Cheap vs. Expensive Snowmobile Belts – Are They Worth it?

April 4th, 2019 by

Cheap Vs. Expensive Snowmobile Belts


Snowmobiling is one of winter’s most addictive and enjoyable hobbies. With great finance programs and snowmobile loan options going on its easy to understand why the sport is growing: Also, it’s a whole lot of fun!

With snowmobile season right around the corner, it’s a good time to check your machine out and make sure it will be performing as good as possible. One of the things you should always check is your snowmobile’s drive belt.


What a Snowmobile Belt Does

The drive belt links your engine’s power directly to the sled’s track. It’s probably the most important piece of equipment in your snowmobile’s drive system. Snowmobile drive belts are constantly subjected to hostile and ever-changing environments. Heat, cold, stretching and spinning can affect the performance and length of service of your belt. You can usually expect your belt to last somewhere between 1500-2000 miles before it will need to be replaced. Belts are constantly being improved, so that the belts today last considerably longer than they did just a few years ago. However, as a consequence, they are also more expensive. Owners invariably are tempted to buy a cheaper belt. This means it won’t be manufactured to the most modern specifications, won’t last as long, and will probably break at the worst possible time.


How Snowmobile Belts Are Made

Years ago, snowmobile belts were made primarily of cords and rubber. Snowmobilers would carry at least two or three spares along with them since the belts would rip apart under the torque of the 50 horsepower snowmobile engines. The technology behind today’s snowmobile drive belts has improved greatly over the years. Manufacturers today are making better belts than ever before with exotic and tougher materials like Kevlar.

Kevlar is a trade name for one of DuPont’s aramid fibres that they developed in the early 1960s. DuPont’s original aramid fibre product was Nomex. Nomex was used in the production of protective apparel as a substitute for asbestos because it had excellent resistance to heat.

In 1973, DuPont introduced another aramid fibre named Kevlar. Kevlar is best known for being used in bulletproof vests and knife-proof body armour. It also has dozens of many other applications and is the basic material used in the construction of snowmobile drive belts.

Fifty years ago, snowmobile belts were constructed with glass fibre cords. They weren’t very efficient and had an upper limit for power transmission of around 30 horsepower. Adding torque feedback helixes and torsion springs came along shortly after that allowing engine capacities up to about 60 hp.

As engine horsepower levels continued to rise, stronger cords for the drive belts were needed. The problem was eventually solved when DuPont introduced Kevlar as a cord material. Kevlar brought the effective engine capacity up to around 120 hp.

Later advancements followed including redesigns of the belt itself; moving the cord strength to the center; and installing better secondary clutches. These allowed today’s most modern CVT clutches to handle more than 200 hp.

All these manufacturing improvements have resulted in creating the strongest and longest-lasting drive belts ever produced in snowmobile history. And, of course, with Kevlar and the other more expensive manufacturing techniques, prices became correspondingly higher too.

Most snowmobilers realize however that cheaper belts wear out faster and are less efficient. This is especially true with today’s higher horsepower engines. But even though a better quality belt is more expensive to purchase, you’ll have a much stronger belt that will last considerably longer.

A better quality belt won’t shred or snap in two on the first weekend you ride off into the wilderness. The result is that you may be left stranded out in the middle of nowhere. So, if you do decide to choose a cheaper drive belt, be sure to take a couple of spares with you. And be sure to take along the tools and heavy clothing you’ll need to change the belt. The engine won’t be keeping you warm when you’re sitting in several feet of snow while a storm approaches as you try to replace a shredded drive belt.


Breaking in your new drive belt

When your snowmobile is new, for the first 25 miles or so of your first season, you’ll need to break-in your belt properly. Vary the RPM of your engine and keep the throttle wide open no longer than about 10 seconds each time. This helps to stretch and relax the belt fibres and allow the belt to respond better to throttle changes. It will also help prevent premature belt failure.


Belt maintenance

Protecting your snowmobile’s drive belt is relatively simple and takes just three steps:


1. Clean everything completely

Remove any built-up glaze on the belt and then remove it from the sled. If you’re not sure how to remove your drive belt, check the owner’s manual or search the web online for the instructions that apply to your particular model.

Once the belt is removed, clean the clutch sheaves with a scuff pad and wipe them clean using acetone. Inspect the belt for any frayed cords, unevenness, or any other signs of wear. If you’re planning on installing a new belt, wash it with hot soapy water to remove any residue left over from the manufacturing process. Once the belt is clean, also clean the primary and secondary clutches.


2. Check the deflection

Check to see if the belt is stretched and sitting too low in the secondary. If the outer cogs of the belt stick up above the sheaves, the belt is either stretched, or the secondary clutch needs some spacers removed to narrow the gap.

Dry the new belt and install it. Run the sled on a stand or take it for a short ride and observe where the belt sits in the clutches. There should be about 1/8 to 1/16 inch of belt sticking above the secondary sheaves. If not, your new belt may be the wrong size or the clutches might be out of alignment. Check to see if you can add or remove shims to adjust the belt deflection if there’s an alignment problem.

Lay a straight edge on the belt and check to see if it spans the distance between the clutches. Push down on the belt to take up the slack, and they measure the deflection to see if your belt measures within the manufacturer’s specifications.


3. Break-in The Belt

Usually, a 30- to 60-minute ride will be sufficient to break-in your new belt.  Vary your throttle and speed while breaking in your snowmobile belt. Try to avoid any long pulls of the trigger or aggressive riding. This will help seat your new belt properly.


Ask The Professionals

There are many excellent snowmobile drive belts on the market today. Ask our team at Westshore Marine & Leisure about choosing the right belt for your snowmobile. Look for quality and strength in your new belt and don’t make the mistake of choosing one that’s not up to the job. You’ll be glad you did!

Westshore Marine & Leisure is one of the largest power sports dealers in Manitoba and the Prairies. We have a huge selection of makes and models including Polaris ATVs, Rangers, RZRs and Snowmobiles. Another great line we carry is Yamaha, which includes ATVs, Viking side by sides, snowmobiles, dirt bikes, motorcycles, and generators. We also Manitoba’s largest Argo amphibious vehicle Dealer. For all your power sports needs, Westshore Marine & Leisure is ready to serve you with the quality service you deserve.