormy weather so bad they were all that kept our group together. And coming home without headlights in the dark is a rotten experience!
  • Check your fluid levels. In addition to gas, and oil, make sure that if your sled has a rad, the fluid is full.
  • Check your fan belt for wear if you are driving a model that uses one.
  • Fan belt


There are a variety of parts, and tools, that every machine should carry in order to avoid being left behind on the trail!

  • Spare drive belt
  • Extra spark plugs
  • Spark plug wrench
  • A multidriver
  • Vice grips
  • Nylon rope – for towing or for emergency repairs! (Who’d have ever believed a hunk of rope & a tree branch would get my buddy home ten miles, with a broken steering arm?)
  • Article information and photos in this article are from 2002.

    Trail Repairs

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