abandoned snowmobile

Common Snowmobile Problems and How to Fix Them

For those who live for the cold and snow, a snowmobile is a dream machine. But when your sled stops performing well (or at all), that dream can quickly become a nightmare.

With a little know-how, though, you can quickly resolve the problem and get back out on the trails.

Easy Fixes

Before you start tearing your sled apart, make sure it’s not something simple causing the trouble. Did you accidentally hit the emergency off switch? Does your sled have gas? These may sound silly, but think about how many times you’ve had trouble getting something electrical to work only to discover you forgot to plug it in!

If there’s fuel in the tank, but it’s leftover from last winter, drain it and replace it with fresh gas. Make sure your machine has plenty of coolant, and tighten the nuts and bolts on the head gasket. Make sure all the wires are connected properly. Some of these tiny details can be the difference between a fun day on the trails and a frustrating day in your garage.

Digging Deeper

fixing a snowmobile

If none of the quick fixes work, you’re going to have to dig a little depper into your sled’s engine. Remember, there are three essential components necessary for your snowmobile to run properly:

  1. Fuel/air mixture
  2. A spark
  3. Compression.

A problem in any one of these components could cause your sled to underperform or stop running altogether. Here are some of the most common problems with these components:

1. Flooded Engine

It’s possible to flood your snowmobile engine due to over-choking/over-priming it. If this is the case, you might smell gas or even see it running out of the exhaust pipe. While the gas will eventually evaporate, allowing you to start the engine, you’re not going to want to wait if you’re out in the cold.

Fortunately, you can manually clear the line using these steps:

  • Hit the kill switch
  • Pull the spark plugs
  • Hold the throttle open
  • Pull the starter cord 15-20 times to clear the line
  • Wipe off the spark plugs and replace them

2. Dried Out Fuel Lines and Carburetor

On the opposite end of the spectrum are fuel lines and a carburetor that have dried out. This is common when the snowmobile has not been run for a while and can sometimes be corrected with the proper use of a carburetor cleaner and/or starter fluid. In extreme cases, where the combustion chamber is not receiving any fuel at all, you may be facing either having the carburetor cleaned or even rebuilt.

3. Old Spark Plugs

Spark plugs can be tested by removing them and grounding them on a head bolt so that when the engine is turned over a spark is visible. If a spark isn’t visible or seems weak, it’s a good indication that your plugs need to be changed.

If the spark plugs are working, or you’ve replaced them but the engine will still not turn over, there may be a problem with the electrical system. Check the coils and wires, plug caps, the regulator, and the charging discharge ignition box.

4. Low Compression

If your snowmobile is not as powerful as it once was or isn’t running at all and you’ve ruled out the other causes above, low compression could be the culprit. In this case, you want to perform a compression test on each cylinder in your machine’s engine.

This video provides a good, quick tutorial on conducting compression testing.

The optimal compression is 120 psi (pounds per square inch) or greater. Anything below 110 could signal a potential issue, and an engine typically won’t run with much less than 100 psi compression. You also want to make sure the compression is equal in all cylinders.

If you find the compression in one or all cylinders is low, the problem could be scored cylinders or pistons, a damaged crank seal, piston rings that are worn out, or a defective head gasket.

Problems with the Clutch System

If you are experiencing trouble with your drive belt, you’re certainly going to notice it — you’ll either feel it or hear it. If your snowmobile belt fails due to disintegration, glazing, hour glassing, or it breaks either partially or completely, your snowmobile will be rendered inoperable until this drive belt system is replaced.

Now What?

While you can certainly tackle some of these problems yourself, it’s better to seek the help of a snowmobile professional if you’re unsure. Just like mechanics who work on automobiles or boats, snowmobile mechanics specialize in the component systems that keep the snowmobile in good working order.

Remember, just like your automobile or truck, it’s not just the performance of the vehicle at stake—it’s a matter of personal safety. Up North Sports can help you prepare for unexpected mechanical issues, on the trail and off.

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Up North Sports
2000 Division St W
Bemidji, MN 56601

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218-444-SNOW   (218-444-7669)
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