Snowmobiles don’t have the sort of gears you’d expect to find inside older cars because the engine is set up differently. Gears are moving parts that interlock with one another and other components, causing energy transfer from the engine to translate to circular motion.
Do snowmobiles have gears? The answer might surprise you, so read on, and I will teach you all about how snowmobile engines get power to run to the treads.
There are 2 sets of gears on a snowmobile. The first is made up of the connected clutches inside the engine and the second set of gears turns the wheel treads to move you forward. A snowmobile has a continuously variable transmission or CVT, which selects the ideal gear ratio.
Are Snowmobiles Automatic or Manual
Snowmobiles are automatic, but it’s a different system than the one inside an older, non-electronic car.
A snowmobile has what is known as a continuously variable transmission or CVT, which selects the ideal gear ratio.
This stepless system offers a seamless transition between gears and a pleasantly smooth ride. Moreover, this is a 88% high-efficiency system.
Many transmissions use a series of fixed gear ratios, which is limiting. Meanwhile, CVT is known for its ability to move through a series of gear ratios without stopping to switch over.
That flexibility means you can travel at variable speeds while the engine runs at the same RPM if your controls are high-quality.
This means the ‘number’ of gears is essentially infinite and depends on how much power you need.
The snowmobile’s engine uses a steel-reinforced V-belt system, which runs between two cone-shaped parts (the clutches) that move closer or further apart based on speed.
This is an ideal driving system for a low-torque machine with low mass and a low center of gravity like your snowmobile.
Does A Snowmobile Have A Clutch
Snowmobiles do have a clutch. In fact, they have two. The clutches are behind the main engine and help move the power from the engine to the shafts that turn and drive the machine forward.
The primary clutch is made of two parts: the stationary sheave and the moveable sheave.
This clutch is connected to a pulley and the crankshaft of the engine. When you pull-start a machine, you are literally pulling on this part to begin the motion inside the engine.
When you start your snowmobile engine, the primary clutch’s stationary and moveable sheaves are widely separated by a spring.
However, when you speed up, the spring compresses, and the clutch engages, which causes the belt connecting to the secondary clutch to spin.
The secondary clutch moves the jackshaft, which drives the chaincase and powers the wheels.
Why Don’t Snowmobiles Have Gears
Snowmobiles do have gears, but they work more like a bike than an older car.
In a typical automobile, the power gets to the axle and wheels by traveling directly down a driveshaft.
Snowmobiles are more complex and use a driveshaft and jackshaft to change ratios within the wheel tread smoothly.
Do Snowmobiles Have Transmissions
Snowmobiles do have transmissions. CVT stands for continuously variable transmission. The CVT is so efficient that newer cars have started using them.
Still, many older cars have a sequential transmission that passes through a series of gear ratios based on their current speed, road conditions, and how well the driver clutches and shifts manually.
If you have ever driven a manual car or ridden a multispeed bike, you know that shifting is noticeable as the belt moves from one gear ratio to another.
The difference with CVT is that it’s unnoticeable, thanks to the transmission.
The transmission is another word for gearbox, the part of the vehicle that houses (some of) the gears. In this case, the clutches are the gears, but other gears are also turning the wheel treads.
Remember those stationary moveable sheaves I mentioned?
As they get closer, they cause the inner diameter of the primary clutch to widen in a smooth motion, changing the ratio between it and the secondary clutch by passing through a seamless ratio change.
The transition is so smooth because there are no additional wheels or gears to switch between.
If you want a great visual demonstration of how this process works, I recommend this video from Lesics on Youtube.
They show you all the parts in it and give a 3D example of how they work together.
Do Snowmobiles Have A Reverse Gear
Some snowmobiles have a reverse gear, but not all of them. Older models generally lack this function because it was impractical for this type of mechanical engine to work that way.
The basic explanation is that these engines are more spartan than mechanical cars, and there’s less space inside.
As a result, we had to wait for fully electronic CVT engines to be available before it was a reasonable and effective technology to apply.
Initially, a mechanical snowmobile engine would have become heavy and ponderous, causing the front end to dig deeper in the snow, affecting its ability to run smoothly.
Plus, a quick reverse wouldn’t work on older models as the engine needs to slow its spin direction to a stop so it can literally reverse and move backward.
More modern engines run off microchips and upgraded parts that can easily, safely, and rapidly reverse the spin.
That belt reversal makes the gears that drive the treads move in the opposite direction.
How Do You Put A Snowmobile In Reverse
Putting a snowmobile in reverse is easier than you think. I will explain precisely how it works below step-by-step.
Please note that the location of the reverse button on your snowmobile model may vary. It is always important to read your owner’s manual before operating a new machine.
- Slow your machine until you have stopped, but leave the engine idling. You cannot reverse while in motion.
- Check behind you to ensure you have ample space in which to reverse.
- Looking at the hand controls on either side, you will see a button on the left. It is usually yellow. Press this button to reverse the direction of the engine.
- Back up slowly as your machine is not meant to run this way for long periods or at high speeds.
- Once you have backed up far enough, slow, stop, and idle again.
- Pressing the yellow button for a second should release your engine and return to its regular direction.
Helpful Tips To Know About Snowmobile Anatomy
Snowmobiles have complex and powerful inner workings that allow you to glide across the surface of the snow.
Understanding how they work can help you avoid accidents and make minor adjustments and repairs.
Here are a few helpful tips to know about snowmobile anatomy.
- There are effectively two sets of gears on a snowmobile. The first is made up of the connected clutches inside the engine. The second set of gears turns the wheel treads to move you forward.
- If you want a snowmobile that reverses, but your model is too old for the technology, I have great news. You can retrofit your machine with newer parts. You’ll need to upgrade the engine and drive system inside to gain that desirable function. Moving backward is especially important if you get into a tight spot. No one wants to be stuck in a corner, and not everyone can physically lift a snowmobile or drag it back far enough to turn.
- Snowmobiles are relatively low to the ground, but like motorcycles, you need to lean as you move around. However, unlike motorcycles, you don’t lean into the curve. Instead, always lean toward the uphill direction to avoid overbalancing and rolling your snowmobile over as you turn.
Snowmobiling is exhilarating, but it’s vital to understand the machine you are driving. Your snowmobile has two clutches and two sets of gears.
If you have an older model, it may not be able to reverse, though you can retrofit an outdated engine system to fix that.
I recommend reading through your owner’s manual before taking a snowmobile for a ride.
Learning a little about the inner workings can save you a lot of headaches and confusion later.
Plus, working on your own snowmobile can be a lot of fun.