8 Overlooked Snowmobile Maintenance Tips

Follow these suggestions to help keep you riding happily throughout the snowmobile season.

Is there a worse feeling than breaking down in the middle of a ride with your buddies? How about annoying little nuisances like darting, or doggy performance that make you want a new $17k sled while you’re riding? If you’re like me, you don’t have a brand new sled every year. So after 39 years of diehard sledding in Ontario, I’ve taught myself some tricks that make my season more successful and enjoyable! Please, have these conversations with your buddies, your service provider, or your dealer. Know what you’re getting for your hard-earned money.

Oil and Fuel Filters

Remember all the pre-2002 sleds, when we changed these filters every year because they were easy to access? Well, now they get overlooked! What happens when these filters plug after three years without being replaced on a motor that barely uses fuel or oil now anyway? Maybe poor performance, or maybe a $3,500 motor. Check your make and model to see if and where these filters are located. Many are deep in the heart of the monster and may require specialized labour, special tools, or a lot of patience.

Don’t overlook these filters, because they’re even more important on today’s advanced electronically controlled fuel- and oil-injected sleds. And no, there is no alarm or warning light for these.

Clutch Springs

People have questioned my advice on this one and later thanked me. New springs are only $40 each from your OE dealer. If your pucks/bushings/weights are worn, why wouldn’t your springs be as well? When your engagement is up, your motor sounds stronger and on the pipe instead of “tingy” when you’re at your constant throttle cruising speed, or when your WOT rpm is perfect, you’ll thank me too.

Springs get weak quicker than you think. Racing taught me this one and led to replacing my clutch springs twice a year, netting me better hole shots, better backshift rpm, and better WOT power! No more podiums, though maybe more wipe-outs. Less drag and rolling resistance on your motor equals speed and reliability, my friends. 

Driveshaft and Jackshaft Bearings

My sleds get track swaps depending on conditions, so I’m well versed in these bearings’ life span. Honestly, a three- to five-year-old sled with 3,500 km on it, and I’d be replacing at least the driveshaft bearings. All the moisture, dirt, ice build up, sticks, rocks etc. causes these bearings to start creating drag. Drag in your driveline slows you down, adding unwanted load and heat in your clutches and motor. And it’s very embarrassing when these blow on the trail, ruin your day or week, and often your chain, gears, chaincase or tunnel. 


Photo courtesy of Snocruise.com

Start each season with a new pair. Taxing your brain “keeping an eye on them because you only put 400 km on them last year” is more stressfully expensive than starting fresh. I’ve seen so many rails ruined from that scenario. If you start fresh, you know you’ll get at least half to three-quarters of a season before you even need to check them. Some sliders are now coming with a groove, allowing for easier eyeballing for wear.


Roll your track over, check every stud to ensure none are loose or ripping out. I learned this one the hard way on my first ride of 2010. And then I had to ride double on the Seguin Trail, followed by getting pelted by early season slush all the way home. And there’s more to that story... Now I check them throughout the winter as well. Yes, I’m still a Woody’s Traction studs guy, although I want to try Stud Boy’s Super-Lite Pro backers. Thanks to Gamma Sales Dealer for support with traction products this year, it’s a safety must!


Chipped, cracked, and bent carbides cause darting. Check them, repair them, or replace them. By replacing these and doing the next step you may not need to buy a quintuple axis $400 runner set next time. As you can see by the sharp edges and chunks missing, I will be replacing these carbides with some new Woody’s runners from a Gamma Sales Dealer. But next year I’m excited to maintain and sharpen my carbides with these great tools from Bite Harder.

Ski Alignment

Photo courtesy of Shelby Mahon/
Backcountry Motorsports Media

Ever clip a good solid rock? Ever stop dead on one ski loading into the truck or trailer? Ever get stuck and yank on your ski so hard you swear the skis look perpendicular? A-arm suspensions flex. Doing a ski alignment may be one of the most overlooked items that you’ll get the most enjoyment out of. Less darting, straight handlebars, less riding in defence mode, more scenery! 


Exhaust valves

I can’t help doing these every year. Either I’m obsessed, old-school, or paranoid. There are so many variables with exhaust valves, hence I check and clean them every year. Ask your dealer what the service interval is, do research on your model, use good oil. 

Well, at the very least I hope you’ve learned even one tip from this article. Life is busy so every minute on the trail or lake is precious. High five you on the trail!

About Ryan Tarrant

Ryan is a lifelong Georgian Bay sledhead and boater. When he’s not punching the clock, you can find him punching through the snow and the waves. A lifelong powersports enthusiast, his work can be found at Northern Ontario Tourism, Snowmobile.com, WAR, Explorers' Edge, and on his YouTube channel Random Ryan Tarrant.

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