7 Reasons Why Snowmobiles Are So Loud [Video]

It’s safe to say that the seven main reasons why snowmobiles are so loud are as follows:

  1. High-performance engines
  2. Non-insulated engine compartment
  3. Short exhaust pipes
  4. Small and inefficient mufflers
  5. Aftermarket modifications
  6. Reckless riding
  7. Poor maintenance

If you want to find out more about these factors, keep reading. We at PowerSportsGuide have compiled all you need to know under one roof!

Are Snowmobiles Noisy?

Just like any other powersport vehicle, snowmobiles are very noisy. But let’s face it, making noise is part of the fun for many riders. The exhaust sound of these revvy engines is nothing, just music to the ears of most snowmobile enthusiasts!

But at the same time, this noise can disturb many other people like skiers, hikers, and landowners around the trails. As you will see, this can lead to a lot of severe problems!

If you feel your sled is loo loud, don’t worry as there are a lot of ways to make it a little quieter.

But why are snowmobiles so loud? And how loud can they really be?

Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty and take a closer look at the leading causes, why these machines produce excessive noise!

7 Reasons Why Snowmobiles Are So Loud

1. High-Performance Engines

Powersport vehicles, as the name suggests, utilize powerful engines, and snowmobiles are no exception. Their power mills rev at very high RPMs and deliver a ton of HP. Turbocharged snowmobile engines put out more than 200 HP even in stock condition!

And the more powerful the engines are, the more noise they emit.

Also, due to limited space, manufacturers want to build their engines as small and lightweight as possible. Besides the performance, these factors are the main focus rather than noise issues!

Finally, as we’ve discussed, buyers want snowmobiles to be loud, so it’s not in the interest of manufacturers to build quieter snowmobiles.

2. Non-Insulated Engine Compartment

Although snowmobile engines are very noisy, their engine compartment isn’t covered by thick insulating material like cars and trucks have.

Instead, their engine is only surrounded by a flimsy hood and side panels, including several vents.

Therefore, the sound-absorbing abilities of these body parts are very marginal.

3. Short Exhaust Pipes

Unlike cars, the exhaust pipes of most snowmobiles sit in the engine bay. And since space in the engine compartment is very limited, the pipes are much shorter and less effective.

The number of exhaust pipes also affects the noise level of snowmobiles. While the newest snowmobiles are usually “single piped,” vintage sleds came with “single,” “twin,” and “triple” piped exhaust systems based on the model.

The more pipes the exhaust system feature, the louder the noise it generates. That’s why vintage big-bore “triple-triple” snowmobiles are among the loudest snowmobile models on the trails. (Triple-triple: a 3-cylinder engine has three separate exhaust pipes.)

4. Small and Inefficient Mufflers

Just like the pipes, the muffler of snowmobiles is also smaller and less efficient than those used on cars. In most cases, snowmobile mufflers sit in the engine bay right beside the engine.

However, on some 4-stroke sleds, the muffler is mounted under the seat, just like on many sportbikes.

5. Aftermarket Modifications

Although snowmobiles are pretty loud even in stock condition, many owners increase their noise with aftermarket modifications.

These mods are originally intended to reduce the sled’s weight or increase its engine performance, but they also make the machine louder as a side effect.

One of the most popular aftermarket modifications is installing a race-intended aftermarket exhaust system, not to mention “straight-piped snowmobiles” with mufflers removed!

In most states and provinces, these modifications are illegal and adversely affect the reputation of the sport.

6. Reckless Riding

For many owners, snowmobiling is all about hammering the throttle all the time. This means these machines are ridden very fast for most of their lives. And the faster the sled runs, the more noise it emits.

While trail snowmobiles see many adrenaline rushes at WOT, their mountain-intended counterparts get a lot of mistreatment, but in a different way.

For example, off-trail snowmobile riders are prone to playing a lot with the throttle and “blipping” it all the time to keep their engines responding.

7. Poor Maintenance

Last but not least, neglected maintenance can also make a snowmobile significantly louder. A broken muffler/pipe or an exhaust manifold leak can cause extreme noise!

A broken exhaust is not only really annoying, but it also reduces the effectiveness of the system and can lead to engine malfunctions.

How Many Decibels is a Snowmobile?

As a rule of thumb, the noise level of snowmobiles is about 68-110 decibels from 50 feet. However, the sound level of a sled depends on many factors like its age, engine type, and features. Newer sleds emit about 65-78 decibels of sound at WOT, while older models from the ‘60s – ‘70s generate 90-110 decibels, measured at 50 feet.

Vintage snowmobiles are typically much louder because there was no noise regulations pertaining to these machines until the mid-70s.

In contrast, snowmobiles produced after 1975 are designed to emit no more than 78 decibels while operating at full throttle and emit no more than 73 decibels while running at 15 mph (both measured at 50 feet.)

How Far Away Can You Hear a Snowmobile?

Since snowmobiles are extremely loud, they can even be heard from hundreds of feet away. According to Snowmobile.org, under wildland conditions, you can’t hear a snowmobile if it’s more than 750 feet away. In contrast, around normal campground sound levels, snowmobiles are barely noticeable at a distance of about 400 feet.

Therefore, with “normal” operation, a stock snowmobile is hardly audible if you’re in a house. Since people typically keep windows and doors closed in cold weather, a snowmobile running at 50 feet can generate a sound level of 41-47 decibels inside the house.

Also, if the trail is 200 feet away from the house, sleds can generate an interior sound level of 29-35 decibels. This is lower than 47 decibels, which is considered the “average evening household sound level.”

Trees and snowbanks can also work like natural sound barriers and can efficiently reduce noise pollution. This is why thorough trail planning is critical in any residential area!

How Loud Can a Snowmobile Be?

The noise limit of snowmobiles varies by state but typically falls into the range of 78-90 decibels. Keep in mind that if you don’t obey the restrictions, you could face a penalty of hundreds of dollars! What’s more, in certain cases, the authorities can even impound your sled!

However, these are not the worst consequences that “loud snowmobile riders” have to contend with.

In most states, a great part of the trail network goes through private lands. And as you might assume, private landowners don’t appreciate the excessive noise of modified snowmobiles!

In the worst-case scenario, the owners can refuse to sign the upcoming annual agreement, which unfortunately leads to the closure of the trail.

You would be surprised at how many trails have to be closed for this unfortunate reason.

Consider a Sound-Testing Event

If you want to make sure that your sled complies with the local laws, you may want to visit a sound-testing event. These events are typically held each year by the local authorities.

The great advantage of these free snowmobiles sound tests is that if your sled is non-compliant, there won’t be any enforcement action taken against you. Instead, you will only be advised to fix/modify your sled to keep it within legal noise levels.

Related Questions

What is a Trail Can on a Snowmobile?

The trail can on a snowmobile is a trail-legal aftermarket muffler. They are typically in compliance with the sound limits, so they can be legally used on the trails in most states.

However, keep in mind that some states prohibit aftermarket modifications on snowmobiles that increase their total noise emissions. Don’t forget to check the local laws and regulations before you do any mods on your sled!

What Does MBRP Stand For?

Simply put, MBRP stands for Martin Barkey Racing Products.

MBRP is a well-known aftermarket exhaust manufacturer that produces exhaust systems for cars, trucks, and various powersport vehicles.

How Many Decibels is the MBRP Trail Can?

MBRP trails cans typically emit 88 decibels but don’t hesitate to check the manufacturer’s official website for further information.

Is it Bad to Straight Pipe your Snowmobile?

Straight piping your snowmobile is a very bad idea. Without a muffler, your sled will be extremely loud, which is not only illegal but it would be very disturbing to others. What’s more, the engine needs adequate back pressure to run properly.

Therefore, strait piping your sled may result in various engine malfunctions, not to mention potential ear damage. Remember that these problems still exist even if you ride on your land in the middle of nowhere!

Conclusion – What Makes a Snowmobile Loud?

Snowmobiles make excessive noise, especially when operated at full throttle. In a nutshell, there are seven primary reasons why snowmobiles are so loud:

  1. High-performance engines
  2. Non-insulated engine compartment
  3. Short exhaust pipes
  4. Small and inefficient mufflers
  5. Aftermarket modifications
  6. Very fast and aggressive operation
  7. Poor maintenance

As a final word, don’t forget that there is a limit to how loud your snowmobile is allowed to be. Snowmobile noise limits vary from one state to the next but typically fall into the range of 78-90 decibels.

Make sure to check the local laws and keep your machine within legal noise levels to stay legal and don’t disturb others!



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