Simply put, the skid on a snowmobile is the rear suspension assembly. It’s a huge metal frame that is one of the most important structural components of every snowmobile. The skid contains many key features such as the arms, rails with sliders, suspensions, limiter strap, idler wheels, and ice scratchers.
If you want to learn more about a snowmobile’s skid, you are at the right place.
Not only that, but you can also learn about the key parts of this unit and find out how to maintain or even replace snowmobile skids!
What is the Skid on a Snowmobile?
The skid on a snowmobile is one of its key parts. Its size and features determine the ability of the sled and the quality of the ride. Snowmobile skids are built in many different ways, but it’s safe to say that all of them work in the same way. The main functions of the skids are to accommodate the track, connect it to the sled, and ensure proper shock absorption. The key features of snowmobile skids are as follows:
If you want to learn more about these parts, keep reading, or check out this very informative video:
Let’s drill into the details and take a closer look at all parts of the skid!
The most important parts of any snowmobile skids are the rails. The skid rails come in many different sizes and shapes depending on the type of sled.
Mountain sleds have longer rails as they feature long tracks, while trail sleds come with shorter rails.
The main advantage of this rail suspension system is to make the track slide on the rails smoothly.
To be more precise, the track doesn’t slide directly on the rails. This is because the rails are made of aluminum, and the track would quickly wear them out.
To protect the rails, snowmobile skids have plastic protectors, known as sliders or hyfax. These slippery plastic strips completely cover the rails to save them from wear and tear.
It’s good to know that vintage sleds featured another type of suspension system, known as a “bogie wheel suspension.” These old sleds surprisingly ran on small bogie wheels, which were mounted inside the track. The rail suspension system commonly used today was invented by Arctic Cat in 1966.
The arms on a snowmobile skid have virtually one purpose, they connect the rails and the suspensions with the chassis.
They do a similar job as the swing arms on a motorcycles. But sleds have tracks instead of rear wheels of course!
There are typically two arms on a skid. The ends of the arms are connected to the tunnel. These are the key points where the skid and the chassis are mounted together.
Besides the arms, the skid also contains many smaller metal parts like skid braces, bushings, and so on. These small parts help to transform the main parts like the rails, the arms, and the suspensions into one assembly.
You can also find some rubber bumpers mounted on the rails. They keep the arms away if they go too deep.
The weight of the skid is also important as it affects the abilities of the sled. Racing snowmobiles feature lighter skids that do a good job at fast speeds and in tight corners.
On the other hand, utility sleds usually have larger and heavier skid frames. This helps improve traction and towing capacity.
Just like cars and motorcycles, snowmobiles also feature suspensions. You can find these suspensions on the front arms as well as on the skid.
The skid usually features shocks and springs depending on their design. Some skids have torsion springs and one shock, while others have two shocks beside the springs.
Moreover, some sleds don’t feature any torsion springs at all, as they come only with shocks.
Snowmobiles typically feature two suspensions. The front arm suspension is usually the smaller one and it’s connected to the front arm. The rear arm suspension, as its name implies, supports the rear arm. It’s usually bigger and has more adjustability.
Shocks on a snowmobile are basically small pumps typically filled with oil or with compressed air on some models. There are pistons in these shocks, which work against the oil or the air in the tube.
In this way, they dampen and absorb the bumps on an uneven surface. This results in better control, more comfort, and smoother rides!
What does the limiter strap do on a snowmobile?
The limiter straps look like two pieces of leather belt, although they are much more durable. The limiter straps on snowmobiles are designed to keep the front arm from traveling too far from and the rails. In other words, they limit how far the suspension can go from the rails. The limiter straps are usually adjustable, so you can set the weight distribution of the snowmobile with them.
It’s a good feature as reducing the weight on the skis can eliminate the darting of the snowmobile in many cases.
Although the track slides on rails in this suspension system, the skid still has some wheels. These small wheels are known as idler wheels, which have three main functions:
- They guide the track
- You can use them to set the tension and the alignment of the track
- They reduce the friction of the hyfax
This means that unlike in boogie wheel suspensions, the snowmobile doesn’t run on these wheels! You can learn more about idler wheels in this post.
Ice scratchers are nice additions to any snowmobile that is used on trails or ice. These small units not only keep the hyfax lubricated but also help keep the engine cool.
They are “must-have” features if you ride in minimal-snow conditions!
When Should You Replace the Skid?
The good news is that the skid on snowmobiles rarely needs to be replaced. Are you wondering why you would need to replace the skid on your sled? You would do this under the following circumstances:
- The skid has a factory defect
- Significant corrosion or damage on the skid
- You want to install an aftermarket skid for better performance
If you are looking for a replacement, you can choose from OEM skids as well as many aftermarket skids.
For the replacement, you would have to first remove the skid from your sled. Let’s see how to do it!
How do You Remove the Skid from a Snowmobile?
You can easily remove the skid from a snowmobile if you follow these five simple steps:
- Loosen the track tension bolts and move the rear idlers forward.
- Collapse the skid with a ratchet strap by forcing the top of the rear arm towards the bottom of the skid. In this way, you can make the skid “smaller,” which will make it easier to remove.
- Remove the bolts. Surprisingly, there are typically only four bolts that hold the skid in place. Remove the two bolts from the rear arm, which can be found on the side of the tunnel. The bolts on the front arm are located near the footwells.
- Once all bolts have been removed, lay the whole sled down on its side.
- You should now be able to remove the skid from the snowmobile. It simply comes out in one piece.
If you don’t want to lay the sled down on its side, you have to raise up its rear side. Just jack up the rear bumper while placing a jack under the track as well. Once you’ve removed the bolts, lift the top of the track. Then lift the skid off the bottom of the track and angle it out.
Although this is a common method of snowmobile skid removal, laying the sled on its side is still more popular.
As you can see in this video, you can remove the skid from the sled in 45 seconds using this method!
Snowmobile Skid Maintenance
It’s a lesser-known fact that snowmobile skids require regular maintenance.
This is because inside the arms there are bushings that require regular greasing. To grease a skid on your sled, you can find some grease points on the side of the frame.
If you want to keep your skid in good shape, it’s recommended that you grease these points about 2-3 times a year, depending on the ridden miles. The good news is that you can do it without removing the skid!
But if you have to remove the skid for any reason, you may want to carefully inspect all of its components.
You should take a closer look at the hyfax, idler wheels, and the shocks/springs. All of these require regular maintenance! You can also adjust the limiter straps if necessary.
Once all maintenance is complete, you have to put the skid back on. As you might expect, it will be a little harder than removing!
How do You Put a Skid Back on a Snowmobile?
You can put the skid back on a snowmobile by following these 12 easy steps:
- Force the rear arm carefully towards the bottom of the skid with a ratchet strap.
- Lay the sled down on its side.
- Install the skid back into the track.
- Apply some Loctite on the threads of the bolts before replacing them. You may want to start with the front bolts.
- If you have difficulty aligning the first bolt, just place a wood block under the end of the track. This will bring the skid level.
- After you’ve tightened the first bolt with an impact wrench, remove the ratchet strap from the skid.
- Move the skid around slowly to align the bolt of the rear arm. Once it’s in position, tighten the bolt by hand, and finally use the wrench again.
- Lay the sled down on its other side.
- Line up the front arm and tighten its bolt, then repeat the process with the last bolt. Don’t forget to apply some Loctite on them!
- Flip the sled back into normal position.
- Tighten the bolts with an impact wrench. (The required torque is described in the manual.)
- Adjust the track tensions and alignment with the rear idler wheels.
You can learn how to put the skid back into your sled in this video:
Additions/Modifications on Skids
Are you wondering what the typical modifications and additions are to skids? Let’s see the most common ones in a nutshell!
Snowmobile Skid Extensions
Snowmobile skid extensions are also known as rail extensions. Simply put, skid extensions make the skids longer to accommodate longer tracks.
If you want to turn your sled into an off-trail machine, these skid extensions can help you do this. Your other option is replacing the whole skid for a longer one.
Besides this modification, don’t forget that you will need a tunnel extension as well!
Snowmobile Skid Plate
Snowmobile skid plates are plastic or aluminum plates that can be installed on the bottom of the sled. They are designed to increase floatation in deep snow and protect the bottom of the snowmobile. If you regularly ride your sled off-trail, you are at risk of rocks, trees, or other obstacles damaging the bottom of your sled. Thus, a little extra protection never hurts!
As we’ve discussed above, ice scratchers do a good job if you regularly ride on hard-packed snow and ice. They help cool the engine and lubricate the hyfax and the track
What is K-MOD?
K-MOD is the brand name of high-quality snowmobile skids. The company offers many aftermarket snowmobile skids for Ski-Doo, Yamaha, Polaris, and Arctic Cat sleds. Besides skids, K-MOD manufactures many other aftermarket parts for sleds.
Are you wondering how much a snowmobile skid costs? If you are looking for a brand new complete skid, be prepared to pay around $1,500-$3,000 depending on the make and model.
Skids are one of the main structural components in snowmobiles. They are huge metal frames that accommodate many smaller parts, which are as follows:
- Rails: The track slides on a pair of rails.
- Hyfax/Sliders: Long slippery plastic strips. They protect the rails from wear and tear and make their surface more slippery.
- Arms: There are two arms on snowmobiles: the front and rear arms. They connect the rails, the suspensions, and the chassis.
- Suspensions: The skid also includes suspensions, which are usually shocks and/or springs depending on the model.
- Limiter straps: Two short straps on the front of the skid. They keep the front arm from moving too far from the rails.
- Idler wheels: A set of small wheels that guide the track and reduce the friction of the hyfax. You can also set the track tension and alignment with the rear idlers.
- Ice scratchers: They lubricate the hyfax and track, and also help keep the engine cool.
Don’t forget that just like many other parts of the sled, the skid also requires regular maintenance and attention.
If you want to maintain or remove the skid from your sled, it’s highly recommended that you carefully read the owner’s manual!