Can a Snowmobile Run Without a Can or a Belt?

by Matt Powell | Last Updated:   4 months ago
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When operating your snowmobile, you’ll want to make sure you are doing so properly, for both your personal safety and to protect the machine’s components. In most cases, running without a can or a belt is done for cleaning purposes or to check that other parts are running smoothly. In any event, you will want to take additional precautions to make sure you are doing so safely. 

Can a snowmobile run without a can or a belt? A snowmobile can run without a can or belt, but you should be very careful when doing so. Especially running without a belt, the motor should not be above idling as you risk damaging the sheaves or engaging the clutch, which could blast off. Running without cans will decrease your power and drastically increase noise.  

It is not recommended to run without either a can or a belt because of the dangers it can pose and the decreased level of performance. We will advise you on the dangers as well as how to run the snowmobile safely if you do choose to run it without either component. Operating your machine safely and getting the most out of its functions are the most important considerations. 

Can a Snowmobile Run Without a Can or a Belt?

The answer to that is not quite so simple so read ahead to figure out the dangers you may face by riding without either of these two pieces of equipment.

Running a Snowmobile Without a Can 

A ‘can’ is also known as an exhaust canister or a silencer on a snowmobile. It attaches to the motor in order to funnel exhaust, and in doing so, it keeps the motor’s noise level down and also maintains back pressure, which provides the most efficiency and power. When you remove the can, you will experience a much louder running engine and less overall power. 

As far as noise is concerned, this is mostly up to preference. Especially in more densely populated areas, keeping the noise down on your snowmobile may be a necessity. If you do not mind the loud noises or prefer them, running a snowmobile without a can will allow for this. Replacing the original cans with aftermarket ones can also increase sound levels. 

Studies have shown that increased exposure to excess engine noise from snowmobile engines can result in hearing loss and damage to those around it on a regular basis. Operating without a can will increase these risks. 

More concerning to many snowmobile users are issues related to performance. Without the exhaust can, exhaust flow is left wide open. Limiting this flow at an optimal level with a can helps to build up back pressure, which produces the ideal mixture of fuel and oxygen to allow for peak performance

These are some of the primary reasons that not using a can will hinder engine performance: 

  • Fuel mixture: When the exhaust flow is left wide open, too much oxygen combines with fuel. During combustion, this mixture does not fire at its ideal levels and could negatively impact the engine system. 
  • Lack of consistency: Without the cans, you may notice a lack of consistency in performance levels during a ride or from session to session. This can be difficult on the engine or may not provide you with the necessary power in certain settings or terrains. 
  • Need for rebuilds: If you are operating without a can or a modified one, you are putting a lot of stress on the entire drivetrain and other components in the snowmobile’s motor. This may require additional modifications more frequently, which may not be appealing to casual users but is often a tradeoff for those who value high performance. 

You can run a snowmobile without a can if you are willing to sacrifice some of the performance and can tolerate louder noises while operating your snowmobile. It is advised that you do not operate loud snowmobiles in populated areas for the impacts of noise pollution. Sacrificed performance may also lead to a shorter life of your snowmobile. 

Running A Snowmobile Without a Belt 

Unlike a can where you can actually operate and ride the snowmobile, running a snowmobile without a belt is more dangerous and cannot be ridden. The main reasons to run a snowmobile without a belt are to (1) keep snowmobile moving in the off-season and (2) check for issues with other machine components. 

If you want to run the snowmobile in the summertime, so it doesn’t sit without use for months, many people will run it without a belt to store it in cooler places. If you do choose to run a snowmobile without a belt, we recommend keeping it in an idle position as to not increase the RPMs and avoid engaging the clutches. 

There are some considerable dangers that are associated with running a snowmobile without a belt, especially when revving the engine at high RPMs: 

  • Clutch Damage / Injury To Rider: If the clutch becomes engaged when there is no belt, it can actually injure you by flying off the snowmobile. This can not only cause physical harm to you and others but potentially damage the snowmobile. As you increase the speed and RPMs of a snowmobile, the clutches tighten and work both the primary and secondary clutch systems. Without a belt, these activate with nothing to turn. 
  • Engine performance: If you engage the motor at a high rate, not only can the clutch pop off and present danger, but the engine can either run too high, or it can ‘grenade’ off, leading to safety issues and more damage. Very little engagement of the throttle can result in very high speeds being reached quickly, 
  • Damaged sheaves: Sheaves are what the belt runs on for normal snowmobile operations. If you run the snowmobile too quickly without a belt, these sheaves can damage one another upon contact. 

Checking for potential problems with your snowmobile may lead you to run the engine without a belt. If you choose to do so, your goal is to not raise your RPMs and keep your machine idle as to avoid the dangers mentioned above. This should not be a regular occurrence but used to maintain your vehicle in the off-season or to diagnose other problems related to the operation. 

Keeping Yourself Safe While Running a Snowmobile

Whenever you are working on a snowmobile, especially if running with either component missing, you should take the necessary precautions to keep yourself safe. You should be practicing these safety measures: 

Riding On Snowmobile1
  • Wear protective equipment: You will especially want to make sure you are wearing protective eye equipment and gloves. Covering your skin is preferred as you decrease your risks of abrasions and lacerations. 
  • Body positioning: Given the risks associated with components being launched from the snowmobile, minimize contact with those areas (clutch and engine) by standing in areas that are not in the ‘launch zone.’ 
  • General safety: Snowmobile repair protocol should be similar to that of an automobile, which includes using designated tools, keeping a clean environment, being aware of your surroundings, and having emergency kits on hand in the event of an accident. 
  • Properly replace belt: Make sure when you do put the belt back on the snowmobile that it is done correctly. This means that your clutch alignment must be set, and the belt must be placed on the sheaves. You should be checking the belt regularly for damage and correct placement. Noises may suggest something is off. 

While we do not recommend making it a regular habit of running your snowmobile without a can or a belt, these can be done safely if you follow the proper protocol of not engaging accessory elements to the engine or you do not mind performance and noise-related changes in the case of cans. 

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