How to Start a Snowmobile After Sitting

A snowmobile that sits over the summer, or even longer, will probably need a little extra attention before starting it up again. With a handful of easy steps and precautions, you can make sure not to damage the engine and have the machine running strong. 

I’m Chaz, a snowmobile aficionado with nearly 30 years of experience riding and wrenching on these machines. I’ve left a snowmobile sitting for quite a while and have learned how to approach starting it up through my own experience and talking to other riders.  

In this article, I’ll show you how to start a snowmobile after it’s been sitting. Following all of these steps isn’t always necessary, but a little extra prevention can help eliminate more significant issues later on.

Dust off your sled, and let’s get it started. 

Things to Consider 

Engines run better when they are used consistently. Oil and fuel move throughout all of the engine’s components to properly lubricate everything and work out gunk and sludge. 

When an engine sits for an extended period, all sorts of issues can arise. Fuel lines and other hoses can begin to corrode, rust can build up, and creatures might even nest inside for the long winter (this has happened to me more than once). 

It’s essential to perform a basic checkup on your snowmobile before starting the engine after it’s been sitting. You might not think that a few months in the garage can cause many problems, but ideally, you should start the engine once a week, even during the warmer months. 

How to Start a Snowmobile After Sitting

The following steps are suggested tips that I recommend completing before starting your sled after it’s been sitting. These don’t necessarily need to be completed in a particular order, but I would go through each one before turning over the ignition. 

1. Drain fuel/replace fuel lines if needed

If your snowmobile has old fuel sitting in the tank, it can pose issues when trying to start it. Fuel can leak out, become corrosive, and lose its lubricating properties. 

I like to drain most of the fuel out of the tank before putting the sled away for the season. If you didn’t do this, just drain out all of the fuel and put new fuel and oil into the tank before you try to start things up. 

With the fuel tank empty, check on the fuel lines and make sure they have not been corroded. If you see cracks or any other signs of wear, replace these lines before starting. 

2. Inspect carbs: remove and clean

If a snowmobile has been sitting for a while, the carbs will need a little attention. This can be bad because they can begin to rust or seize up.

Before starting your sled, remove the carbs for a good inspection to make sure they look normal. With the carbs removed, I would give them a good cleaning even if they look ok. 

Some people simply look at the carbs when still attached to the engine. This is ok, and you don’t necessarily have to clean them. But I would recommend it as a precaution and for general maintenance. 

3. Check spark plugs: replace if needed

Spark plugs are another essential piece of the engine that makes it start. Without properly working spark plugs, you won’t get a spark to fire the engine. Spark plugs can corrode and not function if left sitting for a long time. 

If the plugs looked corroded, rusted, or otherwise out of whack, replace them. They are cheap and easy to get ahold of. You can also check if they are sparking by watching them as you start the engine. But complete all of the other steps here before doing this. 

4. Oil the cylinders

When you have the spark plugs removed, put some oil into the cylinders to lubricate them and help the engine function properly once it is started. Oil can drip away from these cylinders when it sits, so it’s always a good idea to give them a little extra before starting. 

If you know that the snowmobile has been sitting for a long time, I would put penetrating oil into the cylinders and let it sit for a few days before attempting to start. You can use WD40, Liquid Wrench, or even transmission oil for this. 

5. Replace filters

This is another step that isn’t absolutely necessary but still definitely recommended. Before starting the engine, take the time to replace the fuel filter and air filter to breathe some new life into the machine when it does get up and running.  

6. Check airbox and exhaust for animals

This one is not a joke. Mice, rats, even squirrels can den up in a sitting snowmobile for the winter. I’ve removed several nests from the exhaust pipe and airbox over the years and have started an engine before doing this. 

If you notice any signs of animal life, I would suggest poking the nest area with a broomstick or other long object to make sure the critters are out of there before you stick your hand inside. 

7. Start it, slowly

Once you have completed all of the previous steps, you can pull the cord or turn the ignition to start the engine. Let everything warm up nicely before increased the throttle. Treat it gently, kind of like a bear waking up from a nap. 

The sled might sputter and die a few times as the fuel pump gets primed, so just be patient if it doesn’t start the first time. Even if you’ve done all of the steps above, it can still take several attempts to get the engine to start. 

Final Thoughts

I’ve seen snowmobiles start right up after sitting for a long time, and I’ve also seen them basically fall apart. A little effort before starting can go a long way toward ensuring your machine’s longevity and proper performance. 

If you want to make sure that your engine stays in the best shape possible when you aren’t riding, you should start it up a least once a week and let it get to operating temperature. Even if it’s just making noise in your garage for 15 minutes, this can help in the long run. 

Do you have any suggestions for starting a snowmobile after it’s been sitting that weren’t mentioned here? 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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  • Nathan

    I have a 2004 800 MXE skidoo that I purchased from a friend at the end of last year it needed a new pawl The old one was wore out in the pull start was not engaging and starting to snowmobile. Instead of buying just the Paul, I purchased the entire pool start assembly and replaced it. I got about three starts probably 10 poles and it completely destroyed the new pawl. I have checked for an electric start kit, but they have discontinued making that for that sled. I’ve heard the 800 and MXZ has a lot of compression but this is ridiculous. What are your thoughts?

    • Chaz Wyland

      Hi Nathan,

      That’s a bummer about the pawl getting destroyed with a new starter assembly! Always something, right?! An electric start kit might fix the issue, but if those are discontinued for your model, that doesn’t seem like an option. There might be some aftermarket options to explore rather than going directly with Skidoo? Have you reached out to any Skidoo techs or repair techs in your area? They might have some good ideas to help solve the problem. Or maybe the pawl you purchased just wasn’t high quality? I know some of those cheaper ones I’ve seen on Amazon and stuff don’t have a very long lifespan. Replacing that again is a cheaper solution than getting an electric start. Not as convenient obviously, but it’s an idea. Hope that helps, and keep me posted on progress. And hope you’re having a solid winter despite this setback.

  • Dave

    I have a 87 ski doo stratos with the 503 can’t get it to start cleans carbs have spark and fuel primer works any suggestions I have gotten it to turn over but spuds out

    • Chaz Wyland

      Hi Dave,

      Sorry to hear about your 87 not starting up. Hmm, it’s kind of difficult to assess it without getting my hands on things and hearing what’s going on. Did you try replacing the fuel lines? If air is getting in through the lines or not enough is being delivered, it could result in the spudding out issues you’re having. There is a lot that could be happening with a machine that old as well. Do you have anyone in your area that could give it a look or tune up? Wish I could help out more, but I still hope you are having a solid winter so far!

  • Mat

    Hi Chaz, I just inherited a 1991 Arctic Cat Cheetah Touring 440 and 1993 Arctic Cat EXT EFI 550. They’ve been in an unheated storage building. Last reg sticker is 1996. They are in remarkable shape!! I’ve rebuilt motors etc on lawnmowers and etc years ago. These newer snowmachines are liquid-cooled and EFI I’m not sure of the best way to bring back to world of living. Can you give me some insights and help?? Much appreciated.

    • Chaz Wyland

      Hi Mat,

      That’s awesome! Those are some solid old machines, and the fact that they are in pretty solid shape is a great start to getting them back on the snow. Have you tried to fire them up yet? No worries if not, but I’d go ahead and probably change the fuel lines/plugs/filters and give everything a close inspection. Take a look at the carbs to see if there’s any rust or damage.

      You might get lucky and they’ll fire up after a little TLC! If all of that doesn’t work, it never hurts to bring them to a small engine repair or snowmobile shop. But it sounds like you have the experience to figure it out yourself!

  • chris katzambis

    Hi Chaz, I have done all the above ,but no lock , but I notice the fuel pump is not pausing the fuel all the way up, We put gas in the cylinders and it does start up .I need some good advise before I try to buy a fuel pump . THANK YOU<CHRIS

    • Chaz Wyland

      Hi Chris,

      Sorry to hear about the trouble with starting your sled. Unfortunately, it sounds like a fuel pump issue, and I think buying and installing a new one will help you resolve the problem. You could try replacing the fuel line just to make sure you’re getting enough vacuum.

      But if it’s starting up when you put fuel into the cylinders, that means the pump isn’t doing its job getting fuel there in the first place. Probably not the news you want to hear, but it happens.

      Good luck!

    • Mark

      When clean long the carbs I have to take the needles out and clean the holes or cleaning them does no good sounds like you’re problem

  • josh

    Hey Chaz. Qre you still in the Apsen area? I live in Aspen and am having problems starting our sled. Would love to womp around sometime too.

    • Chaz Wyland

      Hey Josh! I’m not in the Aspen area currently, but I can keep you posted when I’m back in the Rockies. Sorry to hear about your sled though, did you get it up and running yet? It looks like there’s finally some fresh snow to explore!