Snowmobile Clutches: Purpose & How To Clean Them

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Approximately 80% of the annual snowmobile use is for recreational purposes and is widely used in arctic territories. It is also used for different functional purposes.

The snowmobile engines are very much alike the engines found in personal watercraft. Heavier snowmobile models use four-stroke engines, while lighter models use two-stroke engines.

They have four main components (a machine, a clutch system, a ski, and tracks) essential for driving the snowmobile.

The clutch system is an essential engine component and needs regular cleaning.

Keep reading to find out more about the importance of clutches in snowmobiles.

What Is The Purpose Of Clutches In Snowmobile?

Clutches in snowmobile

The primary purpose of the clutch is to transmit the power from the engine to the jackshaft smoothly and to remove the connection when the engine is in a neutral position so that the machine is not constantly rolling.

It helps deliver power to the engine to enable smooth vehicle movement and perform quietly to reduce drive-related vibration.

The clutch system of the snowmobile is a form of continuously variable transmission (CVT). The snowmobile machine clutch helps the rider ride its snowmobile uphill in deep powder snow as it keeps the engine at maximum RPM without shifting into a higher gear.

All the snowmobiles have a clutch, so you don’t have to worry about a stick shift.

Now think about an automatic car. Unlike the manual or automatic auto, the CVT system means that your snowmobile has an infinite number of gears. How many gears does a car have? Five or six, maybe.

This unlimited number of gears is due to the stepless CVT system. It just moves up and down; at each speed, you stop accelerating or decelerating and are at the correct gear for that speed.

How Do Snowmobile Clutches Work?

This system consists of two pulleys or clutches connected by a drive belt.

The primary clutch sits on the engine crankshaft. When the engine RPM is low, a pressure spring holds the primary’s two halves apart.

As the engine accelerates, the clutch weights generate enough centrifugal force to lose the clutch, allowing the belt to move freely and transmit power.

The secondary clutch connects to the tracking device, which turns the wheels and powers the tracks.

The cams (wedges) are operated by a spring, and as the engine RPM increases and the primary transmit power, these cams squeeze together and tighten the belt.

This process continues until the snowmobile accelerates. Once it reaches its top speed, the primary clutch loses, moving the belt into a higher gear.

The secondary clutch opens when the snowmobile requires less power to accelerate than it did to get started.

The CVT is called this because the final drive ratio increases as the engine speed increases. That is the difference between the engine speed and the track speed decrease.

It is equivalent to an automatic transmission in a car with an infinite number of gears that you never feel the shift.

How to clean snowmobile clutches

How to Clean a Snowmobile Clutch: Step-by-Step Guide

If you want your snowmobile to work better and last longer, then you should keep your snowmobile maintained. Let’s look at how we can keep our snowmobile clutch clean.

To clean your clutch, here’s what you’ll need:-

  • Socket wrenches
  • Clutch cleaner
  • Scrubbing pads
  • Gloves
  • Snap ring pliers
  • Air compressor (optional)
  • Clutch puller (optional)

We all know that a snowmobile has two clutches, a primary grip and a second clutch. We need to take them apart to clean both of these, which can be a little more complex than cleaning them.

1. Remove the Belt

The process might vary from machine to machine, but we need to loosen and remove the belt connecting the two clutches.

The easiest way to do this is by lengthening and reducing the belt from the secondary clutch using an L-bolt type of tool which fits near the clutch bolt.

We will screw this tool until the belt loosens enough for removal. Also, inspect the belt while it is off and see if there is any damage.

Now, we can clean the clutches in two ways; one is quicker than the other. Let’s learn about them.

2. Cleaning of Clutches

Quick Cleaning

If you don’t have time to remove the clutches and you need to clean them, then you can use this method. Cleaning one grip at a time is a better idea. Make sure the kill switch is on for your snowmobile. 

  1. Blow out all the dust and grit built up, writhing the sheave area and the surrounding clutch components with the help of an air compressor. 
  2. Spray the sheaves with a brake cleaner or a clutch cleaner. Soak the things to help remove everything that you’ve loosened.
  3. Use the abrasive pad to rub the sheaves. Start polishing the sheaves.

Start rotating the clutch while scrubbing so that you clean each sheave’s entire surface, which is essential for proper cleaning.

Deep Cleaning

If you have more time, then you should go for deep cleaning. It does a better job at cleaning every bit of clutch.

  1. Remove the belt as described above. 
  2. Now remove the clutches and the clutch bolt in the center of the grip using an impact wrench. Then use a clutch puller to remove the clutch.
  3. Put the clutches on a table. Now you are going to disassemble the bolts that hold the clasp together. Use a hand wrench to disassemble. 
  4. After disassembling, remember how each part fits for reassembly.
  5. Take the weights and spacers out. After removing the bolts that hold the two clutch pieces together, the spring will push them apart. Start cleaning the spring.
  6. Use a clutch cleaner on everything and everywhere.
  7. Scrub using an abrasive pad as described in step 2. Scrub every internal part properly.
  8. Reassemble the clutches and then put them back on the sled.

3. Install the belt

You are now moving to the last and final step in your undertaking- reinstalling the belt.

Once all the above steps are done and everything is cleaned thoroughly in your snowmobile, you can put the belt back, ensuring that your snowmobile is ready to go!

Importance of Cleaning Your Clutches

If you’re driving a snowmobile, the clutches of that snowmobile need to be cleaned regularly. If you have a dirty grip, it can lead to many problems.

The dust and grit built up due to the direction of the belt in action can get into your carbs. This will cause problems with acceleration, and your snowmobile might perform poorly or even backfire.

When dirt gets in the internal parts of your clutch, it can obstruct movement. Even if the clutch is functioning, the grime can also get on clutches sheaves, creating tiny grooves in the snowmobile.

It is essential to clean your clutches if you want maximum acceleration from the snowmobile.

snowmobile clutches clean

If you are not cleaning your clutches regularly, then your snowmobile can run into the following problems:

  • It can lead to noise from the grip, which can lead to further damage
  • The engine might be hard to crank and bog down
  • The sled can lose its power which might cause an accident while you’re on the snowmobile
  • Fuel consumption of your snowmobile might increase 
  • The Backshift of your snowmobile might go bad

Having a dirty clutch can feel similar to a carb issue. The clutch will start to stick, and your snowmobile will act like the engine is not giving out enough power.

This can be especially problematic if your snowmobile gets stuck in the snow and you are trying to get it out.

If you’re starting to hear noise when you push your brakes while the snowmobile is coming to a stop, then it surely means that the clutch is dirty.

If you clean the clutches of your snowmobile once in a while, you can avoid compromising the performance of your machine.

Final Words

Congratulations, now you know something about the CVT system and its infinite gears. Please give yourself a big pat on the back; after all, it was not as daunting as you thought.

Now you have the necessary mechanical knowledge of the system, you will quickly and easily change your sled’s clutch and belt.

Knowing the inner functions, like how the clutch works or how to purchase an air filter for your snowmobile, is important to ensure that you are making the best use of your snowmachine.

And we hope this article has taken you a step closer to learning how to take care of your machine.

Photo of author


Thomas Miller
Thomas is an adventurous man from Colorado. He likes to ride snowmobiling in the harsh cold weather. Along with snowmobiling, he is also involved in the combat sports like boxing.

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