How do I Know if My Snowmobile Clutch is Bad? [Fixing Guide]


There could be many different signs that your snowmobile clutch is bad. However, the most common symptoms are as follows:

  • Noise from the clutch
  • Engine is hard to crank and bogs down
  • Sled loses its power
  • Increased fuel consumption
  • Poor backshift
  • Signs of wear on the clutch

Did you know that snowmobile clutches rotate around as fast as the engine’s RPM? Thus, they need a lot of attention and care to keep them in good shape!

To maintain your sled’s performance, you should regularly check, clean, and adjust the clutch. Moreover, in case of damage, you will have to rebuild or even replace it.

If you want to perform any maintenance on your clutch, this post is for you. We’ve collected everything you’ll need to know under one roof!

Symptoms that Indicate Your Snowmobile Clutch is Bad

First, let’s discuss what the most common symptoms indicating that the clutch on your snowmobile is bad.

Noise

Clutch issues can often generate some strange noises. But unfortunately, by the time your clutch starts making noise it’s usually too late and your clutch may need to be rebuilt or replaced. That’s why it’s recommended that you check your clutch regularly. (At a minimum every season, as part of the general annual maintenance.)

Engine is hard to crank and bogs down

If your sled is hard to crank or its engine bogs down, this can also be a sign of clutch malfunctions. First, check the carbs of course, as they can generate similar symptoms as well.

Sled loses its power or burns more fuel

In some cases, an unbalanced or worn-out clutch can also reduce the sled’s performance or lead to poor fuel mileage.

What is the backshift on a snowmobile?

The backshift on a snowmobile means how fast the clutch responds if you release the throttle and apply it again. If the clutch is in good shape, the engine should directly respond.

Signs of wear on a snowmobile clutch

There could be many signs that your clutches are worn out and need to be fixed or rebuilt:

  • Sheave misalignment
  • Stress cracks on the primary clutch sheaves (unfortunately, not always visible!)
  • Loosened bushings
  • The clutch weight wore into the surface of the movable sheave (due to wrong weight bushing)
  • Broken or worn out springs
  • Worn out helix buttons

Let’s move on and see what you can do if your snowmobile clutch has issues!

What to do if Your Sled Has Clutch Issues

If you experience one or more of the signs described above, it means your clutch needs attention and care. Here are the typical steps of snowmobile clutch maintenance:

  • Inspecting
  • Removing
  • Disassembling
  • Cleaning
  • Replacing parts
  • Rebuilding/replacing the whole clutch if needed

If you want to know how to inspect, maintain, or rebuild your clutch, keep reading!

How do You Check a Snowmobile Clutch?

As a rule of thumb, you should check your snowmobile clutch at least every year, but a more frequent check never hurts. As the two clutches spin around as fast as the engine crankshaft, they can wear out very fast. To check a snowmobile clutch you have to first remove the cover and give it a thorough inspection. If you want a thorough inspection, you have to remove and disassemble it. This makes sense as most wear and tear can’t be seen from the outside.

Moreover, many owners replace the springs in the clutches every year for safety purposes. So, if you ride your sled a lot or hard, to keep its clutch in a good shape you should remove it every year, even if it’s a hassle.

This is the only way to properly check and maintain its internal parts! Are you wondering how to remove the clutch?

Let’s drill into the details!

How do You Remove a Snowmobile Clutch?

To remove a snowmobile clutch you will need a special tool, known as a snowmobile clutch puller. First, you have to take off the belt and remove the clutch bolts with a socket. If you are lucky, you can easily pull the primary clutch off, but this is the rare exception. Usually, you need to use a clutch puller to remove the primary clutch from the shaft. Removing the secondary clutch is much easier, as it doesn’t require the puller to remove it.

You can see the whole clutch removal procedure in this video:

How does a clutch puller work?

The clutch puller looks like the clutch bolt, but the thread can be found close to the head instead of the end of it. As you tighten the puller, it pushes harder against the shaft until the clutch pops free. Beware that the puller is only needed to remove the primary clutch!

How do you use a snowmobile clutch puller?

To use a snowmobile clutch puller properly, first lubricate its thread. Then, fix the clutch and remove the primary clutch bolt. Finally, thread the puller into the primary clutch and tighten it until the clutch comes off the shaft.

How do you remove a snowmobile clutch without a puller?

The most common way to remove a snowmobile clutch without a puller is by pouring water into the clutch, sealing the clutch bolt with Teflon tape, and tightening it into its place. Although this is a fairly common solution for removing the clutch without a puller, it’s highly not recommended! Why?

First, this trick doesn’t work for all sleds. This means you can’t be sure whether it would work on your sled or not.

Moreover, if you try to remove the clutch with water, you risk stripping the thread or even breaking the clutch bolt! This can lead to many headaches and costly repairs. Due to these risks, you should definitely use a puller every time to remove the clutch.

Snowmobile clutch pullers cost as little as $40-$50, so they are definitely worth buying.

But if you want to remove your clutch right now, you can even make a clutch puller yourself at home!

How do you make a snowmobile clutch puller?

You can easily make a snowmobile clutch puller with the right-sized threat rod and two bolts. It’s wise to cut the threads off the end of the rod for safety reasons. If you want to learn how to make a snowmobile clutch puller, you can get a good start with this video:

How do you remove the secondary clutch on a snowmobile?

To remove the secondary clutch on a snowmobile, you have to first remove the clutch bolt with a wrench.  Also, make sure you’ve removed the washers as well. After that, you can simply pull the clutch slowly off the shaft by hand. Tip: screw the bolts with the washers back to the shaft, it can keep from losing them. You can see the whole process on this video:

How do you get a stuck snowmobile clutch out?

Snowmobile clutches are prone to getting stuck, especially the primary clutch. To get stuck the clutch out, always try using an appropriate clutch puller first. Thread the tool into the clutch and tighten it several times. Be patient, as you may have a hard time removing it.

If you can’t get it to release no matter what, best practice is to take your sled to your dealer or a reputable service shop. Gambling with water or other removal tricks is not recommended, as they can result in broken clutch bolts, stripped threads, or other damage.

How do You Disassemble a Snowmobile Clutch?

To properly disassemble a snowmobile clutch, you will need to first get out your sled’s repair manual. This is because the procedure, the required special tools and torques vary from one model to the next. The tools you need to disassemble a Ski-Doo clutch won’t work on an Arctic Cat! As an example, you can see how to disassemble a Polaris clutch in this video:

How do you Clean a Snowmobile Clutch?

The clutches can become very dirty during the year, so cleaning them regularly is a good idea. Let’s see how to do this!

What can you use to clean your snowmobile clutch?

You can easily clean a snowmobile clutch with compressed air. If you are considering doing a more extensive cleaning, you will need rugs, abrasive pads, and hot soapy water.

How do you clean a snowmobile clutch?

To clean a snowmobile clutch thoroughly, you have to first remove and disassemble it. Then, clean the parts one-by-one with hot water and soap, rags, and an abrasive pad like Scotch-Brite. You may want to clean the clutches on your sled every year, as the build-up on them can lead to decreased performance and faster wear.

Many owners use brake cleaner to clean their clutches. Although this can do a really good job and make the surfaces clean, many experts don’t recommend it. Why?

This is because the faces of clutches are made of a porous metal. And if you apply any chemicals to this surface, they can be absorbed into the metal to some degree. This can lead to problems such as when the clutches start getting warm, these pores will start releasing these chemicals.

Because of these risks, best practice is to clean snowmobile clutches with hot soapy water, rinse them down carefully, and let them dry completely.

Beyond the clutches, you may also want to clean the belt in the same way.

How do you clean snowmobile clutch sheaves?

The best way to clean snowmobile clutch sheaves is by scuffing them up with an abrasive pad.

How do you clean snowmobile clutch faces?

Abrasive pads can also be used to clean the clutch faces. They won’t scratch the metal but still provide excellent cleaning.

Here is a step-by-step guide on how to clean a snowmobile clutch in the right way:

Should You Lube a Snowmobile Clutch?

As a rule of thumb, you shouldn’t lube a snowmobile’s primary clutch, as it’s surprisingly designed to run dry. Any lube would make the belt slippery, which can lead to poor performance. Moreover, any lube can damage the bushings as they are designed to run without any lubrication, not to mention that a lubricant can cause a lot of dirt to get on the clutches!

Another main concern is the clutches’ aforementioned porous surface. If lubricant is applied to these surfaces, the little pores can continuously release it, which makes the belt slip. And this is exactly what you don’t want!

Only a little lubrication is required on snowmobile clutches, which is usually on the inside of the secondary clutch. As these parts’ lubrication requirements vary from one model to the next, always check the service manual before you start lubricating your sled’s secondary clutch!

How do You Adjust a Snowmobile Clutch?

To properly adjust a snowmobile clutch, make sure that it’s completely clean first. If not, start out by giving them a good wash! The majority of secondary clutches feature a special external adjuster. With this tool, you can set the distance between the two sheaves of the clutch, which adjusts the tension of the belt. If you want to learn how to adjust a snowmobile clutch, don’t miss this step-by-step tutorial video:

Tip: When you install the belt, don’t overlook the rotation arrows!

How do You Rebuild a Snowmobile Clutch?

To rebuild a snowmobile clutch you will need some special tools, a solid workbench with a vise, and your sled’s service manual. Beware that the procedure varies from one sled to the next, so you may want to read the manual carefully. Keep in mind that in many cases a complete clutch rebuild on a snowmobile is not worth the money and effort. Are you wondering why?

First, let’s face it, just the special tools cost hundreds of dollars, not to mention the replacement parts.

Plus, it’s not a 2-minutes job. Removing, cleaning, disassembling and assembling the clutch requires a lot of time, and don’t forget that you have to balance it too. This is why it might not be worth the effort.

If you are not sure whether to replace or rebuild your sled’s clutch, remove and inspect it first.

If you can’t see any damage made by the weights and the clutch is still tight, it makes sense to rebuild it. But if the weights have already worn into the spider this is a clue that your clutch is no longer worth rebuilding.

You can usually find a good used clutch for less than it would cost to rebuild the old one.

If you are determined to rebuild your clutch, you can make a good use of this tutorial:

Conclusion

“How do I know if my snowmobile clutch is bad?” – This is a typical question of many sledders, and for the right reasons.

Snowmobile clutches are key parts of every sled; thus, they need regular maintenance.

You have to regularly clean them with compressed air to remove the massive build-up.

For more intensive cleaning you have to remove the clutches, disassemble them, and wash with hot soapy water. For cleaning the sheaves, you may want to use an abrasive pad.

Beyond cleaning, it’s recommended that you regularly check all the parts of the clutch.

If you ride your sled hard, you should probably replace the clutch springs every year. Besides the springs, other parts are also prone to breaking over time.

If your clutch wears out, you have to replace it with a new one, but if you are lucky you can find a used clutch in a good shape.

Your other option is to rebuild the clutch, but it’s not worth the effort in many cases. This is because you need a bunch of special tools, replacement parts, time, and skills to manage this.

Disclaimer: Servicing a snowmobile clutch needs a lot of attention, as doing it wrong can lead to several types of damage. If you lack the required tools and skills, best practice is to take your sled to a dealership. Before you perform any maintenance on your sled, always refer to its service manual!

References:

https://snowgoer.com/snowmobile-tech-tips/snowmobile-tips/identify-used-sled-warning-signs/2735/

https://www.snowest.com/2010/01/10-simple-ways-to-improve-clutch-performance

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