Time to service snowmobiles is before first snow hitsWritten by Sarah Ottney | Managing Editor | email@example.com
Before hitting any snow this winter, snowmobilers need to check their sleds to make sure they are in top condition, area service technicians say.
Preseason maintenance checks are commonly done starting in early November through Christmas, said Robert Streiffert, owner of DZ Motorsports in Genoa. The checks should review the machine from front to back to make sure all essential components are in working order.
“A snowmobile is very maintenance-intensive,” said Dan Cunningham, shop foreman and snowmobile specialist at Honda East Toledo in Maumee, who said he starts getting calls about snowmobiles in mid-summer and typically starts working on sleds by mid-September. “There’s a lot of wear items on a snowmobile you don’t find on other vehicles.”
The most important pre-winter maintenance duty involves checking the fuel system, particularly dealing with any gas left inside a snowmobile stored during the off-season, Streiffert said.
Humid summers like this year’s are especially hard on fuel and engine parts because of the moisture in the air, Cunningham said.
When gas sits inside a machine, solid deposits called varnish deposits can form in the fuel, which can clog carburetor jets.
“You need to pull the carburetors down and make sure they’re clean because the lifeblood of the machine is the carburetor,” Streiffert said.
If there are enough deposits, the sled won’t start because no fuel can reach the engine, Cunningham said.
“Or it still runs, but it’s running lean and when it runs lean, it’s burning pistons,” Cunningham said. “It will run great, but they always say it runs the best right before it blows up. That’s always the biggest thing we see. People just neglect them.”
For fuel-injected machines, drain any old fuel and put fresh in, Cunningham said.
“It’s not such a big deal with fuel injection because you’ve got 90 pounds of pressure pushing it so it’ll probably start, but you still need to get the old gas out of there because if you run it with that old gas in there you can do engine damage. It will overheat,” Cunningham said.
Newer fuel-injected machines are able to tolerate 10-percent ethanol fuel, but in general ethanol should be avoided in snowmobiles, Cunningham said. Ethanol is corrosive, absorbs water and elevates combustion temperatures, which burn up engine parts.
Before storing snowmobiles in the spring, owners should fog their engines, meaning spray oil inside the engine while it’s running to coat all the internal parts of the engine, Cunningham said.
“If you didn’t do that there’s the possibility of some corrosion inside the engine, which will rear its ugly head usually later on down the line — and usually not too far down the line,” Cunningham said.
All bearings and suspension parts should be greased with a low-temperature grease at the start of the season, Cunningham said.
“Make sure it’s low-temperature grease,” Cunningham said. “We have people who put regular wheel bearing grease in their suspensions and then it gets down to zero degrees and it’s rock hard. It locks everything solid and they have to warm it up get the right grease in there.”
Parts should also be greased after each ride.
“Water from melting snow gets inside so as soon as you get it home and thawed out, pump your fittings, bearings and suspension parts full of grease,” Cunningham said. “It pushes water out and gets a good grease in there so it’s ready to go the next time. That’s just normal maintenance most people disregard.”
Another common pre-winter issue is snowmobiles that were hauled on open trailers and then stored without washing off the salt, Cunningham said.
“We have machines coming in the fall that you can’t even steer it because the steering is all locked up,” Cunningham said.
During a standard winter tune-up, a technician will also check clutch condition and alignment, inspect the drive belt, check the front end alignment, align the track, adjust the carburetors and adjust and lubricate cables, Cunningham said.
The rear suspension should be checked for worn or broken parts, Cunningham said. Spark plugs and ski wear bars should also be checked.
“They [wear rods] usually wear down and then you can’t steer well, so that’s going to be a big one,” Cunningham said.
Another common wear item many people don’t check are sliders, Streiffert said.
The chain case oil should be changed and the battery and coolant level and condition should be checked, Cunningham said.
Over time, shocks fade and will need to be rebuilt, Streiffert said.
Pop the chain case fluid covers off, clean the case and make sure bearings in the chain case haven’t stretched because that’s a major drive component of the machine, Streiffert said.
It’s also important to check the electrical system, including head lights, tail lights and hand warmers, Streiffert said.
“You don’t want to freeze first time out,” Streiffert said.
If unsure about performing any of these checks, it’s best to consult a trained professional.
“A lot of our customers are riders, not mechanics, so we try to point out the things a lot of people overlook, but we know what to look for because see them all the time,” Streiffert said.
For more information, call Honda East at (419) 891-1230 or DZ Motorsports at (419) 855-9060.