How Long Do Snowmobile Engines Last? [2-Stroke and 4-Stroke]


The average snowmobile engine lasts anywhere from 5,000-20,000+ miles. The total number of miles depends on a variety of factors like the type of engine, how it’s used, and maintained. A properly used and well maintained 4-stroke snowmobile engine can sometimes reach 20,000+ miles. In contrast, 2-stoke snowmobile engines typically need a smaller “top end” rebuild after around 5,000 miles. But abused and neglected snowmobile engines will likely wear out much sooner!

If you are considering buying a used sled, or just want to know when your snowmobile’s engine might need to be rebuilt, this post is for you.

No intrusive affiliate links or fluff, just the solid info you need!

How Long Do Snowmobile Engines Last?

How long does a snowmobile engine lasts mainly depends on these factors:

  • Type of engine (2-stroke vs. 4-stroke, turbocharged or not)
  • Engine performance
  • Riding conditions
  • How it’s used
  • Maintenance and care

Since all of these are important factors, let’s take a close look at each.

Engine Type and Performance

When it comes to engines, the rule of thumb is: higher performance means shorter life.

Therefore, a turbocharged snowmobile engine won’t last as long as their non-turbocharged (naturally aspirated) brothers.

Because of this, the most durable snowmobiles are the youth sleds. Their small air-cooled engines are significantly less powerful compared to bigger models. Moreover, in many cases, their performance is artificially limited for safety purposes.

Full-sized snowmobiles are generally powered with one of the following types of engines:

  • Fan-cooled 2-stroke engine
  • Liquid-cooled 2-stroke engine
  • 4-stroke naturally aspirated engine (non-turbocharged)
  • 4-stroke turbocharged engine

It’s safe to say that naturally aspirated 4-stroke snowmobile engines last the longest, and you can expect a shorter lifespan on a turbocharged engine. The less durable snowmobile engines are arguably the 2-stroke power sources. Regarding cooling systems, the liquid-cooled powerplants are usually more durable compared to the fan-cooled.

We also have to mention that there are also electric snowmobiles that just recently came on the market. Manufacturers claim these snowmobiles need “zero maintenance,” at least for a certain period.

How it’s Used and Riding Conditions

The main factor that affects the lifetime of a snowmobile’s engine is arguably how it is being used.

You can see many owners abusing their sleds on every ride, wanting to be the fastest at all times.  Typically, they are the ones who have to rebuild their engines much more often or have to buy a new snowmobile every year or two. That’s why you can find a lot of sleds on the market with only 2,000-3,000 miles on them, that are actually junk.

This is the number one reason why it’s risky to purchase a used sled, you never know how it was used! However, the exterior condition of the sled is always a good clue to how it was treated and maintained.

If you already have a sled and want to use it for a long time, it’s always best to avoid abusing the engine.

Okay, sledding is a motorsport, so some adrenaline rushes is always part of the fun! But your snowmobile’s engine will last much longer if you don’t regularly hold the throttle wide open (or close to it) for long periods of time.

It’s also recommended that you warm the engine up properly before every ride.

It also makes a big difference where you regularly ride. Also, riding in deep snow and in the mountains requires much more engine power, which results in more wear and tear. In contrast, flat land rides put much less stress on the engine.

Beyond the terrain, the ambient temperature, altitude, humidity, and snow condition all affect the wear on the engine.

It’s also good to know that aftermarket performance parts always offer more fun, but they also lead to a shorter engine life. This is the reason why racing snowmobiles require more service than other types of sleds.

If you are shopping around for a used sled, you may want to steer clear of the heavily modified ones. In many cases, these have been used harder than stock sleds.

In summary, the harder a snowmobile is ridden, the faster its engine wears out.

Maintenance and Care

Another very important factor is the maintenance. Simply put, besides the abuse, overlooked maintenance is the other leading reason why so many snowmobile engines don’t last as long as they should.

Using the wrong fuel or oil, overlooked oil changes on 4-stroke engines, missed carb cleanings, and improper summerizing after the season occur more often than you might think.

And if the owner doesn’t pay attention to maintenance and properly take care of his sled, the engine can be damaged or destroyed in a couple of seconds.

As an example, a clogged carburetor can easily leave a 2-stroke engine without lubrication, which can immediately lead to major engine damage.

That’s why proper engine maintenance is always so important on every snowmobile.

Therefore, if you are considering purchasing a used sled, best practice is to ask for all of the maintenance records.

What is Considered High Mileage for a Snowmobile?

In general, 10,000 miles and up are considered high mileage on a snowmobile. From 5,000 up to 10,000 miles means average usage, whereas 5,000 and below is considered low mileage on a snowmobile.

Most American snowmobile owners put around 1,200-1,500 miles on their sleds every season. Based on that, the average mileage of a snowmobile depends on its age:

Average Annual Miles on a Snowmobile

Years Average Miles on the Snowmobile
1 1200-1500
2 2400-3000
3 3600-4500
4 4800-6000
5 6000-7500
6 7200-9000
7 8400-10500
8 9600-12000
9 10800-13500
10 12000-15000
11 13200-16500
12 14400-18000
13 15600-19500
14 16800-21000
15 18000-22500
16 19200-24000
17 20400-25500
18 21600-27000
19 22800-28500
20 24000-30000

Please note that these are just approximate numbers, as you can find used sleds with more, or even far fewer miles, on the market.

But as we’ve discussed, although a snowmobile’s mileage can indicate the engine’s condition, this is not the only factor at play. A snowmobile can run 10,000+ miles with a stock engine without any issues, but at the same time, there is always a chance of blowing the engine after 10 miles.

That’s why you have to inspect the engine itself instead of only relying on the odometer.

Are you wondering when you should rebuild a snowmobile engine and how you can check its condition?

Then keep reading!

When Should You Rebuild a Snowmobile Engine?

First things first, we have to specify what a “complete snowmobile engine rebuild” means:

Rebuilding a snowmobile engine usually refers to a complete restoration. This means all the parts with some wear have to be replaced with a new part. These usually include the pistons, rings, bearings, gaskets, rubber parts, and valves. In the worst cases, the crankshaft has to be replaced as well. Finally, the rebuilt engine should look “like new.”

It’s good to know that a complete rebuild is a very costly service, especially if it’s done by a dealership. Thus, it’s usually only done if the engine is blown, or completely worn out.

This is why it’s important to distinguish a blown engine from one that only needs its top end rebuilt.

A blown engine always means major damage, which is independent of the mileage.

The leading reasons for blowing snowmobile engines are:

  • lack of lubrication
  • clogged carburetors
  • wrong gas
  • overheating
  • over-revving
  • snow ingestion
  • other malfunctions.

If it happens, the engine usually stops immediately and cannot be restarted. In other cases, it has some malfunctions that causes it to perform poorly. A blown engine needs to be completely rebuilt or even replaced in some cases.

Another common issue is the engine acquires some wear and tear over time. This means the engine is usually still running, but you can notice one or more of these issues:

  • Starting issues
  • Lower top end
  • Higher fuel and oil consumption
  • Other engine malfunctions
  • Low compression in cylinders

What is a top end rebuild on a snowmobile?

It’s a typical symptom that snowmobiles continuously lose their top end over time, as their engine gets worn out. If you notice this, the best practice is to check the compression in the cylinders. If it’s low, some engine upgrades may be required, but it usually doesn’t mean a complete rebuild. Since it means replacing parts at the “top” of the engine, this service known as a “top end refresh” or “top end rebuild.”

What are these parts?

  • In many cases, this only means a new set of piston rings and a cleaning (after around 3,000-5,000 miles).
  • In case of more wear, new pistons with rings may be required (after around 5,000-7,000 miles).
  • A complete top end rebuild means honing the cylinders (if required), replacing the pistons, rings, gaskets, and the reed valves.

If a snowmobile’s engine is significantly worn, it usually needs a bottom end refresh as well.

Simply put, this is a full engine rebuild and beyond the above-mentioned parts, you have to replace the bearings and maybe the crankshaft as well. As a rule of thumb, many owners do a bottom end refresh at every second top end refresh.

Keep in mind that these services should only be done on 2-stroke snowmobile engines. But the good news is that it’s much easier to work on a 2-stroke sled. That’s why many owners manage these engine rebuilds themselves.

Compared to the 2-strokes, rebuilding a 4-stroke snowmobile engine is an enormous task and only very few people can do it at home.

How Much Compression Should a Snowmobile Have?

The best way to determine the condition of a snowmobile engine is by checking the compression in the cylinders.

How much compression should a snowmobile engine have? An average snowmobile should have about 115-125 psi of compression on all cylinders. 110 psi is usually a sign of some wear, and at just 100 psi you can expect poor performance. At around 90 psi, you probably won’t be able to start the engine. Keep in mind that these are just approximate numbers, for exact specification please check the sled’s manual.

When Should You Rebuild a Snowmobile Engine?

You should rebuild a snowmobile engine if it’s blown or it’s worn out. If it has starting issues, lower top end, and low compression in the cylinders, these are all clues that your snowmobile’s engine needs to be rebuilt. A blown engine happens from lack of lubrication, overheating, clogged carbs, or other malfunctions. If the engine needs to be rebuilt due to wear and tear, a top end or even a bottom end rebuild is needed.

Are you wondering when it would be best to rebuild the top end in your sled? The bad news is there is no exact answer to this question, but let’s consider some different viewpoints!

When Should You Rebuild Your Snowmobile’s Top End?

You should rebuild your snowmobile’s top end if it measures low compression in the engine. It’s also important for the compression to be about the same in every cylinder. If it’s different by 10-15 psi or even greater, again it’s a clue that your top end needs to be rebuilt.

Some owners rebuild their sled’s top end periodically, even if they haven’t had any engine issues and the compression is still good. They hope to avoid major engine damage by regularly refreshing their top end.

Their philosophy is: prevention is better than the cure!

On the other hand, many owners say that they won’t touch their engine as long as it’s working well.

Their philosophy is: why fix something that works well?

Based on real-world experiences, there are pros and cons on each side.

But as a rule of thumb, you can’t go wrong with occasionally refreshing a 2-stroke engine. This is more important if you ride your sled hard or in the mountains. An engine refresh will be necessary sooner or later, and it’s certainly more beneficial to have this service done during the off-season.

It always a hassle if your engine loses its performance or even blows in the middle of winter. It can shorten your season by weeks!

How Often Should You Rebuild a 2-Stroke Snowmobile?

2-stroke snowmobiles need to be rebuilt more often than 4-strokes. As a rule of thumb, the majority of 2-stroke snowmobiles need a “top end” engine rebuild before reaching 5,000 miles. This usually means replacing the rings, or the pistons with rings and gaskets. There are stories about 2-stroke sleds with 10,000+ miles, still being powered with their original engine. But keep in mind that this would be very rare.

Best practice is to be prepared to refresh a 2-stroke engine after 4,000-5,000 miles, especially if you ride your sled hard.

How Long Does a 4-stroke Snowmobile Engines Last?

If you maintain and use it properly, a 4-stroke snowmobile engine can last 20,000 miles, or even more. However, this strongly depends on whether it is boosted with a turbocharger or not, and how you use and maintain it. 4-stroke snowmobile engines usually last much longer compared to 2-strokes, but rebuilding them is much more expensive and difficult.

How Much Does it Cost to Rebuild a Snowmobile Engine?

The cost of snowmobile engine rebuilds can range from $50 up to as high as thousands of dollars. The final cost varies widely depending on the engine type, the required parts, and labor. Some examples for snowmobile engine rebuild costs (USD) are as follows:

  • 2-stroke: Replacing the rings and cleaning the engine at home: $50
  • 2-stroke: Replacing the pistons, rings, and gaskets at home: around $150-$500
  • Complete engine rebuilds: $1,000-$3,000+

Unfortunately, it’s impossible to give an exact figure of how much a snowmobile engine rebuild will cost.  Getting a complete engine rebuild done in a service shop can cost several times more than a quick “top end” refresh in your garage.

As a rule of thumb, it makes sense to rebuild 2-stroke engines especially if you can do it yourself. In contrast, 4-stroke engines are nearly impossible to rebuild at home. Only a very few owners can do it properly, which is why 4-stroke snowmobiles engines are usually rebuilt in service shops or at dealers. And you can assume that the labor costs of these services are quite high.

Thus, in many cases, rebuilding an aged snowmobile engine is not cost-effective. This is mainly for 4-stroke power sources. Instead, replacing the engine or even the whole sled makes more sense.

Another drawback of rebuilding an old engine is that sometimes it’s not easy to find the right parts, especially for older sleds. This is one of the main reasons why so many owners sell their running snowmobile’s parts instead of selling the whole sled.

But again, if you are considering rebuilding your engine, don’t trust the odometer. If you want to know the real condition of the engine, check the compression in the cylinders.

Conclusion

As a rule of thumb, 10,000 miles and above is considered to be high mileage on a snowmobile.

Snowmobile engines last around 5,000-20,000+ miles, or even more depending on many factors like its type, how it’s used and maintenance.

2-stroke snowmobile engines usually need a “top end refresh” after around 5,000 miles. This usually means only replacing the rings, or the pistons with rings and gaskets. This service is often called “top end rebuild” as well.

Rebuilding a 2-stroke snowmobile engine can even be done at home if you have mechanical skills and the required tools. But if you are new to engines, it’s not recommended that you start with this project.

Unlike 2-strokes, 4-stroke sled engines last longer, up to 20,000 miles or more. Their drawback is that they are very difficult and costly to rebuild.

The costs of a snowmobile engine rebuild can range from $50 up to $3,000+, as it depends on several factors, such as:

  • The type of the engine (2-stroke vs. 4-stroke)
  • Which parts need to be replaced
  • Labor costs

You can replace a set of rings and clean the engine in your garage, which may cost you as little as $50. But if you want to rebuild a 4-stroke engine, be prepared to pay thousands of dollars. That’s why rebuilding a 4-stroke snowmobile engine is not worth it in most cases.

As a final word, don’t forget that the lifetime of a snowmobile engine strongly depends on the maintenance and how it’s used.

Keep in mind these factors whether you already own a sled, or are just considering buying one!

References:

http://www.supertraxmag.com/features/should-you-keep-your-sled-or-buy-new/n3349

https://www.snowmobilefanatics.com/threads/how-long-do-snowmobile-engines-last.93932/

https://www.hardcoresledder.com/threads/whats-consider-high-miles-for-a-snowmobile.502203/

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