What is Better a Fan-Cooled or Liquid-Cooled Snowmobile? [Comparison]


Many say that liquid-cooled snowmobiles are better than fan-cooled, as they are more powerful, more fuel-efficient, and last longer. Others argue that fan-cooled sleds have their own advantages. They are cheaper, easier to maintain, and less likely to overheat on hard-packed surfaces. Beyond these main factors, there are many pros and cons of both cooling systems. Wondering what they are? Keep reading!

In this post, we’ll compare these engines head-to-head. If you want to learn more about how snowmobile cooling systems work, don’t miss our post on the topic!

Fan-Cooled vs. Liquid-Cooled Snowmobiles

The fan-cooled vs. liquid-cooled snowmobile debate is one of the biggest arguments among snowmobile enthusiasts.

If you are considering buying a sled, you probably want to know which is for you. For your convenience, we’ve done the research and compiled the most important factors of each in one chart.

Fan-Cooled vs. Liquid Cooled Snowmobile Comparison Chart

Features Liquid-Cooled Snowmobiles Fan-Cooled Snowmobiles
Purchase price Higher Lower
Maintenance costs Higher Lower
Maintenance Harder Easier
Engine rebuild Harder and more expensive Easier and cheaper
Performance Higher Lower
Torque Higher Lower
Top speed Higher Lower
Engine compression Higher Lower
Pull start Harder Easier
Weight Heavier Lighter
Engine noise Lower Higher
Fuel consumption Lower Higher
Running on ice/hard-packed snow Engine may overheat No issues
Running at low speed/idling Engine may overheat No issues
Ideal for Higher performance sleds Ice fishing sleds, Utility sleds, Beginner/youth sleds

Let’s drill into the details and take a closer look at these factors one-by-one!

Pros of Liquid-Cooled Snowmobiles

In a nutshell, the key pros of liquid-cooled snowmobiles are as follows:

  • Higher performance
  • More efficiency
  • Longer engine life
  • Less likely to overheat without warning
  • Less noise
  • More models available

Higher Performance and Efficiency

The biggest advantage of liquid-cooled snowmobiles is arguably their significantly higher performance.

In the past, every snowmobile was powered with a fan-cooled engine. But as their performance started to dramatically increase, a more efficient cooling system became necessary.

The key to liquid-cooled engines is their tighter tolerances, which leads to higher compression. Finally, it results in more horsepower, more torque, and higher top speeds! Therefore, if you are a performance-minded buyer and looking for great adrenalin rushes or mountain climbing, you will definitely need a liquid-cooled sled.

Another advantage of these snowmobiles is that you can modify them for higher performance, as their cooling system can handle the increased temperature.

What’s more, despite their higher performance liquid-cooled snowmobiles are surprisingly more fuel efficient!

Longer Engine Life and Less Noise

As coolant attracts heat from the engine more efficiently than air, a liquid-cooling system means less wear and tear on the engine.  

As the engine can run at a consistent temperature, it can generate much more heat without any damage.

This also means you have to expect less engine rebuilds. However, keep in mind that rebuilding a liquid-cooled snowmobile engine always means more cost and hassle!

Additionally, liquid-cooled sleds are less prone to overheating without warning. On top of that, their engines generate less noise.

More Models Are Available

It’s safe to say that the majority of new snowmobiles come with liquid-cooled engines.

Thus, if you are looking for a fan-cooled sled, you can only choose from a few different models. Your other option is to purchase a used sled, as most of the vintage machines are fan cooled.

Pros of Fan-Cooled Snowmobiles

Let’s face it, fan-cooled snowmobiles are less powerful and less efficient compared to liquid-cooled models.

On the other hand, they also have many advantages! Let’s take a closer look at each.

More Affordable

If you are looking for an affordable snowmobile, you should consider a fan-cooled sled.

These models are not only among the cheapest snowmobiles on the market, but they also have lower maintenance costs as well.

Their great price/value ratio makes them a reasonable choice for many beginners or even rental shops!

Low Maintenance

Thanks to their simpler design and lower performance, fan-cooled snowmobiles have pretty reliable engines, so it’s harder to get in trouble with them! (Just a small hole on the heat exchanger of a liquid-cooled sled can ruin your day.)

Their lower performance offers less fun, but on the other hand their engines are easier on the drivetrain and other parts. You have to replace bearings, carbides, brake pads, and many other parts less frequently.

The lack of liquid-cooling also means these engines are easier to work on. Engine rebuilds are cheaper and easier as you don’t have to deal with the water jacket.

Another lesser-known advantage of fan-cooled sleds is that many of them can run on 87-octane gas without and problems.

Weight of Fan-Cooled Snowmobiles

Regarding weight, the general rule is that fan-cooled snowmobiles are always lighter compared to their liquid-cooled brothers. This is because they don’t feature a heavy cooling system that contains a heat exchanger, pump, coolant and many other parts.

Less weight makes fan-cooled sleds nimble and easy to handle.

They Do a Better Job on Ice and Hard-Packed Snow

Many people say that the key feature of fan-cooled sleds is that they can run on ice or hard-packed snow without overheating issues.

Unlike fanners, liquid-cooled sleds require fresh snow to keep their engine cool. That’s why these machines are prone to overheating in low-snow conditions or on ice. Even if ice-scratchers and studs can help this to a certain extent, overheating is still a common problem on many liquid-cooled snowmobiles.

That’s why a fan-cooled snowmobile is the best choice for ice-fishing! Their engines are cooled exclusively with ambient air, so they can work without any issues even if they aren’t running on snow.

What’s more, the tolerance of low snow conditions means longer seasons for you. As there is less and less snow each year, it could be a key factor for many owners, especially in the southern states.

Tolerate Idling and Low Speeds

Are you looking for a great utility snowmobile? Then you should take a look at fan-cooled sleds.

Thanks to their cooling system, you can leave their engines idling or ride at low speeds without the risk of overheating. It’s always great if you don’t have to stop the engine every time you load up the trailer!

Additionally, fanners are easier to pull start due to their lower engine compression.

And finally, you can place your shields or goggles on the nice warm air that the engine blows out.

Are Fan-Cooled Snowmobiles Good?

Even if many people consider them outdated, fan-cooled snowmobiles are very good machines. Their simple engine makes them great utility sleds. If you are a beginner or looking for a snowmobile for ice fishing, you can’t go wrong with a fan-cooled machine!

Are you wondering which manufacturer offers fan-cooled snowmobiles?

The good news is that some main manufacturers still offer these reliable machines off the shelf. Unfortunately, Ski-Doo canceled its 550 fan-cooled power source, so this manufacturer offers only sleds with liquid cooled engines.

But the good news is that Polaris is still producing many different fanners like the INDY 120, INDY EVO, and INDY 550, Voyageur 155 & 144, or the RMK EVO.

In the fleet of Arctic Cat, we can find fan-cooled snowmobiles only in the youth category.

Besides these manufacturers, Yamaha also offers fan-cooled snowmobiles like the Yamaha VK540, Snoscoot ES, or the SRX120R.

What is Better, Fan-Cooled or Liquid-Cooled Snowmobile?

When it comes to the fan-cooled vs. liquid-cooled snowmobile debate, it seems there is no clear winner here. Each cooling system has its own advantage and disadvantage, so the final decision is up to you!

If you are looking for a high-performance snowmobile, liquid-cooling is the only way to go.

On the other hand, fan-cooled snowmobiles are great for utility purposes or ice fishing. They are also recommended for beginners or rental shops due to their low purchase prices and maintenance costs.

What’s more, they are also very durable and reliable. All of these are great points for newbies and rental companies!

This is our short fan-cooled vs. liquid-cooled snowmobile comparison. We hope you like it!

References:

https://snowgoer.com/snowmobile-features/fan-cooled-shootout/2704/

https://amsnow.com/news/snowmobile-reviews/2004/11/fan-tastic-fan-cooled-sleds

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