Whether you have a worn-out snowmobile track or the one you have doesn’t suit your riding style, don’t put it off. Most riders see snowmobile track replacement as a daunting task and commit to it only when forced to deal with it. But in reality, anyone with a basic understanding, an open workspace, and some tools can do the job. More details (and instructions) are below!
How Long Does a Snowmobile Track Last?
A snowmobile track can last anywhere to 15,000 miles. This is quite a vast lifespan range, so pay close attention to the condition of your tracks. With proper care, you can maximize their service life for up to 10 years.
Here are the main factors that affect the service life expectancy.
Your Riding Style
The biggest factor that shortens your snowmobile track lifespan is fast, aggressive riding. It’s not surprising that the harder you ride, the more wear it will cause (even if your mileage is in a normal range). Putting extra stress on any system would have the same effect. Watch out for stretching, cracks, broken lugs, and other damage.
The choice is fully yours. You can maintain an aggressive riding style, like drag racing, and just take extra precautions. Or you can switch to a calmer style and ride at reasonable speeds for much longer.
Where to Ride
In this section, we’ll talk about snow conditions. In areas with wet and heavy snow that sets up fast (like in the mountains of California, parts of Washington and British Columbia), there is more pressure on the tracks, which may cause physical damage and/or overheating.
Conversely, areas with lighter, fluffier snow are more gentle on the sled. There are just normal conditions. Obviously, if you’re about to ride over stumps and rocks in the area with little snow, the risk of damage goes up.
Try to avoid riding on hard-packed snow and in locations with a lack of snow.
A snowmobile engine links to a track drive, which spins the tracks. So, the more powerful the engine and the faster the gears spin – the shorter the lifespan. Once again, the reasons are pressure and overheating.
Earlier turbocharged engine kits had more issues when it came to performance and reliability. But even with an optimized boost, a 200 HP turbocharged sled (and up) will cause more wear than an entry-level model. More horsepower = more wear on the snowmobile track.
Studs are installed to add more traction for acceleration, turning, and braking. But some people install too much, which increases the risk of track damage. Unless you’re an ice racer, you don’t need too many studs no matter what sled you’re riding. If you do ride on ice tracks, keep in mind that extra studs that dig into icy surfaces damage the tracks more often than on softer land.
Lastly, improper studding (traction product not placed in the center, incorrect size or orientation, etc.) also carries risk. For example, it increases the chance of breaking studs and damaging the track. Make sure the studding is done by a professional according to your specific needs.
Storage and Maintenance
A lot of things can go wrong in storage. To prevent premature wear, prepare the storage first – ideally, a garage. It should be free from dust, not humid or too warm, and has no leaks.
Before placing the sled in storage, clean it with warm and soapy water to remove all the salt and dirt buildup. Then, reduce the tension on the track because warmer air can stretch and crackle the tracks, especially when you keep it in storage long-term (e.g., over the summer).
When it’s time to hit the snowy roads again, you’ll just tighten the track back up.
4 Signs Your Snowmobile Track Needs to Be Replaced
Let’s inspect your sled for signs of wear. If you notice any of the four biggest signs below, consider it a strong indication to change your snowmobile track.
1. Dry-Rotted Rubber
When the rubber compounds that make up the snowmobile track are exposed to ultraviolet rays and react with ozone, the track begins to break down. You can tell this is happening when fine cracks and lines in the rubber start to show up. While they are not an immediate threat, they eventually grow wider and deeper into full-on tears until the track blows up (hopefully, not mid-ride).
So, if you notice dry-rotted rubber, limit the amount you let your track spin and plan a replacement as soon as you can.
2. Missing Lugs
Missing lugs are not a direct danger. If a lug falls off neatly, you may be able to simply bolt onto the track in place of the dropped one (but ask a professional to see it first). However, lugs may take a chunk of rubber from the track as they tear off. This weakens the track and may potentially cause it to snap completely. Especially if you have multiple missing lugs, it’s a good enough reason to change a snowmobile track.
Inspect the lugs every time you finish rising on hard-packed snow, ice, or exposed ground.
3. Missing Track Clips
Similar to lugs, a couple of missing clips are not an immediate cause for alarm. That said, don’t drive with missing clips any longer than you need to – just until you get to the destination – because it can cause your snowmobile to slide off. Track clips can also rip off the rubber and cause the entire track to snap.
4. Worn or Torn Tracks
If you’re debating when to replace a snowmobile track, this one is obvious. The rubber compound used in tracks is typically formulated for high wear resistance, yet it’s not operational forever.
The degradation of track substructure can manifest in missing rubber, small tears, and exposed cords (like the one sticking out of bald tires). Torn, ripped, or seriously worn track should not be ridden and call for an immediate replacement.
How to Replace a Snowmobile Track
This section may sound like a lot but don’t worry. Once you start knocking out the individual steps, you will get more comfortable and make progress easily. The process may be slightly different depending on an individual snowmobile, but the basics of snowmobile track replacement are the same across the board.
Step 1. Remove Rear Suspension
Before removing any parts, make sure you have enough room and prepare some sort of storage for loose parts.
Lift up or tilt the rear end to remove pressure from the suspension air chamber. Remove the bolts in a stepped pattern, meaning you should loosen them up little by little before taking any of them out. This should help you maintain the proper alignment. The bolts you should remove at this step are the ones holding the front and rear suspension arms and idler wheels.
The suspension skid should now be loose, so pull it out of the old snowmobile track. If not, loosen up tensioner springs and see if the skid can be compressed further.
Step 2. Remove Any Parts Blocking Chaincase Cover
Clear access to the chaincase cover by removing exhaust, battery, and battery tray. Here is how:
- Use an exhaust spring puller (usually T-shaped) to remove the exhaust. Tools like pliers and pincers are not only less effective, but they can also damage the snowmobile parts.
- Disconnect the cables from the battery and remove the battery handle. This should be enough to disjoint the battery.
- Once the battery is out, the battery tray will come off easily.
Step 3. Remove Chaincase Cover
Depending on the mechanical arrangement of your snowmobile, there are two scenarios:
- If the exposed chaincase doesn’t have a drain plug, take a pan (or bucket) and rags and place them underneath to catch the oil.
- If it has a plug, drain the oil completely.
Also, look out for a filler plug on top and remove it before unscrewing the bolts from the chaincase.
Step 4. Remove Chaincase Tensioner and Gears
The chain tensioner is kept in place with a locknut, which you need to loosen. Do the same with the adjuster bolt to ensure more space in the inverted tooth chain (silent chain). This will create more space to reach and loosen the bolt on the tensioner arm and subsequently pull out the tensioner.
As for the gears, you’ll need to remove both just in case (although the lower gear is enough for some snowmobile models). Remove the bolt, washer, and circlip that hold the chaincase gear in place. The gear should be loose and ready for removal.
Step 5. Remove Secondary Clutch/Brake Components
Moving on to the belt side, pull out retaining pins to remove the upper and lower belt guards. If that doesn’t create much room (depends on the model), you should also set aside the secondary clutch and belt.
Pull out the screws on the guard. To remove the brakes, you need to pull out a steel disk placed on the shaft and a device that presses the disc with brake pads and a caliper. Turn the driven pulley to align bracket screws and disc slots and remove the bolts and circlips holding these parts in place.
The bearing carrier on the shaft is held by bolts that you can easily remove, too. If the carrier is connected to the speedometer, disconnect the cable first.
Step 6. Remove Drive Shaft & Old Track
The drive shaft located under the sled and near the chaincase also needs to be removed from the chassis. Move the shaft closer to the chaincase slowly until the shaft drops out on the opposite side. This means it’s safe to pull it out. But before it’s completely free, a bearing flange on the left side of the inside of the tunnel needs to be disconnected. Then, you can easily take out the old snowmobile track.
Step 7. Inspect Suspension, Drive & Brake Components
Even though the main focus is on the track, this is a perfect opportunity to inspect other key components. Suspension and drive and brake components need to be checked regularly, but when you have a fault element, you need to make sure it didn’t cause more damage. Here is what you should see:
- Well-greased suspension
- Wheel bearings that rotate smoothly
- Solid limiter straps
- Thick slides
- Straight drive shaft splines
- Sharp gear teeth
- Firm cog drivers
Overall, watch out for any cracks and wear marks. If you need to make any other replacement, pile these tasks together.
Step 8. Install a New Track
Center the new snowmobile track with the tunnel and slide it over the drive axle. Make sure the track is also aligned with drive lugs and the drivers on the axle. The drive axle should be installed on the brake side of the sled. For this step, you may need to ask someone for help – as you slip the bottom sprocket, the other person will hold the drive axle in place.
Step 9. Install Remaining Parts in Reverse Order of Removal
Now, as the track is aligned, complete the previous steps in reverse. Start reinstalling from the drive shaft (important note: insert it at the bearing side; otherwise, it will not fit properly). Cords, bolts, secondary clutch/brake components, chaincase tensioner and cover, exhaust, battery, battery tray – reinstall all the remaining parts.
Also, remember about the oil you drained or spilled. Top up the chaincase up to the recommended level.
Step 10. Test & Adjust
Once you reinstall all the parts – the new snowmobile track and the old parts – inspect them visually to see if they’re in the right place and there are no gaps. If your snowmobile is still lifted off the ground, that’s even better. Start the engine and smoothly engage the tracks. In addition to visual inspection, listen up – there should be rattling, sounds of parts rubbing on each other, etc. Make adjustments to the track sag as recommended in the manual. Here is a video with a few great tips:
Put the sled on the ground, and that’s it!
See? The changing process is fairly straightforward and not too technical. Hopefully, this gives you a boost of confidence to set your mind on a timely replacement.
Keep in mind that this article offers general information and guidelines. You should adapt our instructions to your specific situation. For example, if you notice tearing despite the lifespan of your track being nowhere near the end, replace it immediately. Also, remember about pre-ride inspection and stay safe!
How many miles is a snowmobile track good for?
A snowmobile track is usually good for 3,000-15,000 miles. This is equivalent to 3-10 years of riding. The difference between the lower and upper limits is determined by riding style, terrain, studding, storage, and maintenance.
Is it hard to replace a snowmobile track?
No, it’s usually a straightforward process. As long as you get a high-quality snowmobile track replacement, comply with instructions, and follow safety measures, you should be able to swap the parts quickly. If the idea of doing it yourself doesn’t seem pleasant, consider hiring a professional.
Can you repair a snowmobile track?
Snowmobiles require regular maintenance, and basic tasks are definitely manageable for amateur mechanics. However, when a track rips or tears, it’s not a duct tape type of repair. Don’t risk your safety in an attempt to save money – leave serious repairs to mechanics who are certified or professionally trained.
How do you inspect a snowmobile track?
At the beginning of every season and then every 300 to 500 miles, complete the following procedure. Put the jack stand on the rear of the sled, raise it and visually inspect the entire track and lugs. Spin the track manually after removing the belt. Check the clips, the track tension, the wheel bearings, and the track alignment. If anything seems out of normal or there is excessive wear on any of the parts, handle it before riding again.