How to Troubleshoot Snowmobile Problems

As fall blends into winter we shift from our land & water recreational vehicles to our snowmobiles. The snow has fallen and the snowmobile is calling. You pull it from its shed, crank the engine and nothing happens. Did you know that due to the extreme winter conditions, snowmobiles require more frequent maintenance that any other recreational vehicle? With that in mind let’s troubleshoot & see what’s wrong with your snowmobile. Keep in mind that the construction of snowmobiles will vary, so you should refer to your owner’s manual before troubleshooting. The owner’s manual will provide a diagram of the snowmobile’s engine and where to find all of its components.

Is the engine stop switch pushed in the off position? The “Engine stop” switch is located on the snowmobile’s control panel. Double check to make sure that the switch is not stuck in the off position.The “Engine stop” switch (if pushed down) will prevent the motor from starting.

Is there gas left in the fuel tank since last winter? Next you must investigate the fuel tank. Gasoline can degrade over time. That can lead to a number of problems- hard starting, rough running, or no starting at all. Gasoline has highly volatile components that tend to evaporate over time. The less volatile components in the fuel cause the gasoline to burn less effectively. The result is poor engine performance. In other words, your engine may still start and run, but it probably won’t run as well. Not only will the gasoline degrade over time but when a snowmobile sits for long periods of time without a protective snowmobile cover water and condensation can enter the gas tank. Water, of course, does not work too well as a fuel in the internal combustion engine of a snowmobile. It will cause hard starting and rough running until it has been run through the engine. Water can also contribute to internal rusting of the gas lines and tank.

How can you tell if the gas is old? You can check your old gas against gasoline that you know is fresh by placing both in clear glass containers and comparing their color. Oxidized fuel often turns darker over time. It may even have a sour smell. If the old gas is considerably darker than the fresh gas, then your gas has gone bad. If you find that you have “old gas” in your snowmobile, you should drain the gas tank and re-fill it with fresher gasoline. If you insist on leaving gas in your engine for more that six months at a time, then you need to add a stabilizer to the fuel system so that it will preserve the gasoline and keep it from deteriorating over time. It is probably a good idea to drain your fuel system at the end of the winter before storing your snowmobile for the summer in a protective snowmobile cover.

Is the battery dead? The easiest way to check the battery is by turning on the headlights. No lights- no charge in the battery.

Have you checked the cylinder head gasket nuts? Locate the cylinder head nuts on top of the engine’s cylinder block. If they are loose, tighten the head nuts with a wrench and then check the gaskets for damage. Loose head nuts can cause a loss in compression. Replace any worn or damaged gaskets.

Are there blockages in the fuel line? The next step is to check your fuel line for blockages. Remove the shroud that covers the engine. The fuel line runs from the tank to the engine and is usually clear so blockages will be easy to see. Blockages are caused by improper storage of your snowmobile. If you find a blockage, remove the fuel line, clean out the blockage and return it to its original position. If it is damaged, replace it.

What do the spark plugs look like? You should check the spark plugs in the snowmobile. Clean away carbon or other corrosion with a wire brush. Check out the porcelain part of the spark plug. Does it appear to have changed color? The white porcelain is the insulator of the spark plug. If the porcelain has turned beige or a light tan color, then it is still in good working order. If the spark plug is very white you could have an air leak. If it has changed to other colors then you have a problem with the engine.

Is there plenty of coolant? If the coolant levels are low, put fresh coolant into the snowmobile, following the owners’ manual guidelines.A recommended coolant/antifreeze is ethylene glycol (the green kind) to resist freezing. A 50/50 mixture has a freeze protection of about -32 degrees. A good additive to use with ethylene glycol is Royal Purple Ice. This will allow you to drop the engine operating temperature about ten degrees.

Now what? At this point if troubleshooting has not solve the problem and you are unable to get your snowmobile running, it is time to see a professional repair service agent for a full inspection. Only a qualified snowmobile service technician can check & evaluate your carburetor, piston, cylinder and the V belt clutch settings for the more technical problems associated with your snowmobile. Most services will clean, lubricate and adjust your snowmobile along with the inspection. They can also adjust the carburetor & clutch settings for the altitude at which you will be operating your snowmobile