How Often Do Snowmobiles Break Down?


No vehicle works forever, your snowmobile included. Still, if yours is brand new, then you can reasonably expect it to last you for years at a time without any issues, right? Possibly, but not always. It could fall into disrepair sooner. How often do snowmobiles break down?

A snowmobile that’s not maintained might break down at 10,000 to 15,000 miles. Maintaining the vehicle can prolong its life to 20 years or longer and prevent unnecessary breakdowns and failures. 

In this article, we’ll discuss the many reasons your snowmobile might break down so you can be on the lookout. We’ll also delve further into another important element of snowmobile care: maintenance. Keep reading, as you won’t want to miss it. 

What Causes Snowmobiles to Break Down?

You know now that a snowmobile might break down at 10k to 15k miles, but this isn’t guaranteed. It could always be sooner if you’re hard on the snowmobile. 

When you invest in a major purchase, be it a car, a home, or even a new air conditioner, they all require maintenance to keep them running at their best. Snowmobiles are no different.

Here are some of the issues that can afflict your snowmobile should you fail to maintain it.

Belt Damage

The clutch of your snowmobile comes with a belt. This can stop working for all sorts of reasons, such as wear and tear, or damage after you take a tumble on your vehicle. You can tell pretty quickly whether the belt is broken, as your snowmobile will sound quite different than it usually does. Well, that is, if you can even get the snowmobile to power on. Many snowmobile owners report that when the belt stops working, so too does their vehicle.

Low Compression

Your engine’s compression should be at around 110 pounds per square inch at least. If the cylinders begin losing pressure, especially unevenly, this could affect how well your snowmobile runs. Compression tests can tell you the pressure of each cylinder before you hit the snowbanks.

Weak Spark Plugs

Like any component of your snowmobile, the spark plugs don’t last forever. Once they stop easily generating a spark or the only spark is a weak one, you’re riding on borrowed time by ignoring the issue.

Carburetor and Fuel Line Drying Out

Do you put your snowmobile away in storage for the spring, summer, and perhaps even part of the autumn? You can’t expect the carburetor and fuel line to work perfectly when you turn the vehicle back on months later. Continuing to push the carburetor when it’s already dry could make it stop working entirely. At that point, you’d need to get it rebuilt from scratch.

Flooding the Engine

Some snowmobiles have a choke valve, which preserves the supply of air. You can choke the engine at times, but overdoing it could cause the engine to become flooded with gas. This will flow out of your exhaust, and the odor is typically quite pungent as well. Flooding the engine once or twice maybe won’t be the end of the world, but repeated instances of this are not good for your snowmobile’s longevity.

How Do You Maintain Your Snowmobile and How Often Should You Do It?

Now that you see what can go wrong with your snowmobile if you drive it without caring for it in between, you want to get on a good maintenance schedule ASAP. Here are the tasks you should start doing as well as how often.

Look for Loose Sled Parts

If your snowmobile was made in the last five or 10 years, then the chances of any sled fasteners and bolts coming loose are pretty slim. Even still, it’s a good idea to check anyway, maybe every month or so or after a particularly long, challenging ride. 

Once you’re done looking at the top and sides of the sled, turn it over so it’s laying on one side. Then check the rear suspension, especially the suspension rail fasteners, the torque arm hardware, shock mount bolts, trailing arms, spindles, radius rods, and the A-arm. These arms might have gotten a little loose if you’ve never inspected this area of your snowmobile before, so tighten them as necessary. 

Get New Carbides

Your snowmobile has what’s known as a carbide. This is sometimes called a ski runner. It’s a runner beneath your vehicle with a sharpened edge that can provide traction if you’re riding over ice. In other words, it’s a crucial component of your snowmobile. That’s why you need it working.

The sharpened edge of your carbide won’t stay pointy if it gets worn down enough. Depending on how hard you ride as well as how often, you might want to get your carbides replaced every year or two. 

Realign Your Skis

Your skis will naturally fall out of alignment when using your snowmobile, but you don’t want to leave them as is. Your vehicle’s efficiency will decrease, which might make a noticeable difference in your ride depending on the extent of the misalignment.

To get your skis back where they should be, start with the track, adjusting its tension. You’ll likely have to unscrew a rear-axle bolt to do this. 

Next, get on your snowmobile and readjust the handlebars until they sit straight. Make sure the end of the bar measures the same as the tunnel corner or the rear suspension mount bolt. Measuring tape or a straightedge can then let you finetune your ski alignment. 

Do this maybe every few months or so, again depending on how often you ride and how hard.

Lubricate the Skidframe

The skidframe is one component of your snowmobile’s rear suspension. It’s among the wheels, arms, bushings, and shafts of the suspension, all of which need lubrication every month or so. The skidframes have a lot of grease fittings, almost a dozen, so you’ll have to go through one by one and add lubrication to each of these as well. 

Test Your Exhaust System 

Your snowmobile’s exhaust system, as important as it is, can be quite problematic if your mounts, springs, and manifold gaskets break down. Start by inspecting your exhaust manifold, and then the exhaust outlet, looking for leakage.

You might have to open your vehicle’s hood to see the exhaust system cylinders from the front. These can get coated in oil that leaks from the exhaust manifold, indicating you have a problem. Once your manifold gaskets exceed four years old, they’re typically not worth fixing. You’re much better off replacing them. This shouldn’t cost you a lot of money, and if you’re comfortable with it, you can even do the job yourself.

If you do, buy a gasket scraper, wire brush, putty knife, and carburetor cleaner. Once you detach the cylinder’s Y-pipe, you can get in and clean all those coated surfaces until they’re spotless again. Add your new gaskets and you should be good to go. Do this maybe every four to six months. 

Inspect the Clutch Belt

We talked earlier about the clutch belt. This can lose tension and traction with time, affecting your vehicle. Maybe every year or so, you can take the belt out yourself and tighten it, or you can go to your favorite snowmobile servicer to get the job done. 

Adjust and Lubricate the Chaincase 

Within your snowmobile, the chaincase has sprockets and chains that allow power to get to the driveshaft from the jackshaft. You need to lubricate the parts here annually using about 12 ounces of your preferred lubricant. 

Tips for Prolonging the Life of Your Snowmobile

You don’t have to stop there. Besides the great job you’re now doing at regularly maintaining your snowmobile, you can also follow these tips to extend its lifespan even further.

  • Always let the engine warm up: On a cold day, you don’t turn on your car and expect to drive right to work. Your snowmobile needs the same care. Before you hit the road, turn the vehicle on and let it sit for a few minutes. This will let the engine sufficiently warm up. 
  • Don’t buy cheap products: From lubricants to engine oil, it’s better if you can invest in high-quality products instead of cheap stuff. This will enhance your snowmobile’s cleanliness, durability, and performance. You might want to ask your snowmobile dealer for suggestions. Always avoid products like motorcycle oil or outboard oil, as neither product is made for wintry conditions.
  • Use an anti-corrosive: To keep the metal parts of your snowmobile clear of rust, use an anti-corrosive. Focus this product on the shocks, rear suspension, and skis if they’re made of steel. 
  • Prepare your snowmobile for storage: When the time comes to put your snowmobile away until next year, get it ready for its hiatus. Disconnect your tension springs, lift the track so it’s not on the ground, fog your engine, and pour in some fuel stabilizer. 
  • Clean your snowmobile often: A dirty snowmobile not only looks unappealing, but road salt could trigger corrosion as well. You can clean your vehicle after every use or every other week or so, washing away oil, grease, salt, dirt, and other accumulated debris. 

Final Thoughts

Snowmobiles may start having issues at 10,000 to 15,000 miles, but the good news is this is totally avoidable. A regular maintenance schedule that encompasses all components will keep your snowmobile in tip-top shape so you can enjoy it for years to come! 

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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