Summer mod projects for your sled

What to do with your snowmobile through the summer months

by Trish Drinkle

In the summer, you can take your time to work on your ride without fear of losing precious pow days.
A red snowmobile parked outside a garage. photo courtesy The Powder Station

’Tis the season to put the ole braaap-mobile away. The end of a snowmobiling season can provoke feelings of sadness in die-hard riders. Engine fog, fuel stabilizer and suspending the track are all basics of summerizing your ride so it is fresh for braaapin’ in the fall. There can be more though.

Summer can be a time of epic creativity and excitement as you do all of those time-consuming mods you did not want to chance in the winter. Getting into the guts of your ride in winter months can prove costly and most riders want as little time off the snow as possible. Big projects can become rushed and hurried, producing those ever-frustrating gremlins that rob horsepower and reliability. Gremlins that mock you, causing you to tear down your sled yet again in hopes of  fixing the problem.

Modifying in the summer months is much different. Time is on your side. You can take your time to work on your ride without fear of losing precious pow days. Here are some ideas to consider when summerizing your ride.

A thorough inspection

This is a great time to drop your skid and check your track, driveshaft bearings, hyfax, rails, slider wheels and shocks. It is much easier to change your bearings now than in the event of a disaster. It is much nicer to replace a $25 driveshaft bearing than to replace an entire driveshaft and chain case because that bearing failed.

The speedometer stopped working on an old Powder Special I owned back in the day. I chose to ignore it, blowing it off as something minor. The problem was one of two things—either my speedometer cable and insert or my driveshaft bearing. Tearing my sled down was something I did not want to do. There was so much riding to be had, so I chose to ignore it. Then it happened—BAM! Poop hit the fan and I ended up taking out my entire driveshaft and chain case and was down for about two weeks.

It’s better to be safe than sorry. Get it done in the summer and you’ll ride all winter. Change your hyfax. You can get creative with your hyfax; most suppliers offer a variety of colours. If your local dealer has them in stock, you’ll probably get them for a song.

Read your manual—it offers many suggestions for maintaining your ride. Find all your grease nipples, inspect your shocks for signs of leakage and set your track to the tension recommended in your owner’s manual. 

Engine maintenance

It is a totally different ball game between winter fixes and summer maintenance. The guy who squeaks his motor on the hill is rushed, frustrated and impatient, as he sources out parts and potential solutions. You have time on your side if you choose to work on your motor in the summer. It can be a great time to freshen up your top end or do that big-bore modification you’ve been dreaming about. When you choose to work in the summer, you often have greater parts availability because shops are not backed up, trying to meet the needs of impatient snowmobilers waiting for their rides.

A turbo build is as reliable as its install. If you are doing this on your own, building during the summer can be a great idea. You have all the time in the world to create a clean, meticulous build. The first road rides of fall are a great time to tune your sled, so once epic pow hits you are ready to rock and roll. If you are sending it away, your turbo builder will love the fact that you aren’t riding him to complete your build. Giving your installer breathing room benefits you both. Patience, grasshopper, you will be braaapin’ in no time. 

Sexy, sexy, sexy

Summer can also be a time to create the woo-hoo factor for your sled. Powder coating has become a popular modification for snowmobilers. The sky’s the limit when it comes to colour choices. Any metal can be powder-coated and many choose to powder coat tunnels, A-arms and running boards. While looking super sexy, the powder coating also helps to shed snow, which keeps your ride lighter during play time. My girlfriend, Kristen, has epic pink A-arms, and pink boards on her M7, creating the perfect reflection of her braaapin’ self.

Snowmobile wraps are also a wonderful idea for the summer months. Many wrap companies are flooded with requests starting in October as the average sledder begins their season. If you choose to design and install your wrap in the summer, you may capitalize on some summer specials, have a quicker turnaround time, and have a temperature more conducive to wrap application. The warm temperatures make a more secure bond between vinyl and your plastics.

Running boards

There are many types of running boards on the market today. You have your basic inserts, which provide traction and snow elimination, then you have your tubular-style running boards, such as Skinz and B&M—which completely replace your existing running board. Once you’ve tried an aftermarket board, there is no going back. You can get them in a variety of colours, or custom powder coat to match your particular colour scheme. 

Venting

Venting is a wonderful idea as extra vents help to keep your sled running cooler and the cooler your sled is, the better it runs.

Extra venting keeps clutches cooler, not only aiding in their performance—the cooler air can also extend the life of your belt. Pay close attention to the recommended vent pattern for your particular sled. Some venting offered, such as footwell venting for Polaris Pro-RMKs, prevents snow from being kicked into your clutch, which can cause belt slippage.

Now I’ve seen many a homemade job—with creative people using clothes dryer vents and crazy carpets to make their own vents. Do yourself a favour and invest your money on venting specifically made for your snowmobile. This type of venting is made with longevity in mind and will not detract from your sled’s value at the time of resale. Most people will take one look at a sled that has been modified in a way that cut corners and dismiss it as a possible purchase. That $10 crazy carpet vent could potentially cost hundreds or even thousands in the long run. Do it right or not at all. 

Pipes and cans

Pipes and cans are fun and functional. You save weight when you replace your stock can with an aftermarket one. MBRP, Skinz, HPS and NPP are all examples of quality aftermarket cans. I love the extra snap a good can can bring, not to mention the super-sexy sound.

Many cans of earlier times were obnoxiously loud, causing several stink-eyed glares to be directed at the super-loud snowmobile. Most cans today are not obnoxious, simply sexy sounding. You don’t necessarily get horsepower from your can as some believe; you do, however, get response and snap. 

Handlebar risers

Handlebar risers or lowering your bars with a new setup can be another great project for summer. In order to create better control and leverage, especially laying your ride over in steeper terrain, having a lower handlebar height can work to your advantage. There seemed to have been a trend a few years ago where people raised their bars to ridiculous heights, creating not only a completely absurd-looking rider and sled, but complete loss of control—as the excessive handlebar height created a minimal window for leverage. A nice, comfortable handlebar height has you in a relaxed position when standing. 

Getting down to the nitty-gritty

The nitty-gritty tedious jobs aren’t so tedious in the summer months. Replacing oil tanks, cables, motor mounts and levers are way more rewarding to do when it isn’t a necessity to rush them into completion.

Summer can be a great time for a shredder. Take your time, do the job right and relish each time you come into the house smelling like two-stroke smoke.

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