Why Does My Snowmobile Belt Squeak? How to Properly Install a New Belt


You expect to hear some noise when operating your snowmobile, such as the roar of the engine, especially when you hit the throttle. However, lately, another sound has begun accompanying your purring engine, and that’s a distinct squeak. Could that sound be coming from your sled’s belts, and if so, why?

Your snowmobile belt may squeak or squeal for the following reasons:

  • The belt is too loose
  • Or it’s too tight
  • You or someone else installed the belt the wrong way
  • The belt is old
  • The belt could also be very new and needs to be broken in

How old is too old for a belt? How do you know if your snowmobile’s belt was installed correctly? In today’s article, we’ll answer those questions and more, so you’re definitely going to want to keep reading! 

What Is a Snowmobile Belt and What Does It Do?

Before we elaborate on the above causes of snowmobile belt squeaking, let’s first explain what your belt is and what it does when it’s working the right way.

As part of the drive system of your snowmobile, the drive belt connects the track of your sled to your vehicle’s engine, transferring power. Like most vehicular belts, your sled’s belt is rubber, but higher-end snowmobiles might have Kevlar belts. These should last you for quite a while so you can go longer without having to replace the belt.

Although your snowmobile belts might not look like much, without them, your sled can’t perform at its full capacity. Thus, if the belt doesn’t have the right compound or if its length and/or width is too short or even too long, your sled won’t be giving you everything it has when it runs. The compound, in this instance, refers to a compound belt drive with wheels connected to one or two belts. The compound belts send power to the sled’s shaft via pulleys. 

Why Does Your Snowmobile Belt Squeak?

Snowmobile noises can be attributable to all sorts of issues with the sled, but not squeaking. When your sled begins squeaking or squealing, either when it’s idle or in motion, then something is definitely wrong with the belts. Now it’s just a matter of figuring out exactly what that is.

To that end, here are the 5 common causes of snowmobile belt squeaking as mentioned in the intro.

The Belt Is Too Loose

Like the belt in your car or truck, your sled’s belt is set at a certain tension or deflection. We’ll discuss belt deflection more in the next section, because being able to adjust your belt’s tension is crucial in getting it to work properly.

If your belt is too loose, then that extra leeway gives it room to make contact with other nearby components such as the clutch. This could cause the squeaking sound you hear when you run your sled. The squealing may be more start-stop and sometimes even sounds like a chirping sound. 

The Belt Is Too Tight

Overdoing the tension and pulling your snowmobile belt as taut as possible is also a no-no. If your sled squeals even when it’s in idle, then that’s a likely indication that the belt’s tension is as tight as it can possibly go. Expect to hear more constant noise than with a loose belt.  

The Belt Is Incorrectly Installed

Did you install your snowmobile belt for the first time or maybe let a buddy do it? If you or they goofed during installation, then that could be another reason you’re suddenly hearing a squeaking noise whenever you ride. Later in this article, we’ll share the proper way to install a snowmobile belt, so make sure you check it out! 

The Belt Is Old

Nothing lasts forever, your snowmobile belt included. That goes double if yours is made only of rubber instead of a hardier material like Kevlar. On average, the lifespan of a snowmobile belt is 1,500 to 2,000 miles. Harder riding can accelerate the deterioration of the sled belt even sooner than 1,500 miles. 

If your belt has frayed, it has holes, or it looks stripped or otherwise damaged, then discontinue using it. Otherwise, you can expect the squealing noise to worsen. 

The Belt Is Brand New

Yes, that’s right, even a new snowmobile belt can give you trouble. Luckily, this is usually only short-lived. You have to break in a belt, so to speak. Until that happens, your new belt may be so tight that it squeals. As you continue to use your sled, this issue should vanish. 

How to Set Your Snowmobile Belt’s Deflection 

Let’s go back to your snowmobile belt’s tension or deflection. Ideally, if you get a new belt installed, you want to check its deflection after 150 miles. Then, if your belt lasts 1,500 miles, adjust the deflection again when you reach that milestone.

So how do you go about setting the tension or deflection of your snowmobile’s belt? Well, as a word of caution, it’s always best to do this with a new belt instead of an old one, so first and foremost, make sure your belt is fresh.

Next, you need to reach your adjustor ring. You can do this by unscrewing the bolts that hold the secondary in place, as this contains the adjustor ring. Then it’s just a matter of twisting the ring so it’s tighter or looser depending on what your belt needs. 

With some sled models, you’re working with the sheaves on the secondary instead of the adjustor ring, especially if you have a secondary clutch. If you’re not sure what your snowmobile’s configuration is, then we’d recommend consulting your owner’s manual.

Here’s a handy YouTube video that illustrates how changing the snowmobile belt deflection is done for those visual learners out there.

Since you’re within reach of your clutches anyway, you might as well take the time to clean them out while adjusting the belt tension. Rather than try to squeeze a tiny cleaning instrument into the clutches, buy or rent a blowgun and connect it to an air compressor. Then, running the blowgun at a moderate air pressure, remove all the clutch residue by blowing it out. 

A few times each season, you’ll want to be more thorough in your clutch cleaning, taking everything apart, wiping down the components one by one, checking them for damage, and then reassembling the whole thing when you’re ready. If you don’t want to do this yourself, it’s certainly a job your local snowmobile repairperson can handle. 

How to Properly Install a New Snowmobile Belt

Now that you know why your snowmobile belt’s may be giving you grief as well as how to properly set its tension, next, let’s talk about how to install a snowmobile belt the correct way the first time. Be sure to follow these tips!

Know the Belt Length You Need

Buying a belt that’s longer than what your sled requires may seem like a safe bet, because hey, it’s always better to have more than to have less, right? Yet in this instance, that’s not necessarily true. If your belt is longer than need be, it can hinder the performance of the clutch, which affects how your whole sled runs.

If the belt is too short, the drive system become strained, which could cause failure sooner than later. This will necessitate pricy repairs.

Get Your Clutches Aligned

Your clutches can fall out of alignment for all sorts of reasons. For example, maybe they’re old and beginning to wear down. The shafts can also be misaligned, or the engine mounts are positioned incorrectly.

Whatever it is that has your clutches poorly aligned, your belt is going to bore the brunt of it. The clutches, in their incorrect positioning, can even shred up the belts. Take the time to ensure you have the right center distance for the belt and the clutch or you’ll have to replace your belts very soon. 

Check the Sheave Positioning

The sheave is another word for the pulley wheel, of which a wire rope is attached. Since your snowmobile belt rests on the sheave, you want to triple-check that it’s sitting just right. 

Set the Cord Line and Readjust It as Needed

The cord or wire of your pulley wheel keeps the belt up, so you need to ensure it’s positioned correctly too. To do that, access your driver clutch, or the secondary clutch, and put the cord line near the clutch’s outside circumference. 

Your belt will move away from this spot over time, so every few months or so, see where your belt is and reposition it if need be. 

Snowmobile Belt Maintenance Tips

If you want your snowmobile belt to stick around for at least 2,000 miles, then you have to take care of it. Proper installation is one facet of that, but so is maintenance. Here are some maintenance habits you can begin incorporating today to care better for your snowmobile’s belts.

Know Your Rotation Direction

At times, you may opt to remove the belts from your snowmobile entirely but temporarily. Before you take the belts off, make sure you know their rotation direction. The right direction for the belts is usually one that allows you to read the belt’s label. 

Then, when you reattach the belts, make sure the rotation direction is as it was before. 

Keep Acetone Away from the Belts

Propanone or acetone is a solvent that some sledders rely on when cleaning their clutch faces. For the components of the clutch, acetone is fine, but that’s not the case for the belts. The harshness of the acetone can degrade the quality of the belt, weakening it faster than it would have otherwise. 

Store Unused Belts Somewhere Safe 

If your favorite snowmobile supply retailer had a good deal on belts and you bought a surplus, you’ll want to hold onto some of the belts for later. That should be fine provided you store them out of the sun. Stick to a dry, cool space where you can lay the belts completely flat. Even slightly bending them might put a permanent crimp in the belt that renders it unusable.

Keep this information in mind when the time comes for you to stash your sled for the off-season too. 

Final Thoughts

Your snowmobile’s belts transfer power to your engine. You will have noticeable issues with performance if your belts are out of alignment or if their tension is incorrect, not to mention unwanted noise too. 

Now that you know how to treat snowmobile belt squeaking, you can begin taking better care of your belts so your sled runs amazingly each and every time! 

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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