Well, it's that time again! The 2014-2015 sledding season is nearly upon us.
It's time to pull out that sled and start preparing it for a winter beating. Some sledder's take for granted the abuse a sled experiences throughout a winter. These are the ones who usually are stranded on the trail, being towed to the trailhead, or are down for a while repairing. Our precious winter months are short indeed, which makes it even more imperative for proper season prep.
There are five major areas that we all must check to insure proper sled prep. Each area has its own unique characteristics and problem points. Every sled is different, which is why we can only cover the general areas.
The work that was put into your sled at the close of last season greatly determines your work load now.
Let's take a look and each area.
Here is a big one, the fuel system. The 'blood' lifeline to your entire engine's well-being. Overlooking it can lead to disastrous results.
To begin, ask yourself this question: Did I take the time to properly prep my sled's fuel system for the summer months? If you answered this question no, you have inadvertently created more work for yourself than it would have taken to properly store it in the first place. We won't get into what exactly you should have done to store it, we'll leave that for a future sled storage article.
If you just parked your sled and let it sit through the summer, your carbs (if equipped) will need to come off. Period. There is just no way around this. Pull them and let's get this over with. Remove and open each carb. Check all areas looking for the green stuff. Clean all parts of the carb with a good carb cleaner and replace all main jets. Varnish can build in the main jet causing a leaning condition. Check pilots and jet needles for varnish or debris. Make sure your chokes are not hung up, a problem that seems to surface frequently. Also check the functionality of your floats by submerging them in gas. If they start bubbling up air, replace them. Check for proper carb calibration/jet sizing. Even the best of us forget how we were jetted from the previous season. Make sure the carbs are synced by insuring the slides all move at the same time, and that they all make it to the top of the slide bore. Clean everything thoroughly and reassemble. Do not install yet.
Now is a good time to check the airbox out. Mice have an abnormal attraction to sled airboxes. They love to build nests inside and fine ingenious ways of getting in and out. Get out your flashlight and start looking around. Your fingers can help check the areas you can't see. Also check the overall condition of the airbox making sure that there aren't any cracks or big air leaks. Also check the condition of the carb boots leading to the cylinder. Cracks or tears here can cause lean conditions.
Check the oil injection system for kinked or damaged lines and check the cable for fraying. Replace the oil filter (if equipped) and bleed the system.
Drain any existing gas in the tank. Replace the fuel filter and reassemble all components. Double check for correct installation and tightness.
The clutches are one of the most important performance areas on your sled. Regular maintenance and inspection is crucial for overall performance and component longevity. If ever in doubt about a specific part of your clutch system, please contact your dealer for proper servicing information.
Blow out your clutches with compressed air (non-oiled). Inspect both clutches very carefully for damage and/or cracks. If you have ever seen a clutch come apart, you already know it is a very dangerous situation, and one that can be avoided by proper inspection. Replace any component that shows visible signs of wear and/or damage.
Remove the weights and corresponding hardware from your primary clutch. Take a close look at the rollers for flat spots or wear. Spin them to see if they are tight. Look closely for 'chatter marks' along the rollers which indicates they are bad. Check button to tower clearance. Anything below .010" is OK. Check the condition of the spring and clutch sheaves. Service and replace as necessary.
Remove the secondary clutch. Remove the cover assembly and check for button/roller wear. Check the helix and spring for wear and/or cracks. While you have the secondary clutch removed from the sled, check the jackshaft bearing by trying to move the shaft up and down. If you feel any play, replace the bearing. Apply some grease or anti-seize compound to the jackshaft and reassemble the secondary.
Re-install the primary clutch. Hand sand the sheaves on both primary and secondary and blow out with compressed air.
Check the center-to-center distance of the clutches. Each machine varies so check your manual. Also check belt deflection. Make sure both are within the specifications listed for your machine. Most service manuals will provide detailed instructions on how to make these measurements along with the proper specs and how to adjust them if they are wrong.
If you haven't seen the inside of your chaincase recently, now is the time to pull the cover. Check the gears and chain for visible wear and replace as necessary. Here you can also check the condition of the bearings. Nothing will ruin your day quicker than worn chaincase components.
Check for proper chain tension. Clean out the old oil and blow out with compressed air. Replace the cover and fill the chaincase with the appropriate amount of chaincase oil that is recommended for your model. Don't get cheap here. Leave the trans fluid for your truck and get the fluid that your manufacturer recommends.
Now is also a good time to check the condition of your brake system. Make sure your brakes are within your manufacturer's specifications and that they don't have any cracks in them. If in doubt, always replace. If you have hydraulic brakes, make sure the fluid level is correct. If the fluid has been used for more than a couple of seasons, replace it and bleed the system.
If you didn't loosen the track before you stored your sled, you now risk having the track bonded to your rear idler wheels. Rotate the track by hand, slowly, to see if you can dislodge them. Worst case scenario here is that you may need some new rear idlers.
Inspect your track. Make sure that there are no holes or rips in it. Some companies advertise that they can repair tracks. Check with them to see if yours qualifies.
Check the track for proper tension and alignment. Each model varies so check with your manual.
Check the condition of the suspension. Start with the front and move back. Check to see if your shocks are leaking. If you have fox shocks, pull them off and get them serviced. Fox Shocks require oil replacement every 2000 miles or once every season, whichever comes first. We are amazed at the amount of times this is overlooked and how much the ride of the sled is compromised. The ride quality degrades slowly, so it is likely you didn't even notice. Some riders will say they forgot how good their sled rode until they got their shocks serviced. Some owners even replace there sled for a 'newer model' solely because of the ride quality, when only they needed shocks that were functioning properly.
Grease all zerks. Move your way down from the front, all the way to the skid frame. Your manual should indicate their exact location. While you have the grease gun out, hit the zerk for your speedo too.
Check the skid frame for damage and/or wear. Inspect each and every wheel. Rotate them to see that they move freely with no noise. Check the limiter straps for wear. With the winters that we have been seeing lately, pay close attention to the condition of the hifax. Grease all of the zerks on the entire skid frame and reassemble.
Double check the tightness of all suspension hardware, front and rear. Use loctite on all components including the tunnel bolts.
Check the engine compression. While the best time to check compression is with a warm motor that has just been shut down, you can safely take a cold reading until after you complete your pre-season prep. Connect a compression gauge to a cylinder. Make absolutely sure that the key and kill switch is off. You will run the risk of damaging the ignition system if the key is left on. Hold the throttle wide open and give the engine five good/fast cranks. Your reading should be somewhere between 110-140 PSI. If it is much lower, you possibly have a worn engine and may need to have it serviced. Repeat this procedure on all remaining cylinders. Your readings from cylinder to cylinder should be within 15% of one another.
Check your spark plugs. If they are anything less than perfect, replace them. Check your plug caps for cracking or wear. Unscrew the cap and measure the resistance through it with an ohmmeter. They should be somewhere around 5000 ohms +/- 10%. The screw inside the cap should be shiny, not green or black. Replace them if in question.
If you have a liquid cooled sled, now would be a good time to drain and replace the coolant. Drain the coolant and replace the filter (if equipped). Refill with a fresh mixture of quality antifreeze at a mix of 60% coolant - 40% water. If your sled has a coolant system belt, check it for wear. Replace as required.
You should now clean your entire sled and give it a good quality wax job. This will help protect the finish against the elements that you will expose it to. Make sure you look over your entire sled and address problems that you notice. Snow flaps coming off, seat tears, worn carbide runners and/or studs are items that are easy to take care of now rather than later. Checking electrical system connections and placing a small amount of dielectric grease on the connections will provide cheap insurance also. Check for headlight and brake light function. If your sled is equipped with hand warmers, make sure they work. Now is the time to find and repair these problems, not in December.
Remember. Each and every machine is different. This makes it important to check your sled over, looking for model specific problem areas.
Your labor now will ward against season downtime. The most annoying thing in the world of sledding is seeing the snow fly while you are stuck in the garage trying to figure out how to get your sled back in action.
See you on the trails.
Thanks to John Harris (NY State) for providing this information to our group! Much appreciated!