How Do I Know My Snowmobile Needs New Shocks?


You did seemingly everything right: get a good night’s sleep, eat a filling and nutritious breakfast, and conserve your energy until you hopped on your snowmobile. Yet you feel really worn out now that the day is over and you don’t know why. It might not have anything to do with your routine in particular, but rather, it’s that you need new snowmobile shocks. How else do you know your shocks need a replacement?

You can tell your snowmobile is due for new shocks in the following ways:

  • Poor handling
  • Lack of nitrogen or other fluid causes the shock to compress easily (gas-charged shocks)
  • The piston moves a lot more freely than it once did (regular shocks)
  • Fluid leakage

In this article, you’ll learn everything you need to know about your snowmobile’s suspension or shocks. From the types of shocks, how long you might have yours, and tips for making your shocks last longer, you’re definitely not going to want to miss this! 

What Are Snowmobile Shocks?

All snowmobiles come with a suspension system with at least four shocks. Two of these are in your snowmobile’s track, and then there’s one for each of your ski spindles. 

Your sled will have a certain load it can carry, also referred to as your ride height. This is managed by the shocks.

The ride height can be altered in many circumstances. For example, instability issues can affect it, as can transferring excessive weight or setting the ride height incorrectly. 

Your snowmobile will come equipped with one of three types of shocks: air shocks, nitrogen-filled shocks, and coil shocks. Let’s talk about all three in more detail now.

Air Shocks

Air suspension or air shocks utilize an air compressor or pump that sends the air into rubber bellows within. This air is highly pressurized, filling the bellows so the chassis lifts up from the vehicle’s axle. Fox Floats are a good example of snowmobile air shocks. 

Nitrogen-Filled Shocks

Some suspension systems use fluid, such as nitrogen-filled shocks. Liquid nitrogen is a suitable choice for your snowmobile’s suspension system because it lessens cavitation and aeration, both of which can affect your damping force. The most popular nitrogen-filled shocks are from Walker Evans. 

Coil Shocks

If you own an Arctic Cat M8, then your snowmobile may come equipped with coil shocks. Coil springs within your vehicle prevent body roll when you’re operating your sled at high speeds and taking corners and turns. The coils also provide wheel support and limit chassis movement. 

How Long Do Snowmobile Shocks Last?

If you remember our article about how long a snowmobile’s lifespan is, we said it depends on how much you use the sled and how often you service it. The same rule applies to your snowmobile’s shocks.

If you ride especially aggressively, you could get 1,200 to 1,500 miles out of your shocks as a tighter estimate and between 2,000 and 2,500 miles as a more generous prediction. Those who ride a little more casually or at least more lightly may go for upwards of 4,000 miles before their shocks need a rebuild or outright replacement. 

How to Tell You Need New Snowmobile Shocks

Have you ever gotten into your car or truck and, within minutes of driving, you can tell something is wrong? Your snowmobile will give it away just as obviously, but you have to know what signs to look for.

The following indications that your snowmobile shocks are on their way out are ones to pay attention to. If your sled is exhibiting just one of these symptoms, then it may not be an issue with your shocks, but if you notice multiple signs, then it’s time to look into shock rebuilding or a replacement.

Bad Handling

Issues with your snowmobile’s ride height will certainly impact your handling. You may notice that your sled feels almost like it’s working against you, and that when you move, you get some resistance. 

Poor handling, be it from your shocks or another issue, can put you at risk of an accident each time you ride your snowmobile. This isn’t an issue you want to ignore then, both for your health and safety and that of anyone you ride with. 

Exhaustion and Pain After a Day of Riding

This is what we talked about in the intro. Feeling especially achy, sore, and worn out after a day of snowmobiling is a telltale sign that something has gone wrong with your sled’s shocks. If you’ve changed nothing about your routine, where you ride, and for how long you’re on your snowmobile, then there’s no reason for you to feel this wiped out by the end of the day. 

It’s likely because your suspension setup is handling badly, so you have to put extra effort into maintaining control of your sled. That would leave anyone tired! 

Lack of Nitrogen Makes Shocks Compress

This only applies if you have nitrogen-filled or gas-filled shocks, but when these run out of fluid, bad things happen. Your shocks can compress very easily now that they’re devoid of fluid, yet it takes them much longer to reach normal length again since the springs aren’t pushing the shocks back. 

The Piston Moves Too Easily

If you have a non-fluid shock, check the pistons. These shouldn’t move all willy-nilly, so if yours can, that’s a pretty clear-cut signal that your shocks are old and worn out. You need to get them replaced or rebuilt. 

Fluid Leakage

Some snowmobilers have reported fluid leakage, typically from nitrogen or another gas, once their shocks begin to go. This may happen to you and it may not, but either way, a fluid leak is a problem that you want to be ameliorated immediately. 

Should You Replace Your Snowmobile Shocks Yourself or Let the Pros Do It?

When you find that something has failed with your snowmobile shocks, you have two choices. You can either get the shocks replaced completely or rebuild them. 

If your shocks are in otherwise decent condition and are only misaligned or leaking, then throwing the shocks away for new ones would be a big waste of your money. Rebuilding is your best bet. Getting snowmobile shocks rebuilt can make them handle like new again. 

Now comes the question, can you replace or rebuild your snowmobile shocks as a fun DIY project, or is it better to go to the pros at a snowmobile servicing shop?

It’s better to leave your shocks to the pros, but how much you’ll pay will vary. On the American Snowmobiler forum, some users have mentioned that for each shock, you might pay $30 to rebuild them. Hardcore Sledder posters have said their shock rebuild job was $550 in all. Another poster said that the parts for rebuilding shocks alone can cost $100. 

Besides where you live and who you entrust with your snowmobile shocks, the brand and quality of the shocks can also drive up the price. Still, it’s always better to pay a little more money upfront and have high-quality shocks for years than skimp out, buy cheap shocks, and have to replace them in a year or two. 

How to Make Your Snowmobile Shocks Last Longer 

Speaking of how long you’ll have your new or rebuilt suspension system, another way to promote greater longevity besides investing in high-quality parts is committing to a maintenance routine. 

When most people think of the most integral parts of their snowmobile, they’d say it’s the engine, but the shocks are very hard workers too. At least every year, you should service the shocks to keep them running their best.

Here are some things you can do.

Clean Any Debris

You certainly want to get into this habit more regularly than once or twice a year. After a particularly grueling ride, check the shocks for debris that you may have kicked up on your snowmobile. Snow will melt, but sticks, pebbles, and clumps of dirt will not. 

Inspect for Damage

Even small scratches and nicks on the shock’s outer sleeve can be problematic. You don’t necessarily have to call your favorite snowmobile servicer to get the whole shock rebuilt, but with time, that small nick could allow water to leak into the shock, lessening its performance.

The same can happen when the seals and rings eventually break down, often from use. Keep an eye out for visible issues and get them repaired when you notice them.

Refill the Shock Fluid

Every year, your shock needs a fresh supply of oil or nitrogen depending on which your suspension system uses. If you ride especially hard on your snowmobile, you might have to top off fluids on a six-month basis instead of annually.

Final Thoughts

Your snowmobile shocks or suspension system provide a smooth, easy, and painless ride, but this won’t last forever. Time can cause swear and tear on the shocks that necessitates a rebuild or replacement. Now that you know the signs to look out for, you can make sure your shocks get the attention they need at the first sign of trouble. Once you get the shocks serviced regularly, yours could last even longer.

Geoff Southworth

I am a California native and I enjoy all the outdoors has to offer. My latest adventures have been taking the family camping, hiking and surfing.

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