How Long Does a Snowmobile Belt Last? [Maintenance Guide]


Snowmobile belts last about 1,000-3,000 miles depending on many factors. These are typically the quality of the belt, the riding conditions, the sled’s performance, and the clutch settings. Keep in mind that if you don’t pay attention to the belt, it can blow up in a really short time! If you want to avoid this type of damage, you are at the right place.

This post will teach you how to properly maintain, clean, adjust, and/or replace the belt on your sled. Additionally, we’ve compiled the most common reasons that cause a snowmobile belt to break!

What is a Snowmobile Belt?

The belt on a snowmobile is one of the most important parts of the driveline, as it connects the primary and secondary clutches. As long as the engine is idling, the belt remains stationary. But when you apply some throttle, the primary clutch engages and starts to rotate the belt. The belt starts to move the secondary clutch, which transmits power towards the track trough the jackshaft. That’s why the belt is also referred to as a drive belt.

If you are curious about how a snowmobile belt works, don’t miss this informative video:

How Long Does a Snowmobile Belt Last?

As a general rule, snowmobile belts last around 1,000-3,000 miles. On sleds that regularly run off-trail, the belt will typically last only 1,000-1,500 miles. But on trail sleds, you can normally get 2,000-3,000 miles out of the belt, or even more!

If you have a sled with moderate performance, you can even get 4,000-5,000 miles out of your belt. But this would be a rare case.

For many owners sledding means a lot of adrenaline rushes, racing, and backcountry riding, so blowing a belt is quite common.

Besides the hard rides, another issue could be the lack of attention and maintenance.

Without proper maintenance, the belt can wear out in just hundreds of miles. In the worst-case scenario, it can blow up before your sled starts at all.

Therefore, you may want to know what can cause a snowmobile belt to break, and how to avoid these issues.

What Causes a Snowmobile Belt to Break?

The typical reasons why a snowmobile belt would break are as follows:

  • Burning and overloading
  • Overheating
  • Failure to break it in
  • Lack of warm-up
  • Improper storage
  • Factory defect

Let’s take a closer look at these cases!

Overloaded and Burned Snowmobile Belts

Overloading is arguably the leading reason for belt damage on snowmobiles.

If you store your sled outside, the track and the skis are prone to freezing into the ground. This causes the sled to get stuck in many cases.

If you give some throttle without first releasing the sled, it may end in a burned or blown belt.

This is because the frozen track “locks” the secondary clutch and the belt as well. As the belt can’t spin, the sheaves on the primary clutch burn a notch into its surface.

With a burned belt, the clutch will vibrate, which means you have to immediately replace the belt.

You can also easily burn the belt when loading the sled onto a trailer or sled deck or try to start off going up a steep slope.

Additionally, towing a lot of weight like a disabled sled can also lead to belt damage.

Aside from these starting issues, keep in mind that the harder you ride, the faster your belt wears out. That’s why you have to replace the belt much more often on a mountain sled. Backcountry rides put a lot of stress on the belt, which dramatically shortens its lifespan.

But if you ride on trails, keep in mind that riding at full throttle will quickly wear out the belt as well. For the same reason, the belts on the high-performance trail sleds need to be replaced quite frequently.

Overheating

Overloading and overheating often go in hand-in-hand.

It’s a lesser-known fact that not only snowmobile engines, but their clutches and belts can also overheat.

Aggressive rides cause the clutches to become extremely hot, which can damage the belt as well. This is especially true on supercharged snowmobiles.

To avoid these issues, Ski-Doo’s turbocharged sleds like the Summit and Freeride models feature a belt monitoring system. Simply put, this system warns you if the belt’s temperature is rising dramatically.

Thanks to this system, overheating issues can be avoided in many cases.

How do You Break in a New Snowmobile Belt?

To break in a new snowmobile belt, you have to ride carefully for the first 20-30 miles. Best practice is to avoid aggressive accelerations and riding at full throttle. When it comes to the terrain, ride on flat land if possible. Riding uphill with a brand-new belt is never a good idea. Breaking in a snowmobile belt is to simply get it to conform to the angles of the clutch sheaves.

If you don’t break in the belt, it can wear out much faster!

Lack of Warm-Up

Just like the engine, the clutches and belt also require a thorough warm-up before the ride. This is especially important if you store your sled outside.

This is because in the cold weather the belt is frozen stiff. If you skip the warm-up, you risk damaging the belt.

To warm up a snowmobile belt, lift the rear of the sled and place it on a stand. Then start the engine and let the track rotate for a couple of turns. Don’t apply a lot of throttle!

In this way, you can not only make sure that the track is not frozen, but you can also warm up the belt, the clutches, and the track as well.

That’s why manufacturers recommend this process as part of the pre-ride inspection.

Wrong Storage

Improper summer storage can also significantly shorten the life of the drive belt. If you store your sled for a long time, it can change shape from sitting too long.

What should you do with the drive belt before storing your snowmobile?

Before you store your snowmobile for the summer, it’s wise to remove the belt and store it separately. This only applies if you do not plan to start your sled for a couple of months. If you can start its engine regularly during the off-season, then it’s better to leave the belt on. This is because staring the sled without the belt is definitely not recommended!

Why Does Your Snowmobile Belt Squeal?

If your snowmobile belt squeals, it indicates improper clutch settings. In most cases the belt tension is too tight. New belts are also prone to squealing until they are broken in. Another problem could be that the clutch is dirty. Give it a thorough cleaning and the noise is likely to disappear.

If you’ve installed the wrong belt, it can also squeal or generate various odd noises. Make sure you’ve purchased the correct replacement belt!

Also, keep in mind that belts sometimes squeal without any particular reason. This annoying noise may appear randomly based on the ambient temperature and the humidity.

But a quick check of the belt tension never hurts. Let’s see how to check and adjust the tension on a snowmobile belt!

How do You Adjust the Tension on a Snowmobile Belt?

On most snowmobiles, you can adjust the belt tension by adjusting the secondary clutch. Simply put, you have to spread the sheaves out to loosen the belt. The exact procedure may vary from one sled to the next, as different models feature different secondary clutch designs. Some clutches have screws on their back while others feature a dial on their side. You can see the process of how to adjust the tension on the belt in this video:

How Tight Should a Snowmobile Belt be?

The general rule is that the belt on a snowmobile should be as tight as possible. On the other hand, it shouldn’t squeal or try to start the sled at idle. This means that adjusting the belt deflection on a snowmobile always requires some back and forth. Tighten the belt, then start the engine and listen to the noises. Repeat the process until the belt starts to squeal, then loosen it a little bit.

You can tighten the belt if you bring the sheaves closer on the secondary clutch. If you spread them apart, the belt will be looser.

When Should You Replace Your Snowmobile Belt?

Many experts say that you should replace the belt on your sled every year if you ride a lot. If you are a mountain sledder, you can’t go wrong if you replace your belt after 1,000-1,500 miles. When it comes to trail sleds, it’s also wise to install a new belt on them after every 2,000-3,000 miles. It makes sense to replace the belt annually or after a certain number of miles, regardless of how it looks. Are you wondering why?

This is because belts can go wrong in many ways, but in the worst case they can break or as they say, “blow up.”

Unfortunately, this often happens when sleds are moving at high speeds. It’s good to know that the belt spins around the same speed as the engine’s crankshaft.

This means that if the belt blows up at high speed, it can cause several types of additional damage, such as:

  • Bent belt guards
  • Broken or cracked belly pans/hoods
  • Ripped cables
  • Bent footrests
  • Other damage due to the high RPM

It’s good to know that a high-speed belt blow can over-rev the engine about 15,000+ RPM. Even if it lasts for a short moment, it may end in various types of damage on the engine’s internals.

So, the main reason why it’s worth replacing the belt before it blows up is to avoid all of this additional damage. Replacing the belt every year is like having insurance on your sled.

Moreover, a worn-out belt can significantly reduce the sled’s performance. Putting a new belt on helps to get the most out of its performance!

If your old belt is in a good shape, you can still use it as a spare belt.

The Importance of a Spare Snowmobile Belt

It could be a big hassle if your belt breaks in the middle of nowhere. This is when a spare belt comes in handy. It’s like a spare tire in your car!

It’s must-have gear on any sled, regardless of where and how it’s used. Thus, it’s recommended that you keep one on your sled at all times. You never know when you will need it.

Where can you store the spare belt on your sled?

For your convenience, many new sleds feature “snowmobile belt holders.” They are the perfect place to store the spare belt. If your sled lacks this feature, you can still store the spare belt in a tunnel bag. The most important thing is to keep it in a cool place, as heat can significantly reduce the belt’s lifespan.

Therefore, storing the belt under the hood (e.g. on the top of the belt guard) is definitely not recommended!

How Much Does a Snowmobile Belt Cost?

Snowmobile belts cost around $30-$250 depending on the make and the quality. For low-performance snowmobiles, you can easily find belts for as little as $30-$50. On the other hand, the prices of good quality OEM snowmobile belts range from $100 up to $250.

How do You Clean a Snowmobile Belt?

You can clean a snowmobile belt in the sink with hot soapy water and a brush. As the final step, rinse it carefully and let it dry. Beyond the belt you may want to clean the clutches as well with Scotch-Brite and acetone. If you install a new belt, it’s also wise to wash it before you put it in place. This way you can remove the mold release compound and any other manufacturing chemicals.

How do You Change a Snowmobile Belt?

To change the snowmobile belt, you first have to remove the side panel and the belt guard. Then, you have to take off the old belt. You can do this easily if you spread the sheaves of the secondary clutch. This way you can loosen the tension of the belt, which is the key to easier removal. Once your belt is loosened, you can simply replace it.

Here’s a great video that shows how to change the belt on a snowmobile:

How do You Put a Snowmobile Belt On?

To put the new belt on, simply loosen the tension of the secondary clutch to spread its sheaves. Check the arrows on the new belt to make sure you place it going the right direction. Once it’s in place, set the belt tension on the secondary clutch. Finally, install the belt protector and the cover.

Are Snowmobile Belts Directional?

Yes, snowmobile belts are typically directional. Most of them have arrows on top that show the direction of rotation. Always double-check these arrows when you install a new belt, as installing it going the wrong direction can lead to many issues.

Although you can change the belt on different types of sleds in a very similar way, the design of the secondary clutches may vary by model.

Let’s see how to change the belts on different brands of sleds!

How do you change the belt on an Arctic Cat snowmobile?

How do you change the belt on a Ski-Doo?

How do you change a belt on a Yamaha snowmobile?

How do you change the belt on a Polaris snowmobile?

Conclusion

As a takeaway, we’ve gathered the most frequently asked question about snowmobile belts under one roof:

What is a snowmobile belt? It’s a part of the clutch. It connects the primary and secondary clutches.

How many miles should a snowmobile belt last? 1,000-,1500 miles on mountain sleds and 2,000-3,000 miles on trail sleds. (average numbers!)

What causes a snowmobile belt to break?  Overloading, overheating, lack of being broken-in or warmed up,factory defect.

How much does a snowmobile belt cost?  $30-$250

When should you replace your snowmobile belt? It’s wise to replace it annually, or after a certain number of miles.

How do you change a snowmobile belt? Loosen the tension by the secondary clutch, remove the old belt and install the new one.

Are snowmobile belts directional? Yes.

Why does my snowmobile belt squeal? It’s too tight or it hasn’t been broken in yet. (In case of a new belt)

How do you adjust the tension on a snowmobile belt? Adjust the sheaves on the secondary clutch.

What is proper belt deflection? The belt should be as tight as possible, without squealing or trying to move the sled at idle RPM.

How do you break in a snowmobile belt? Ride the sled carefully for the first 20-30 miles, on flat land if possible.

How do you clean a snowmobile belt? With hot soapy water and a brush, then rinse and let it dry.

What should you do with the drive belt before storing your snowmobile? Remove it if you leave the sled unattended for the off-season. If you can start the engine once a month, best practice is to leave the belt on.

References:

http://www.silvercliff.com/tech/tech1.html

https://www.snowmobile.com/how-to/inside-modern-snowmobile-drive-belts

http://www.supertraxmag.com/features/10-snowmobiling-must-haves:-spare-belt/n1870

https://www.caproskis.net/putting-your-sled-to-bed-how-to-prepare-your-snowmobile-for-summer-storage/

https://www.snowmobile.com/features/belt-longevity-and-maintenance

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