Snowmobile carbides are the primary wear surface on the bottom of your snowmobile. The wear bar and skis do most of the steering, but good-quality, sharp, new carbides can significantly impact how well you can steer over ice and snow by providing traction as they dig in.
Whether you prefer less aggressive stock carbides or high-performance aftermarket models, you don’t want to ride without them. What do snowmobile carbides do?
Snowmobile carbides sit on the bottom of your skis to provide protection and help with steering control over ice and hard-packed snow. Without sharp carbides, you’d be drifting and darting, and you would have a tough time handling hard surfaces, leading to accidents. These protective components take the brunt of the damage from the ground below, so they wear down and need repairs or replacing regularly.
Table of Contents
What Are Snowmobile Carbides
Snowmobile carbides are attached under the wear bar on the skis of your sled. It’s easy to miss them if you’re new to snowmobiling, but fortunately, they are easy to locate.
Carbides should be the first thing in contact with the snow, ice, or ground below you.
The bottom of the ski has a shaped metal bar called the wear bar. These are also sometimes known as runners or skegs. On the bottom of the wear bar are sharpened running surfaces or carbides.
The edge of the carbide gives you a better grip when you are on ice or densely packed snow, so your snowmobile moves in a straight line without darting to one side.
Constant contact with the ground means even the most durable surface made of tungsten carbide will wear down over time.
You’ll need to sharpen and eventually replace your carbides if you want to stay on course over hard surfaces.
What Are Snowmobile Carbides Made Of
Snowmobile carbides are made of tungsten carbide because it is tough and durable.
This unique material scores a nine on the Mohs’ hardness scale, meaning it’s almost as tough as a diamond.
The carbides on your sled keep you from running through skis by protecting them as the ice, snow, and everything else that passes beneath you scrape along the superhard metallike surface.
You can get ‘wear bars’ made out of steel instead, but carbides are much more durable. Wear bars are best for beginners and new learners.
Seasoned enthusiasts and frequent riders should upgrade to high-quality carbides because they are better suited to long or challenging rides.
How Long Do Snowmobile Carbides Last
Snowmobile carbides last anywhere from 700 miles to over 4000. The type of terrain you pass over and other aspects of how and where you ride makes a difference.
Still, a thousand miles is about average for a sled in a season, so saying your carbides should last 1-4 years is fair.
Most people replace their carbides every 2 years or when they feel a noticeable difference in the quality of their steering.
Your snowmobile carbides should last until they are worn down. Instead of a use-by date, you can inspect the carbides carefully before each outing, which is an excellent practice to turn into a habit.
The runners have carbides bolted on, and when they come off or become worn through to the steel, it’s time to get a new set.
How Do I Know If My Carbides Are Worn Out
A worn-out carbide will look worn through or even show signs of damage. New carbides are around half an inch thick, and they should be able to last well over a thousand miles.
They will lose a little material when you sharpen them and more as you ride, but not enough to look flat against the runner.
A too narrow carbide has scraped along the ice and snow long enough to slowly sand the material down despite its hardness.
Carbides are great for staying on track, so it should be no surprise that steering issues may be the first sign that your carbides are worn out.
Suitable high-quality carbides can smooth your trip, but if your sled suddenly starts to drift heavily to one side or darts, you may need a new carbide.
The best way to check is to stop and roll your sled over on its side so you can see the bottoms of the skis.
If the carbide is securely bolted and not literally worn thin from use, it should be fine to ride on.
Please do not ride any further than necessary on worn or cracked carbides. Doing this will excessively damage the wear bar and lead to other replacement costs.
However, if your carbide is intact but the machine still darts or drifts, check your ski alignment or suspension instead.
If the damage on your carbides is less, only enough to make them dull, you can sharpen them yourself.
You do need a unique carbide sharpening tool and a drill. If you want a visual demonstration of how to sharpen your carbides, I recommend watching this video from Mudbrats/Snowbrats.
They show you the tools and process to keep your carbides sharp, so you have better steering control anytime.
Snowmobile Carbide Length
Finding the right snowmobile carbide length is simple. If you plan to spend most of your time on mountain trails, a smaller, 4 to 6-inch carbide is ideal.
Otherwise, for flatter terrain, it depends on your track. Use the chart below for a basic idea of what size to buy for your sled.
Carbide Size By Track Length and Features
|Track||Carbide Length in Inches|
|Short Track without studs||4″ – 6″|
|Short Track with studs||6″ and up|
|Long Track without studs||4″ – 8″|
|Long track with studs||8″ and up|
Wear bars and carbides are often sold together since they are always mounted together.
Although you can get parts separate, usually, when your carbide wears through, it’s time to change out the wear bar as well.
Moreover, since the carbide doesn’t cover the entire length of the wear bar’s underside, it will get worn down as you ride.
The other thing to keep in mind when choosing your carbides is shape. A round bar does well on trails and mountains.
Meanwhile, a shaper bar carbide is more dedicated to racing sleds and fast, aggressive riding.
The carbides for these two bar types are not interchangeable, so you should always read the descriptions carefully.
Shaper Bars vs Carbides
Shaper bars versus carbides are an easy issue to get confused about. It’s a little bit like saying Q-tips versus cotton swabs.
A carbide is, as described, a piece of shaped tungsten carbide attached to the bottom of a round wear bar to help get better traction and steering.
A round bar carbide has an almost triangular cross-section that is made to tackle trails and mountains.
You can use round bar carbides to race, but they are not the preferred shape.
The rounded, almost circular bar this style sits on is the most common and likely what you have if your parts are stock from the factory.
The shaper bar carbide is a specific branded product from Stud Boy. The “Shaper” Bar is a different style wear bar, which looks a little like an hourglass in profile.
The carbide on this style of bar is more like a diamond shape, or square turned on its side.
Shaper bars are custom crafted to deliver better steering at high speeds, so most racing sleds sport this style instead.
Best Snowmobile Carbides
Choosing the best carbides for your snowmobile is mostly about what kind of riding you do.
If you plan to hit the trails and mountains, you need an excellent semi-aggressive or round bar carbide.
For those with a need for speed, try out a shaper bar carbide instead for better control.
Below I’ve reviewed the two best options for this season.
1 – Snow Tracker Carbides Polaris
- Ski Model: Pro-Steer, Pro-Float
- Fits on: Polaris
- Carbide Length – Center: 6″
- Included U-blades: Yes
- Number: 08-20316Do you want to improve control? Here is how to eliminate darting, zigzagging on icy & snow covered trails. Install the snowtracker semi-aggressive kit, with self-sharpening carbide runners, with the corrector and rediscover the confidence in any conditions, in trails, icy and snow-covered, specially in grooves that were left by other snowmobiles. You will have no more darting or zigzagging.
Last update on 2023-12-09 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
I recommend checking out SnowTracker Auto-Sharpening Semi-Aggressive Wear Bar with carbides from Polaris on Amazon.
The auto sharpening makes it easier to ride longer since you don’t need to worry about your carbides losing their edge.
You’ll be safer without any worries about darting or zig-zagging unintentionally.
One reviewer says, “My three closest riding buddies use them and won’t go back to anything else.”
Another rider adds, “…I tried them on a friend’s Polaris 850 up in Cochrane a few weeks ago, and as much as I loved the Cobraheads I ran this year, the Snowtrackers were unreal at how well they worked… buying a set for ours next year. “
At a mere 3.5 pounds, these wear bars and carbides won’t weigh you down. The semi-aggressive profile allows you to ride fast and stay on course.
Get yours by clicking right here.
2 – Stud Boy Carbides
Last update on 2023-12-09 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Stud Boy carbides come in various sizes and fits, but I recommend the 6″ Stud Boy Switch-Back Carbides from Amazon.
Unlike the Snow trackers, these carbides are sold on their own as replacements for older, worn carbides.
The tungsten carbide body is sturdy and durable enough to last for years.
ADK T-Rex says Stud Boys are the best carbides ever manufactured, “These Carbides are by far the best in the business. Shaper bars will steer your sled on the pavement…”
JD Loton says, “Received Fast and what a product. Kick *** carbides!”
You’ll appreciate the traction you get from Stud Boy, which is a ‘traction products’ company.
Better still, you’ll enjoy the increased control and smoother ride it offers, and if you have any questions, Stud Boy has outstanding customer service.
You can pick up a set for your sled by clicking here.
Helpful Tips To Know About Snowmobile Carbides
Carbides are often confused for the wear bar that holds them in place.
While you need both parts, which are always installed together, the carbide is only the sharp piece on the bottom of the ski that is in direct contact with the ground.
Here are a few more helpful tips to know about snowmobile carbides.
- Contrary to popular belief, carbides do not steer your snowmobile. Instead, they offer better grip and handling, making steering easier for you. These are simply the bottom piece of your skis that contacts the ground and digs into slick, hard surfaces.
- Although you can technically ride a snowmobile without carbides, you never should. As SnowSportsPlanet reminds us, “…there has been some curiosity as to whether it is possible to use a snowmobile without carbides. You can ride a snowmobile without carbides. However, doing that may cause its rods to wear out faster and compromise steering control around corners.”
- The length of your carbides and their cutting angle impact how they feel and work on your sled. While some people prefer a ‘longer is better’ approach, it all depends on your riding style, and new to intermediate riders should always start smaller.
Carbides are an essential, though often overlooked, part of your snowmobile. It’s easy to forget about the very bottom of your skis, but the piece of shaped tungsten carbide below them dramatically impacts how you ride.
Although carbides don’t steer the skis, they provide the necessary traction for ice, dense icy snow, and other hard surfaces. Snowmobile carbides do what good chains do for car tires.
If you find your sled is darting or zig-zagging around, then it’s a good idea to tip it on its side and check the carbides first since worn-out carbides no longer give you the steering control you get from well-sharpened new carbides.