By Greg Kopf, brand ambassador at POWERSPORTSiD.com
With winter fast approaching, many snowmobile riders may be itching to get back on their sled for the first ride of the season. However, there are a few key things to check on to ensure that you and your ride are in proper shape to hit the trails come first snowfall!
Post-storage maintenance check
Before you start up your snowmobile after storing it during the off-season, it’s important to check for any leaks or damage to fuel tanks and lines which may have occurred while it was sitting idle. Also look closely at engine mounts, gaskets and connection points. The rubber lines are most vulnerable in these spots and likely to break or split. If you drained or siphoned the fuel prior to storage, you can start with a fresh tank, and if you didn’t you should have added fuel stabilizer to keep the fuel fresh throughout the spring and summer months.
Give your machine a complete once-over before your first ride. Are your headlights, taillights and brake light working? What about the brakes themselves? Perform a brake check before you hit the trail to avoid a mishap! Check your exhaust for signs of leaks, which can be spotted by looking for blackening around the gaskets. Inspect your wheels and bearings for signs of damage and make sure that your front skis and steering are aligned. If the belt appears worn, consider replacing it before the new season.
Look for chips or signs of damage on the carbides on the wear bars under the skis. These are very important for safety and handling of your snowmobile and should be replaced if they seem worn or damaged. This is an especially important step if you frequently ride on rocky trails or cross plowed roads, as these surfaces can damage your carbides. Also pay close attention to your slider shoes, otherwise known as hyfax, which serve as the guides the track slides on. These often have a wear indicator line – if they’re approaching that line, it’s time to replace them so you don’t damage your rails while riding.
Look closely at your spark plugs and keep an eye out for loose wires. Check on the chain case to ensure it’s at the proper tension and refresh the chain case oil as needed. Be sure to properly grease all suspension points and movable components. When in doubt, look for recommendations in your owner’s manual and always stick to low temperature grease. Also consult your manual to make sure all fluids are at their proper levels before topping off as needed. Finally, check that your struts aren’t leaking, as that’s an indication that you should get your ride professionally serviced.
Gear & tools check
Protecting yourself for the trail is even more important than protecting your machine. Make sure you’re using a helmet that hasn’t expired – many rated helmets for powersports include an expiration year on the back. Check that your gloves, boots and warm weather gear are all in good condition before you set out on your first ride.
Your snowmobile withstands tough conditions and a lot of vibration during a ride. You might need to tighten some bolts along the way, so don’t forget to pack some hand tools. It’s also always a good idea to pack a spare belt in the event you need to replace it on the trail. And don’t forget tow straps in case you get stuck! Lastly, always bring along emergency supplies that could come in handy during a breakdown including, flashlights, a foldable shovel, water and a portable charger for your phone.
The approach of winter is an exciting time for snowmobile riders and outdoor enthusiasts and the temptation to hit the trail at first snowfall can be very strong. By taking a few easy steps at the start of the season to check on your ride and gear, you can be one of the first to hit the trails come winter!
Greg Kopf, brand ambassador at POWERSPORTSiD.com, is an expert and enthusiast on all things motorized including ATVs, motorcycles, cars and boats.