Another great winter of riding has come and gone and it’s time to move on to our summer hobbies. But before you dust up the dirt bike, make sure you prep your sled for summer storage so it will be good to go when the snow flies.
We asked Warnert Racing Team Technician Cody Sandmann (that’s him in the photo) to share a few tips on how to put your sled to bed. He gave us a ton of great information that we’re going to take home and use this weekend on our own sleds. As always, be sure to consult your user’s manual or dealer before performing any maintenance on your snowmobile.
Should you drain your fuel or top it off?
A lot has to do with the fuel you use. For those who use non-ethanol (as you should in any of your powersport vehicles) you should try to leave at least a half tank of fuel in your sled and the option is yours to run an additive such as Sea Foam® or Sta-Bil®. If you run fuel that does have ethanol, I would first try to drain it and replace it with non-ethanol fuel. If it isn’t available in your area, pour an enzyme treatment into your fuel tank and then run the engine for a bit. This will help your fuel to not be as harsh on your rubber lines, gaskets, plastic, etc. For those who have race fuel in their sleds, it doesn’t hurt to leave it in your sled, but to prevent any potential damage during pre-season practice try to drain as well as possible and add fresh fuel. Leaving your tank empty (along with the rest of your fuel system) can cause gaskets or O-rings to dry out and become brittle along with your fuel lines.
Should you start your snowmobile in the summer?
I’m a firm believer in running your sled in the summer. I try to start mine once a month for about 2-3 minutes. This keeps sediment deposits from clogging crucial cooling areas along with keeping those seals from drying out in your engine and fuel system. Plus, who doesn’t like the sounds and smells of a sled once in a while in the summer to get you excited?!
Should you fog your snowmobile engine?
There is a lot of controversy on the topic of fogging. If you are one of those sled owners that park the sled in April and don’t plan on looking at it until November it might not be a bad idea. If you start your sleds at least once a month, fogging isn’t that crucial. And with your directed/ fuel injected models, I wouldn’t worry as much about fogging.
How do you fog a snowmobile engine?
Newer fuel-injected direct-injected models actually have a fog “mode” that you can activate depending on the brand. In years past on the race sleds we would run the sleds with the airbox off and use a bottle of standard 2 cycle oil and spray it down the openings of the carbs for about 10 seconds until the engine sounds like it will choke out. Then we’d re-install the airbox and remove the plugs then spray oil down the plug holes. Other methods include running the engine almost out of fuel then spraying a fogging oil into the airbox for 10 seconds, then shut the engine down, remove the plugs and spray a quick amount of fogging oil down each cylinder and re-install the plugs. If you purchase fogging oil from your local retailer there will be directions on the can on how they suggest to fog your engine. Just remember if you do fog your engine, when you start it up in the fall run it for a while and install new plugs to prevent fouling.
How should I grease and lubricate my snowmobile for summer storage?
Greasing before summer is a great way to get into a routine of standard vehicle maintenance. Greasing all zerks in your rear suspension, steering, front suspension, and drivetrain is a quick and easy method to ensure your sled is ready to go in the winter along with pushing out all of the old broken down grease and dirt deposits you’ve accumulated during the season. Use the recommended grease that is in your user’s manual or look for an all-season grease. Watercraft grease will become very thick in the cold temps and can cause a stiff feeling in your steering and suspension. While you’re at it, this is also a great time to change that chaincase oil.
WD-40® is a quick and easy way to protect your parts from rusting. Lightly spray WD-40® or any other comparable spray lube on your skid arms, a-arms, and open parts of your steering such as tie rods and tie rod ends (if steel). The place you never want to spray lube is in the clutch area or spare belts. This will contaminate bushings inside of your clutches and they will give your sled a slipping feeling in the winter. Try to keep those areas dry if possible. Try not to spray too much on the engine area and exhaust because when you go to start your sled in the fall you will get a burning smell from under the hoods for miles.
Should I put my sled on a stand during the summer?
Putting your sled on a stand is the owner’s option. For those who store their sleds outside with a cover I would say it is almost a must due to the fact that the moisture in the ground can cause the rubber and other materials to break down within the track and shorten the life of it. (Last time I checked tracks weren’t cheap, lol). For those who keep them in the garage, just putting them on sled dollies is enough to keep the tracks off the ground, prevent studs from scratching you floor, and carbides and runners from rusting and staining your floor. Lifting the front of the sled is a great way to prevent rust stains from forming on your shop floor along with not letting your carbide runners becoming rusty. This also allows the suspension to “relax” and not put extra pressure on springs and shocks. If you do have the space and funds, I would suggest getting a sled-lift to completely lift the sled off the ground.
Is it necessary to release the springs on my snowmobile for summer storage?
In the earlier years of snowmobiling (when the materials weren’t so great) I’d suggest that, but since the alloys have become better and the springs tend to hold their strength better I would say that’s up to the owner. If you do take tension off of the spring they could potentially last longer. If you do try to take the tension off be sure to log what preload setting your springs were at and set your preload to the lowest setting before removal to prevent your fingers or hand from being pinched.
Should I remove the battery from my snowmobile during the summer?
With the price of our little powersports batteries, it’s very important to store them in a safe area away from drastic temperature changes and to keep them on some sort of trickle charge. Once you’ve prepped your sled for summer, remove the battery and place it in a dry area (maybe a storage closet in the garage) and attach a trickle charger (.5 amps or less). A Battery Tender® is a great investment and can provide you with a few extra seasons out of your battery. If you don’t have one, maybe invest in one. When you’re done using it in the summer on your sled you can attach your boat battery to it.
Should I remove the belt from my snowmobile during the off-season?
This is another one of those topics that can be argued. If you’re going to start the sled once a month you’ll want to leave the belt on. Never start a sled without a belt. If you plan to pack the sled away and not look at it until November, maybe take the belt off for the ease of moving the machine (track and drivetrain moves easier). If a person is worried that the belt will get hard and take shape from sitting, I wouldn’t worry too much about it. The compounds used in the belts now are so advanced that when you run your sled on a stand in the fall, the belt will become pliable within seconds.
How do you keep mice and other critters out of your snowmobile?
Keeping those critters out of the sled can be a hassle for some people. Mothballs under the hood is something people have been doing for years and they say it works. The biggest thing you can do is not leave your feed corn or birdseed near your toys. The critters take the food and tend to find homes in the nearest area (which becomes the sleds usually). Chicken wire covering the exhaust and intake can be a great way to prevent anything from getting in those crucial areas of your sled. Just remember to remove before starting. I’ve found that a small rubber ball is a good thing to install in the intake and exhaust. It keeps the dust and the critters out.
What is the proper way to clean a snowmobile?
Cleaning your sled is a great way not only to make your sled look good but it also provides the opportunity to make your routine service an easier job. Also a clean sled is a great way to look for cracks in the chassis, suspension, etc. This is one of the reasons race sleds are spotless on a daily basis. To clean the sled, first I like to take the exhaust off (plug the manifold with a paper towel and either tape over the opening or zip-tie a baggie or two to prevent moisture from getting inside your engine. Then remove the belt. Once this is done, tape off the intake to prevent water from going into the engine. Once you have this done, locate a self-serve car wash or a pressure washer (heat is a bonus if you can).
Find a good degreaser (Simple Green® or Jungle Jake®) and spray down the underside of the sled, suspension (front and rear), skis, track, and snowflap. Let it soak in for a few minutes and begin pressure washing. Under the engine is a place where you accumulate a lot of fuel overflow, brake dust, belt dust and coolant overflow, so focusing there is a great place to start. Once you have rinsed the sled clean of any degreaser, let it drip dry or wipe down with a micro fiber towel (paper towel will scratch your gloss plastic). Once dry, you can use a spray detailer to clean up that plastic. The seat is a place that you want to make sure not to use a slippery detailer (many of us have done it) so you slide off the seat on your first ride. They make cleaners for seats that don’t leave an oily film. As for waxing the hood, that’s up to the owner and how much time they want to spend. Something as simple as spraying and wiping down Pledge® (original yellow can) is an easy way to keep dust off and smells good.
How should you cover your snowmobile for storage?
The best way to cover the sled is with a fitted cover. I understand that fitted covers can be pricey. Your local automotive store has universal fit covers. Be sure that it goes over the running boards, seat, and hood. This keeps water and dirt from building up on the areas you just cleaned. Tight is better. The less air pockets you have, the less moisture can get into the sled.
What other maintenance should you tend to before storing your snowmobile during the off-season?
Take some time and check your sled over. Does it leak anything? Any bent or broken parts? Look for excessive play in moving parts (ball joints, steering, bushings, etc.). Check your carbides and studs. Track tension too loose? Change that chaincase oil.
What’s the risk of not storing your snowmobile properly for summer?
I’ve seen sleds that don’t get the proper service done and are stored with no care involved and it’s not pretty. Usually it turns into a sled that won’t start, broken parts during the first ride, and $$$$$ in expenses.
Can You Spot The Trouble in These Sled Maintenance Pics?
A dipstick from the snowmobile’s chaincase shows more than usual particles on the magnet and low oil level.
(Photo courtesy Cody Sandmann, Warnert Racing)
This bent snowmobile stud could potentially rip from the sled. (Photo courtesy Cody Sandmann, Warnert Racing)
A sled inspection reveals a broken chassis support. (Photo courtesy Cody Sandmann, Warnert Racing)