What Are Snowmobile Carbides? [Repair & Replacement Guide]


Snowmobile carbides are sharp wear surfaces attached to the bottom of the skis. Their main purpose is to make sure the snowmobile can be steered on ice and hard-packed snow and prevent “darting.” Since carbides regularly wear out, you have to periodically sharpen or even replace them. If you want to learn more about snowmobile carbides and their maintenance, this post is for you!

We’ve compiled all the key info you need under one roof. Without further ado, let’s start with the basics of snowmobile carbides!

What Are Snowmobile Carbides?

When it comes to snowmobile carbides, there are a lot of misunderstandings out there. This is because many riders confuse the carbides with the wear bars, which also go by a few other names as well!

Carbides, runners, wear bars, skegs?

Before we drill into the details, we need to first clarify these terms!

Snowmobile Wear Bars vs. Carbides

To clarify the wear bars vs. carbides confusion, it would be best if you took a look at the bottom of a snowmobile ski. You can see a metal rod on the bottom of each ski. These are the wear bars, which are also known as skegs, or runners. You can also see wear surfaces with sharp edges mounted on the bottom of these rods. These are the carbides.

In a nutshell:

Metal rods = wear bars = skegs = (ski) runners

Sharp wear surfaces on the bottom of the rods = carbides

The variety of terms has led to a lot of misunderstandings among sledders and professionals. As the carbides and the wear bars are mounted together, many refer to the whole setup as carbides, carbide runners, carbide wear rods, and ski runners.

Beyond the names, it’s also important to clarify the purpose of each part!

The purpose of the wear rods is to hold the carbides in place and keep them away from the skis.

Contrary to popular belief, both wear rods and carbides make the sled more steerable.

If you ride on ice or hard-packed snow, the carbides work like ice skate blades. They bite hard into the surface, which helps you steer your sled.

On the other hand, they play a much smaller role in deep snow. That’s why some backcountry riders don’t use carbides at all, only wear rods! (However, this is not recommended.)

What Are Snowmobile Carbides Made of?

While the wear bars are typically made of steel, snowmobile carbides are made of an extra durable metal matrix composite. This is necessary because carbides are in contact with the ground. If they weren’t durable, they would quickly wear out.

Some owners try to make “home-made carbides” by adding extra material to the wear bars. Unfortunately, these solutions don’t really work as regular steel and welding are not as strong as carbides. Thus, these DIY snowmobile carbides will wear out in a really short time.

That’s why snowmobile carbides are so expensive!

When Should You Replace Your Snowmobile Carbides?

No matter how durable the carbides on your sled are, they won’t last forever.

You probably ride your sled sometimes in minimal snow conditions, or on the road to the gas station. These are the type of situations that put more wear and tear on the carbides.

Are you wondering how long they last and when you should replace them? Keep reading!

How Long do Snowmobile Carbides Last?

As a rule of thumb, snowmobile carbides last around 2,000-4,000 miles. Don’t forget that it depends on many factors like the design and quality of the carbides, and where you regularly ride your sled. If you regularly ride on roads or roadsides, your carbides will only last 1,000 miles or even less! On the other hand, if you take care of the carbides and just ride in good snow conditions, you can even get 7,000-8,000 miles out of them. (But this is rare.)

It’s safe to say that many owners replace their carbides each year with safety in mind. What’s more, some sledders use even two sets of carbides per season!

When Should You Replace Your Snowmobile Carbides?

Keeping safety in mind, you should replace the carbides on your snowmobile when they wear out. This is because if the sharp edge of the carbides is gone you can lose steering control! This doesn’t just lead to poor riding performance but may end in dangerous situations. Thus, it’s highly recommended that you regularly replace your carbides!

But how do you know if your carbides are worn out and need to be replaced?

How do I Know if My Carbides Are Worn Out?

The most noticeable sign of worn-out carbides is if you lose control of your sled more and more often. If you feel that your sled starts drifting or darting, immediately check the carbides. They are probably worn out!

Best practice is not to wait until these signs appear, and instead regularly inspect your carbides.

If you see any damage on the carbides like cracks, square/blunt edges, missing pieces, bent mounting bolts, they all can be a sign that your carbides need to be replaced.

Due to excessive wear, not only the carbides, but also the wear bars can completely disappear. If this happens, your sled will be riding on bare skis. Beyond potential handling issues, this can completely ruin the skis in a very short time!

That’s why it’s important to keep an eye on the carbides year-round.

The good news is that you don’t have to replace the carbides in every case, as they can also be sharpened if they are not completely worn out. Let’s see how you can do that.

How do You Sharpen Snowmobile Carbides?

To sharpen the carbides on your snowmobile you will need a special tool known as a snowmobile carbide sharpener or snowmobile carbide saver. Simply put, it’s a little diamond-fitted grinder that can be mounted in a cordless drill. Best practice is to remove the carbides and fasten them in a vice for precise sharpening.

You can see how to sharpen the carbides step-by-step in this video:

It should also be mentioned that you shouldn’t waste your time on carbides that are completely rounded. Snowmobile carbide sharpeners can make edges sharper, but can’t do magic on the carbides if they are completely worn out!

If your carbides are in bad shape, there is no other way than to purchase new ones.

Would you like to know how to choose snowmobile carbides? Here are the most important factors to consider.

How do You Choose a Snowmobile Carbide?

If you want to choose the perfect carbides for your sled, you need to consider the following factors:

  • Where you ride regularly
  • Your riding style and skills
  • Your weight
  • The type and features of your sled
  • Whether your track is studded

It’s safe to say that there are two basic types of snowmobile carbides. If you are a beginner or just don’t usually ride your sled hard, factory-installed carbides are for you.

But if you are an experienced rider and you have an aggressive style, you can consider investing in an aftermarket snowmobile carbide set. These carbides offer better steering control and grip on the corners.

It’s also good to know that the more aggressive turns means extra steering effort, which you have to deal with!

What Size Carbides Do You Need?

The size of the carbides you will need primarily depends on your riding style and sled. Contrary to popular belief, longer carbides are not better in all cases! As a rule of thumb, if you usually ride in powder, you need 4” carbide runners. If you are an intermediate rider or your track has 96-144 studs, you will need 6” carbides. But if it has more than 144 studs, you should consider 8” carbides.

Also, don’t forget to check your sled’s manual before you purchase new carbides for your skis. Manufacturers usually have recommendations or even restrictions on carbide dimensions.

Do You Need Carbides on Your Sled?

Surprisingly, there are off-trail riders who only use wear rods with no carbides on them. They say that if carbides can’t help in deep powder, why would you waste your money on them? Carbides are small but not cheap parts, as 4 sets of wear rods cost the same as a pair of good-quality carbides!

Another advantage riding without carbides is that if the bottom of your skis hit a stump or rock, they are more likely to slip off without any damage.

If your skis have carbides, they are more likely to bite into these objects, which may result in more damage.

While many riders feel comfortable without carbides, experts argue about this practice. They say that it can be risky if you hit an ice patch and you lose control of your sled due to the lack of carbides.

Although there are pros and cons to each side, our recommendation is to always have carbides on your wear rods. Keeping safety in mind, you can’t go wrong if you have at least a small carbide on your wear rods, even if you are an off-trail rider!

How do You Replace Carbides on a Snowmobile?

To replace the carbides on a snowmobile you will only need a simple socket set. Remove the four bolts from the old carbide, which can be found on the top of the ski. Remove the old carbide, replace with the new one and tighten it with the new bolts. When done, repeat the procedure on the other ski. It’s as simple as that!

If you can’t push the new carbide into place, you can hammer it gently. Make sure you don’t hammer the carbides as you can easily damage their edges! Best practice is to just hammer the end of the rods.

Snowmobile Carbide Covers

Carbides are prone to scratching your driveway, garage floor, or trailer. This is when snowmobile carbide covers come in handy. Known as snowmobile carbide protectors as well, these plastic “sled ski boots” can save the floor from any damage.

Another common solution to avoid scratches is to move your sled on a dolly in your garage.

Regarding trailers, the most common solution is to cover the floor and door with plastic ski sliders, which can save your trailer floor from other damage as well.

Conclusion

When it comes to snowmobile carbides, there is a lot of confusion out there. The main misunderstanding comes from the names of these parts, as the part that is commonly known as “carbide” actually consists of two parts.

The longer metal rods are called wear bars or ski runners, while the small sharp additions mounted on their bottoms are the carbides.

On the other hand, this whole setup is also often called carbides, carbide runners, snowmobile skegs, and so on. Yes, we can say that all these names are pretty confusing!

What do carbides on a snowmobile do? They have only one main purpose; carbides make your sled steerable on ice and hard-packed snow.

That’s why it’s so important to have carbides on your sled even if you regularly ride your sled in the backcountry. The last thing you want is to hit an icy surface without carbides on your skis!

Carbides usually wear out every 1-2 years. If you are shopping around for replacement carbides, it’s very important to choose the right size!

This is because the size of the carbides greatly affects your sled’s maneuverability. Best practice is to check your sled’s manual for more details or ask your dealer for further advice!

References

https://www.snowmobile.com/features/carbide-runner-maintenance

https://www.denniskirk.com/blog/2013/09/23/choose-the-right-carbides/

https://www.bergstromskegs.com/pi/wear_ptn/wear_ptn.htm

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