May 7, 2020

Can a Snowmobile Go on Sand? You Will Love The Answer

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It's summer, and you've decided you want to ride some sand dunes.  Your snowmobile is parked in the garage waiting for snow, and you are checking out ATVs.  Sounds great—except you're now going to have to fork out more money and find additional storage space.  What if it were possible to convert a snowmobile?

Can a snowmobile go on sand? Yes - you can ride your snowmobile on sand. However, if you wish to do so, there are several modifications you need to make to avoid permanent and irreversible damage. Those modifications include the radiator, bogie suspension, and idler wheels. 

Those of us who adore an extreme sport to get us through the day will understand the devastation of not having snow to ride our snowmobiles on. Imagine picking up a hobby you're infatuated with, only to realize you can only take part in it for a few months of the year--you'd be miffed too, right?  

We’ll be giving you the lowdown on how to sand proof your snowmobile so you can ride it all year round.

Can A Snowmobile Go On Sand?

The definitive answer is yes as long as it is not a stock snowmobile. Stock sleds are not meant to be ridden on sand at all and require a bit of modification to make it safer to to be able to ride in the summer, on sand. Be sure to make all these modifications but be aware there is still risk of messing up your sled.

Modifications for Riding on Sand

There are several modifications you can make to your snowmobile. So if it's been a lifelong dream of yours to drive around the sand dunes at full speed, here are the steps you will need to take:

Add a Radiator

The first and most important issue you need to address is how to prevent your snowmobile from overheating when riding through sand. Snowmobiles are designed with snow in mind, so when the engine and mechanics heat up during use, the snow is used to cool everything back down again. This is a genius and fool proof way to prevent the system from heating up too much, which causes damage and failure.

The heat exchangers have been placed on the underside of the snowmobile, the closest to ground and snow. These heat exchangers use the snow to draw in the cold and cool the engine down when it starts to heat up. 

To override this issue, you need to add a radiator to the system. The heat exchangers do not work when the conditions are not cold. Therefore, other cooling mechanisms are required. This method works even better when paired with an electric fan.

While the snowmobile is idle, the electric fan begins to cool down the engine. Once the snowmobile is up and running, the air pushed through the radiator by the fan will cool the system. When it comes to the size of the radiator you're installing, always remember that the bigger, the better. Essentially, you should try and fit the maximum size radiator that your snowmobile can hold, because the bigger the radiator, the faster and more effectively it will cool the system.

Considering you want the equipment you’re installing to be close to the areas you need to cool, here are the best placements to install a radiator:

  1. On the back of the tunnel: This is the most optimal placement for a radiator, as it is the closest area to the engine. The tunnel is the part that you rest your feet on when using the snowmobile. There is a tunnel on each side of the vehicle; therefore, it is possible to insert two radiators for maximum effect.
  2. Below the hood: The hood is located on the front of the snowmobile. This area is also close to the engine, however not as close as the tunnel.

If you can, try to place a radiator in both areas--this will maximize effectiveness and increase the cooling power and speed. If you aren't able to do so, make sure you prioritize the tunnel over the hood as this area is more effective.

Add Bogie Suspension

You can install a system within your snowmobile called Bogie Suspension.

‘The bogie suspension is a type of oscillating mechanical suspension with multi-leaf springs which is used in agriculture to fit tandem vehicles.’

Source: TVZ Assali 

Basically, in simple terms, installing this system allows your vehicle to travel across rougher terrain. So instead of your snowmobile being limited to riding in the snow, it will be capable of riding on terrains such as sand and tar.

The way this works is through a series of springs known as 'bogies.' The bogies support the mass of the vehicle and provide a slight cushioning effect between the underside of the snowmobile and the ground. The springs offer oscillating movements, which are extremely effective in helping the vehicle to adapt to the terrain it is driving on.

This makes it the perfect modification for riding in rough, sandy conditions - or if you're feeling dangerous, concrete. However, be warned, it is illegal to drive a snowmobile on the roads, as it is labelled by law as an off-road vehicle.

Install Idler Wheels

On the underside of a snowmobile, you will find what is known as 'sliders.' This is a hard-plastic strip attached to the rails, which prevents wear and tear when the vehicle is in use. These are added to minimize the maintenance of the rails, which would be a more difficult task to change.

These sliders are designed to work amazingly in snowy conditions.  However, they shouldn’t be used on rough, dry surfaces. Riding your snowmobile on rough, dry terrain without modifying the sliders first will result in disaster - extreme damage. Worst case scenario? They will melt.

To counteract this, remove the sliders and install Idler Wheels to your vehicle. These wheels are perfect for giving your snowmobile that extra help and easing the friction from the terrain you're riding on. They are tiny but incredibly important.

Check out these idler wheels that we recommend from Amazon: Arctic Cat New OEM Idler Wheel

After you buy your idler wheels, watch this video by a keen snowmobiler. It may help with the process of installing your wheels: Snowmobile Idler Wheel Replacement.

Modifications for Riding on Other Terrains

As well as the adjustments mentioned above, you can purchase retractable wheel kits, which allow your snowmobile to drive on all types of terrains. So if you're eyeing up an off-road track or just fancy zooming round the yard, we got you!

Nemi makes some fantastic snowmobile wheels, which can be easily attached to your vehicle in no time and can be removed with ease when you're ready to hit the snow again. All you need to do is unscrew one bolt, attach the spindle and wheels, and you're ready to race - safely and responsibly, of course.

Check out Nemi’s Snowmobile Wheel Kits here: Snowmobile Wheel Kits.

Final Thoughts

So you’re all set for speeding across the desert dunes! What should you expect? Be prepared for it to feel very similar to driving an All-Terrain Vehicle - pretty wild! If you’ve ever ridden a dirt bike off-road, you’ll know exactly what to expect - a load of fun, and an abundance of adrenaline.

Why stop there? Give your snowmobile a spin on as many terrains as you can! Whiz across sand, grass, concrete, mud, water - whatever your heart desires. 

Paul Thacker has some amazing videos of Snowmobiles riding on all types of terrains, that perfect source of adrenaline-junkie, bucket list inspiration. Check out his videos. Our personal favorite is this one: Sleds in Dunes 3.

Whatever you decide to do, be sure you add the necessary modifications to prevent permanent or irreversible damage to your vehicle and avoid injury. Remember - your safety comes first.

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My Favorite Gear

Helmet Fox Racing V3 Helmet (Check Why It Is My Favorite at DirtWheelRider)

Gloves Carhartt WP Gloves

Boots Fly Racing Marker Boots

Jacket Fly Racing Aurora Snowmobile Jacket

Check Out These Other Great Articles 

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What Is Causing Your Dead Snowmobile Battery?

Can a Snowmobile Run Without An Airbox?

Why Are Snowmobiles So Loud?

Can You Ride A Snowmobile In The Summer?

Article written by Matt Powell
Hi, I am Matt and I have been playing outdoor games as long as I can remember. Today I have several games that I play on the regular and got together with Josh here on Outdoor Diversions so we could share our passion for the outdoors, gaming, and sports with you.