Idler Wheels vs. Bogie Wheels

In the world of snowmobiles, there are some terms and parts you’ll often hear that are interchangeable. Idler wheels and bogie wheels are an example of this, and these both describe the wheels that are part of the suspension system that helps tighten the track. 

I’ve been snowmobiling for decades, and I am experienced with many maintenance and repair tasks. I know what idler wheels are and what bogie wheels are, and I’ve gained this knowledge through first-hand experience. 

This post will help explain the difference, or lack thereof, between idler wheels and bogie wheels. I’ll explain what these parts are used for and why they are basically interchangeable with modern snowmobiles.

Let’s get started. 

What are Idler Wheels? 

Idler wheels are an important part of a snowmobile’s suspension system. These wheels help keep the track in place while also cutting back potential friction on the hyfax.

The track is the main way a snowmobile moves on the snow. It’s a critical performance component, and having it lined up correctly will help your machine operate at full capacity. The idler wheels allow you to align the track the way it’s supposed to be aligned. 

Slide rail suspension systems are also known as the hyfax. This invention improved the performance of the snowmobile track by allowing the track to roll over slides instead of strictly on wheels. 

But in order for the track to line up properly and so it doesn’t always hit the hyfax and cause it to wear down through friction, idler wheels are necessary. There are several idler wheels that make up this system. 

At the back of the track are the rear idler wheels. These are placed at the point where the track turns from on-snow contact to the upper end of the track. Rear idler wheels can be adjusted to set the track’s tension and alignment. 

The slide-rail idler wheels, or hyfax idler wheels, work to limit how much friction occurs between the track and the hyfax. These are on the top part of the track and are important to promote longevity and proper wear and tear. 

There are also upper idler wheels that help keep the track lined up correctly. These are a little smaller and don’t impact the hyfax as much. 

All of these idler wheels are needed to keep the snowmobile track running smoothly and prevent any damage to the hyfax and suspension system. They can all be adjusted but need to be kept in good working order for optimum performance. 

What are Bogie Wheels? 

Bogie wheels are a type of suspension that hasn’t been used since the 1970s. You might still find bogies wheels on vintage snowmobiles, but people also call the idler wheels I mentioned above bogie wheels. 

From what I know, there is no exact reason why people still call idler wheels bogie wheels. It’s kind of like why some people call snowmobiles snow machines – it just depends on where you’re from and what you are used to saying. 

So bogie wheels do exist; they just aren’t always correctly referred to. An actual bogie wheel suspension system uses two wheels connected by a spring to create tension. This is different from idler wheels with a pass-through bolt and bearing as their design.

If you have an older sled with actual bogie wheels, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with how this system works. It’s a bit more complex than the idler wheel system, but it’s not extremely complicated if you are mechanically inclined. 

Idler Wheel Maintenance 

Idler wheels are designed to last quite a while, but you’ll want to check on them regularly to ensure that they are in good operating condition. Because these wheels have bearings, they can get filled with dirt, dust, and other trail crud that can ruin them. 

When the bearings start to get filled with crud, the wheels won’t spin properly, leading to a number of problems with performance. As the idler wheels wear out, your track can fall out of alignment or get damaged. 

You can also damage your suspension system or hyfax as the wheels wear down. This can cause the repair to get more expensive than if you just fixed up the wheels before these other issues appeared. 

When it’s time to replace or maintain your idler wheels, you can either replace the entire wheel or clean and grease the bearings to make sure they are spinning properly. 

I like to grease up the wheels once a season, and then I’ll replace them if there are any obvious signs of more severe wear, such as cracking, noising bearings, or decreased performance. 

They aren’t extremely expensive, but it’s still cheaper to grease them and extend their lifetime performance as long as possible.

Conclusion 

To wrap things up, idler wheels and bogie wheels are synonymous terms used to describe the suspension components that keep a snowmobile’s track in place. These wheels need to be in good condition to help your sled’s track stay aligned and perform properly. 

Bogie wheels and idler wheels differ by design, but actual bogie wheels have not been used in modern snowmobile design for decades. 

You might have bogie wheels if you have an older machine, like circa 1970s or earlier. But if you have a modern machine, you have idler wheels, even if someone calls them bogie wheels.    

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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