What Kind of Engines do Snowmobiles Have? [Explained]


Snowmobiles have either 2-stroke or 4-stroke engines depending on the model. Some have a carburetor, while others come with an electronic fuel injection system (EFI). Regarding cooling systems, fan-cooled engines typically offer a moderate performance, while the more powerful power plants are liquid cooled. The performance of snowmobile engines varies widely and can range from as low as 5 HP up to 210+ HP!

In this post, we will compare and contrast different snowmobile engines. No fluff or annoying affiliate links, just the solid info you need!

What Kind of Engines do Snowmobiles Have?

Simply put, we can classify snowmobile engines by five different factors, which are as follows:

  • Engine stroke: 2-stroke vs. 4-stroke
  • Carburetion type: carbureted vs. fuel injected (EFI)
  • Engine aspiration type: naturally aspirated vs. turbocharged (supercharged)
  • Cooling system: fan-cooled vs. liquid-cooled
  • Performance and displacement

Let’s drill into the details and take a short look at each!

Engine Stroke

Snowmobiles are powered with either a 2-stroke or 4-stroke engine.

The 4-stroke power plants are more reliable and last longer compared to their 2-stroke counterparts. What’s more, these engines offer more power, as some of them are boosted with a turbocharger. That’s why 4-stroke snowmobiles are so popular among performance-minded trail riders!

On the other hand, 2-stroke engines are more lightweight, which is the why all mountain sleds are exclusively powered by 2-stroke power plants.

Fuel Injection System vs. Carburetor

To feed the engine with gas/air mixture, snowmobiles feature carburetors or fuel injection systems. Both units do the same job; they vaporize the gas and mix it with air before it reaches the cylinders.

Vintage snowmobiles were manufactured with carburetors, until 1992 when Polaris introduced the industry’s first fuel injection system. One year later, Arctic Cat also released its first fuel-injected snowmobile.

Since then, electronic fuel injection systems (EFI) have become more and more prevalent in the snowmobile industry. Even if you can still find snowmobiles with carbureted engines on the market, it’s safe to say that the majority of new sleds are fuel injected.

Are you wondering what the advantages are of a fuel injection system on a snowmobile?

  • Better performance
  • Reduced emissions and fuel consumption
  • Reduced engine vibration
  • More reliability, no “carb work” and fouled spark plugs
  • Altitude adaptability
  • No cold start issues

Naturally Aspirated/Turbocharged Snowmobile Engines

Most snowmobiles are manufactured with naturally aspirated engines. This means these sleds naturally suck air into their engines.

To boost their performance, some snowmobile engines feature a turbocharger.

Simply put, the turbocharger is designed to force compressed air into the engine. Thanks to the extra air, the engine can burn more gas, which results in higher performance.

You can find factory-built turbocharged snowmobiles on the market, or you can install an aftermarket turbocharger kit on many regular snowmobile engines.

Besides turbochargers, superchargers are also commonly used on snowmobiles. Turbos do a better job on snowmobile engines and offer higher performance, while superchargers are easier to install.

Cooling Systems

Snowmobile engines are cooled with air or liquid, depending on the make and the model.

The air-cooled snowmobiles are known as fan-cooled sleds or “fanners.” This is because they use a fan to keep their engines cool. In the past air-cooled snowmobiles were more common, while most new snowmobiles are already liquid cooled. 

They feature a more complex cooling system that uses coolant to take heat away from the engine. The coolant transfers the heat to the heat exchanger, which is usually mounted in the tunnel.

If you want to learn more, you can read about cooling systems in this post.

Performance and Displacement            

The performance and displacement of snowmobile engines also vary widely. Just like any other engine, the bigger the displacement the more horsepower it delivers. Let’s take a look at the most common engine sizes!

Youth snowmobiles are powered with tiny 120-200cc engines, which produce 5-10 HP. Mid-sized snowmobiles usually come with 400cc engines, and offer around 65 HP.

Off-trail riding requires higher performance, which is why mountain and crossover sleds are powered with 600cc-900cc engines. The 600cc-700cc power sources put out around 90-130 HP, while the 800cc-900cc engines can reach the 130-170 HP range.

The most powerful snowmobile engines can be found in turbocharged trail sleds. They usually feature 1000cc-1050cc engines, which deliver an amazing 200-210+ HP.

For your convenience, we’ve compiled the most common snowmobile engine displacements into one chart.

What is CC on a Snowmobile?

Simply put, CC on a snowmobile is the displacement of its engine in cubic centimeters. The most common snowmobile engine displacements are as follows:

Displacement (cc) Typical horsepower range (HP)
120-200 5-12
400-550 50-90
600-750 90-130
800-950 130-170
1000-1050 200-210+

These numbers are just for informational purposes! Please note that the performance an engine depends on several factors like its type, cooling system, and so on.

Regarding snowmobile engine performance, the general rules are:

  • The higher the displacement the more power the engine delivers.
  • A 2-stroke engine produces more power than a 4-stroke power source with the same displacement.
  • Fuel-injected snowmobile engines are more powerful than carbureted ones.
  • Liquid-cooled snowmobiles are also much more powerful compared to fan-cooled models.
  • Turbochargers and superchargers significantly boost engine performance.
  • Newer sleds are generally more powerful than older ones with the same displacement.

Which is Better, a 2-Stroke or 4-Stroke Snowmobile?

Many people say that 2-stroke snowmobiles are better than 4-strokes, as they are more lightweight and easier to work on. Others argue and say that 4-strokes are better as they are more reliable and burn less fuel. What is the truth? We can say that there is no clear winner here! 2-stroke snowmobiles are better in powder, while 4-strokes offer more performance on trails.

The biggest drawback of 4-stroke snowmobiles is arguably their weight. That’s why these machines are recommended mainly for trail riding. On hard-packed snow their increased weight is not an issue!

In contrast, crossover and mountain sleds are usually powered with 2-stroke engines, to keep their weight low. This is because the heavier the sled the easier it sinks into deep powder. Therefore, it’s especially important to keep the weight of off-trail sleds low.

Another problem with 4-stroke snowmobile engines is that they are more difficult to work on. That’s why 4-stroke engine rebuilds, and major repairs can usually only be performed by professionals.

Let’s move on and take a look at the available engine options by manufacturer!

Does Ski-Doo make a 4-stroke snowmobile?

Yes, Ski-Doo currently makes 4-stroke snowmobiles, which are powered with the following Rotax ACE 4-stroke engines:

  • ROTAX 600 ACE
  • ROTAX 900 ACE
  • ROTAX 900 ACE Turbo 
  • ROTAX 1200 4-TEC

Does Arctic Cat make a 4-stroke snowmobile?

Just like Ski-Doo, Arctic Cat also makes 4-stroke snowmobiles. In the youth category you can find the ZR120 and the ZR200. Both sleds are powered with a one-cylinder, air-cooled, 4-stroke engine. The flagship 4-stroke Arctic Cat snowmobile is arguably the ZR Thundercat, as this sled features the 9000 C-TEC4 turbocharged engine.

Does Polaris have a 4-stroke snowmobile?

Unfortunately, Polaris doesn’t have 4-stroke snowmobiles in its fleet. A long time ago, the manufacturer offered many different 4-stroke models, but in recent years it has focused on its 2-stroke model line. Finally, Polaris is the only manufacturer that exclusively offers 2-stroke snowmobiles.

Which snowmobiles are 4-stroke?

We’ve done the research and compiled the currently available 4-stroke snowmobiles under one roof.

  • Arctic Cat ZR120 (123cc, 1-cylinder)
  • Arctic Cat ZR200 (192cc, 1-cylinder)
  • Arctic Cat ZR Thundercat (998cc, 4-cylinder, turbocharged)
  • Yamaha SRX120R (123cc, 1-cylinder)
  • Yamaha SnoScoot ES (192cc, 1-cylinder)
  • Yamaha SRVIPER L-TX SE (1049cc, 3-cylinder)
  • Yamaha SIDEWINDER L-TX LE (998cc, 3-cylinder, turbocharged)
  • Yamaha SIDEWINDER SRX LE (998cc, 3-cylinder, turbocharged)
  • Yamaha SIDEWINDER S-TX GT (998cc, 3-cylinder, turbocharged)
  • Yamaha RS VENTURE TF (1,049cc, 3-cylinder)
  • Yamaha VK PROFESSIONAL II (1,049cc, 3-cylinder)
  • All Ski-Doo models that feature the Gen4 platform

Which is the biggest snowmobile engine?

The biggest snowmobile engine is the Rotax 1170cc, 4-stroke, 3-cylinder power source. You can find this power plant in the Ski-Doo Renegade 1200 or the Ski-Doo MXZ 1200.

Which is the best snowmobile engine?

It’s hard to judge which is the best snowmobile engine, as there are many good power sources on the market! However, Supertraxmag did the job and compiled a list of the 10 best snowmobile engines of all time:

  • Polaris Fuji 400-488 twin
  • Polaris XLT triple
  • Yamaha Genesis 4
  • Arctic Cat turbo twin
  • Yamaha 1049 triple
  • Arctic Cat 900/1000
  • Ski-Doo Mach Z triple
  • Arctic Cat 700 
  • Ski-Doo 600 E-TEC
  • Arctic Cat CTec-2

Conclusion – Are There 4-Stroke Snowmobiles?

As you already know, besides 2-stroke models there are many 4-stroke snowmobiles on the market. When it comes to different snowmobile engines, it’s safe to say that they can be grouped as follows:

  • 4-stroke / 2-stoke
  • fuel injected (EFI) / carbureted
  • Turbocharged (supercharged) / naturally aspirated
  • Liquid-cooled/fan-cooled
  • Displacement and performance

4-stroke engines are typically found in youth, utility, and trail sleds. To keep their weight low, mountain and crossover snowmobiles are typically powered with 2-stroke power plants.

This is our short snowmobile engine review. We hope you like it!

References:

http://www.supertraxmag.com/features/polaris-4-stroke-predictions/n3896

https://www.snowest.com/2008/09/the-heart-of-snowmobiling

http://www.supertraxmag.com/features/arctic-cat-1056-turbo-twin/n3257

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