What is Snowmobile Darting? [And How to Fix It]


Darting on a snowmobile is when its skis constantly want to follow other ski’s ruts in the trails. This makes your sled dart side-to-side from one set of ruts to another. It’s not just uncomfortable but can also be dangerous in many cases!

If you want to know what causes snowmobile darting and how to eliminate it, this post is for you.

We’ve compiled all the info you need under one roof!

What is Snowmobile Darting?

Darting is known as many different things, like pushing, sliding, skidding, or swapping. All of these terms refer to the same issue, which is when the skis on your snowmobile start to switch between grooves in the snow.

This mostly happens on the trails or on other hard-packed surfaces where there are plenty of grooves in the snow.

Simply put, when your sled darts, you feel like you no longer have control over the snowmobile. It just goes where it wants, while shifting between the grooves.

What is Snowmobile Tracking?

If a snowmobile is tracking it means that it is continuously following one other snowmobile’s track. It feels like it’s riding on rails! So, the main difference between tracking and darting is:

  • Tracking: following one groove, like on a train track
  • Darting: continuously shifting between grooves

Of course, the skis always want to follow the path of least resistance. This means they are continuously “looking for” the best path to follow. 

Therefore, snowmobiles can’t offer the same precise control as a motorcycle or a car. But if you turn the handlebars with a little effort, your snowmobile should go where you steer it!

If you feel it takes a lot of effort to continuously control your sled it’s a clue that your sled is darting or tracking. Frequent darting cannot only cause you a lot of inconvenience but may cause you a lot of safety problems as well.

First, to keep your sled going in the right direction, you have to continuously correct the course. Moreover, as the sled is much less responsive, this means you have to apply much more muscle!

This doesn’t just make your rides more exhausting; it also ruins the riding experience. On top of that, in many situations it can be dangerous if you can’t perfectly control your sled!

That’s why you should investigate the causes of your snowmobile darting and tracking. Let’s take a look at the possible causes!

What Causes Snowmobile Darting?

The most common reasons for a snowmobile’s darting are as follows:

  • Damage on the steering components
  • Wrong ski design
  • Too much ski pressure
  • Improper ski alignment
  • Carbide issues
  • Lack of shims (wrong weight distribution on the skis)

The good news is that these can all be improved with a little effort.

In the next section, we will drill into the details and discuss how to solve these issues!

How do You Stop Snowmobile Darting and Tracking?

If you want to stop your sled from darting and tracking, just follow these five simple steps:

  • Inspect and fix any damage
  • Use correctly sized, sharp carbides
  • Adjust the ski alignment
  • Adjust the ski pressure
  • Install shims

Inspect and Fix Damage

If your sled darts regularly, you should first inspect the steering components. Look for wear or any damage on the skis, tie rods, and other parts. All of them should be tight and in perfect condition.

Also, make sure that there isn’t any “play” in the steering. This means when you turn the handlebars the skis should also move promptly.

Carbide Issues

It’s a lesser-known fact that worn-out carbides can also cause snowmobile darting. Inspect the runners and the carbides on the bottom of your skis. If the sharp edge of the carbides is gone, it’s time to sharpen or replace them.

Carbides are like skate blades; you need them to properly steer your sled on ice and hard-packed snow!

That’s why you have to use the right carbides on your sled. Longer and deeper carbides can sometimes do more harm than good!

If you have aftermarket carbides, keep in mind that they can also make darting even more noticeable. This is because they cut deeper into the snow than factory-installed carbides.

If you use aftermarket carbides and your sled darts frequently, try to replace them with factory ones. In many cases, this helps eliminate the issue.

How to Check the Ski Alignment on a Snowmobile

Wrong ski alignment can also cause your sled’s darting. Are you wondering how your skis should be adjusted?

Contrary to popular belief, the skis shouldn’t be parallel on each sled!  While on many models the right ski setting is parallel, on others the end of the skis should point out a little. That’s why you should check your sled’s manual to find out what the correct ski alignment is.

If you need to adjust the skis on your sled, you can make good use of this tutorial video.

How do You Adjust Snowmobile Ski Pressure?

Too much ski pressure can also cause darting issues. On the other hand, if you reduce the ski pressure too much, this can also lead to control issues. In a worst-case scenario, you won’t be able to turn your sled! Are you wondering how to adjust the suspensions on your sled?

To adjust the ski pressure on your snowmobile you have to adjust the suspensions. As a rule of thumb, if you want to reduce the ski pressure, the rear suspension and the limiter straps should be lightened up. With this trick, you can take some weight off your skis!

If you feel you need further adjustments, you can also adjust the limiter strap on your rear suspension.

What does the limiter strap do on a snowmobile? The limiter strap controls how far the spring (center shock) can extend. Adjusting the limiter strap changes the weight transfer of the suspension. Finally, it affects the pressure on the skis as well!

Another proven trick for eliminating darting and tracking issues is adding shims to your skis.

How do You Shim Snowmobile Skis?

Even if you set your ski alignment and pressure correctly, your skis may still be unbalanced. In most cases, there is too much weight on the front end of the skis, which may cause darting and uneven wear of the carbides.

To resolve these issues, you have to add shims to your skis. Let’s see how to do that!

To shim snowmobile skis, you have to install two small pieces of rubber or plastic on the bottom backsides of the rubber stops. These rubber stops, which are also known as ski saddles, can be found under the spindle bolts. You can learn how to shim snowmobile skis in this tutorial video:

Shimming your snowmobile skis does not only help reduce darting issues but can also lead to more even wear on the carbides.

Without the shims, many riders find that the front of their carbides disappear while the back of them still look like new. Shimming is the key to putting more weight on the front of the rear side of the skis.

Conclusion

Darting is a common issue on many snowmobile. In fact, all snowmobiles do it on hard-packed trails and ice to some extent.

It’s good to know that mountain snowmobiles are more prone to darting due to their design. This is not surprising, as these sleds are designed to ride in powder.

Thus, if you regularly ride on trails, make sure you choose the right sled for hard-packed surfaces!

Darting and tracking is not only tiring and annoying, but it can be dangerous in some cases. Because of this, you may want to reduce the darting of your sled. Even if you can’t completely eliminate it, you can dramatically reduce it!

As a takeaway, we’ve compiled the most frequently asked questions and answers on this topic:

What is snowmobile tracking? The skis are following one groove, as if they were a rail.

What is snowmobile darting? The skis are continuously shifting between grooves.

What causes snowmobile darting? Damage on the steering components, wrong ski design, too much ski pressure, ski alignment issues, carbide issues, lack of shims.

How do you stop snowmobile darting and tracking? Inspect and repair any damage on the steering, use correctly sized and sharp carbides, align your skis, adjust the ski pressure, install shims.

How do you adjust a snowmobile’s ski pressure? Adjust the rear suspension and the limiter straps.

How do you shim snowmobile skis? Install two small pieces of plastic or rubber on the bottom backsides of the ski saddles.

This is our short guide on how to eliminate snowmobile darting. We hope you find it useful!

References:

https://www.bergstromskegs.com/oui/darting_solutions.htm

https://www.biteharder.com/why-is-my-sled-darting/

https://www.denniskirk.com/blog/2014/01/20/how-to-stop-snowmobile-darting-and-tracking/

http://cs.amsnow.com/sno/b/sno/archive/2013/11/15/snowmobile-darting-around-issues-help.aspx

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