How to Clean a Snowmobile Clutch

Cleaning the clutch on a snowmobile is an essential part of regular maintenance to help the machine perform at its best. 

I’m Chaz, a snowmobile enthusiast with over 25 years of experience riding and wrenching on snowmobiles. I’ve cleaned many different clutches over the years, and the task is part of my seasonal maintenance when I store sleds for the summer. 

In this article, I’ll show you a step-by-step guide on cleaning a snowmobile clutch to help you keep the primary and secondary in prime operating condition. 

Get your tools together, and let’s get started. 

What You’ll Need

Here are the tools and supplies you’ll need to clean a clutch. 

  • Wrench/Sockets/Impact Wrench
  • Snap ring pliers (depending on make/model)
  • Brake cleaner spray 
  • Abrasive pad
  • Air compressor (not completely necessary, but nice to have)
  • Clutch puller (not completely necessary, but can be helpful)

How to Clean a Snowmobile Clutch

A snowmobile has two clutches, the primary clutch, and the secondary clutch. While the process for cleaning each of these is similar, taking them apart can be slightly different – just something to keep in mind before getting started. 

There are also two different approaches to cleaning clutches – you can keep them on the sled and quickly clean up the sheaves or remove them and do a deep clean. I’ll touch on both below. 

#1. Remove Belt

Before you can remove the clutches for proper cleaning, you need to loosen and remove the belt that connects the two. This process can vary from machine to machine, but the idea is the same. 

The most common method to remove the belt is to lengthen and loosen it from the secondary clutch using an L-bolt type of tool that fits near the clutch bolt. Screw this tool in until the belt loosens enough for removal. 

It’s a good idea to inspect the belt while it’s off for any signs of damage or wear. Replace if needed. 

#2. Quick clean without removing clutches

With the belt removed, you can clean the clutches without removing them from the machine. Do one clutch at a time, and follow these steps. Also, make sure the kill switch is on so the engine doesn’t start while you are cleaning. 

Step 1: Take the air compressor and blow out all of the dust, grit, and grime built up within the sheave area and the surrounding clutch components. Wearing safety goggles and a mask for this step is a good idea. 

Step 2: Spray the sheaves of both with brake cleaner. You want to soak things pretty heavily to help remove everything you’ve loosened with the air compressor. 

Step 3: Rub the sheaves (aka the clutch faces) with the abrasive pad. This is the elbow grease step. Reach in with an abrasive pad and start scrubbing. You are essentially polishing up the sheaves.

Rotate the clutch as you scrub to ensure you get the entire surface of each sheaved scrubbed up well. This can take some time but is essential for proper cleaning. 

#3. Deep clean with clutches removed

While the quick clean method is better than nothing, I would suggest doing a deep clean at least once every season. It takes a little longer and is more involved but does a far better job cleaning every part of the clutch.

Step 1: The deep clean method begins by removing the belt as instructed in step 1. 

Step 2: Remove the clutches from the machine. Remove the clutch bolt from the center of the clutch using an impact wrench. Then use a clutch puller or follow the process here to remove a clutch without a puller

Step 3: Put the clutches on a bench or table. Begin to disassemble bolts that hold the clutch together. Use a hand wrench instead of an impact wrench for this. Remember how each part fits for reassembly. 

Take out the weights and spacers. Once you remove the bolts holding the two clutch pieces together, the spring will push them apart. Inspect and clean the spring as well. 

Step 4: Spray everything with brake cleaner. With everything taken apart, spray each component heavily with brake cleaner. Spray into every area you see that has any grime or dust. 

Step 5: Scrub with an abrasive pad. The real deep clean begins now. Scrub the sheaves as mentioned in step 2 and scrub each and every internal component. Scrub the rollers, weights, the underside of the sheaves, and everywhere else you can access. 

A toothbrush or similar small abrasive brush can be helpful for this deep cleaning. It will take you a while to get everything polished, but make sure to do a good job since you have the entire clutch unit disassembled.

Step 6: Reassembled the clutches and then put them back onto the sled. Make sure to torque the clutch bolts to spec. 

Here’s a good video showing the deep clutch cleaning process:

#4. Install belt

Now that the clutches have been thoroughly cleaned, you can put the belt back on. As mentioned earlier, be sure to inspect the belt for any damage and replace it if necessary. 

You won’t always need to replace the belt when you clean the clutches, but I typically do every other season at least – so that I know that it will be in good working order. 

The Importance of Clutch Cleaning

Having a dirty clutch can lead to a few different problems. The dust and grit that accumulate from the friction of the belt in action can build up and start to get into your carbs. This can cause issues with acceleration and poor performance. 

A dirty clutch can feel similar to a carb issue. The clutch will start to stick and act like the engine is not putting out enough power. You might even hear a noise when coming to a stop – that’s a sure sign the clutch is dirty. 

If you clean your clutch a few times the easy way and give it a deep clean once a season, you won’t need to mess with or clean the carbs as much. I think this is an easier way to approach standard maintenance.

Final Thoughts

Cleaning the clutches on your sled is an easy DIY maintenance task that you should get in the habit of doing. It can improve your snowmobile’s performance, and I recommend doing it at least once a year. 

Have you ever cleaned a clutch? Did you remove them to do so? Let us know in the comments below.

About Chaz Wyland
I’m a snowmobile fanatic. I live for riding and am out on the trails or backcountry as often as possible during the winter months. I was born and raised in the Rocky Mountains and have snowmobiled in dozens of North American locations. When the snow is falling, you’ll find me on a sled.

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