April 20, 2020

How Far Can A Snowmobile Go On A Tank of Gas?

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Let’s plan a wonderful weekend of snowmobile fun in the mountains with your buddies. Snow camping, hard-riding, and campfires, coupled with 250 miles of trails through the open wilderness. You are going to need a fuel stop or two at some point, but how do you figure out where?

No snowmobile has the maximum amount of miles it can get on a tank and doesn’t have a sticker that says, “how far can a snowmobile go on a tank of gas?” Every sled has different fuel consumption and tank sizes. When planning a group adventure, determine the amount of fuel used by the worst sled in the bunch.

There is no set formula, and each sled performs differently based on riding style and conditions, so we can’t say How Far Can A Snowmobile Go On A Tank of Gas but we do recommend that you aim to have a fuel stop every 70 miles for long trips.

That might cause a bit of embarrassment for Bob and his 15-year-old sled, but like any team, you are only as strong as your weakest link. 

How Far Can A Snowmobile Go On A Tank of Gas?

It takes a lot to consider about how far a snowmobile can go on one tank of gas. It really depends on tank size, riding style, age, maintenance, and on and on. The best way to determine for your specific model and riding style is to just go out and test it one day by going until the fuel tank runs out. Be sure to be close too a refuel tank, or bring a gas can with you so you don't end up stuck without any way to get fuel other than walking.

Average Size of a Snowmobile Fuel Tank

Tank sizes vary widely from machine to machine. Looking at some of the most popular models currently on the market reveals tank sizes ranging from 9.5 gallons (36 liters) to 12 gallons (45 liters). Averaging ten random machines gives an approximate size of 10.5 gallons (39.75 liters).

Pro Tip:  When trying to figure out fueling stops, use the smallest tank size for your calculations. Remember, the weakest link reigns supreme. 

Determining the total miles you can travel on a tank of fuel is another exercise because all sleds burn fuel differently. The type of riding will also play a factor. Riding full-throttle will burn more fuel than a leisurely, scenic pace.

In a random survey of several machines conducted by SnowGoer, mileage ranged from 10.25 mpg to 16.55 mpg. Overall average from most sleds will range in the 10 – 12 mpg area.  A 4-stroke engine tends to get higher mileage because a 2-stroke always expels a bit of un-combusted fuel with each exhaust stroke. 

Most sleds will average from 10 to 20 miles per gallon (mpg) depending on the above factors and the riding conditions. For planning purposes, use the lowest average tank size and 10 mpg to calculate your fuel stops. You also don’t want your tanks to get lower than the quarter tank mark.   

Based on that, your figures will be for about 7 gallons of fuel at 10 mpg, meaning you will need fuel stops added approximately every 70 miles to keep everyone running smoothly. 

If your group is towing a sled trailer with your gear and food, that is going to add to fuel consumption. 

How to Improve Snowmobile Mileage

You’re ready to go. You have your fuel stops planned based on Bob’s archaic sled and its inferior performance (sorry Bob). There are a few things you can do to increase the overall performance of your snowmobiles. 

Evaluate the conditions you are riding in. Different snow conditions create a different workload on the engine, meaning there could be wide variances in mileage figures. 

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Pro Tip:  If you have a trailer to haul your gear, don’t attach it to Bob’s sled because the trailer will decrease mileage potential. It should be hauled by a sled that gets higher mileage. 

  • Regular maintenance and pre-ride equipment checks are essential. Maintaining your snowmobile by starting each season with an oil change and fresh fuel in the tank is a great start. Check and clean the spark plugs at least once per season.  
  • Oil should be checked at each fuel stop and topped off as necessary. Make sure all fluid caps are installed correctly and snug. If you are running a 2-stroke engine, make sure that you are using the correct fuel/oil mixture in your tank.
  • Check wiring for sensors, lights, and safety switches. This may not really make a difference in your fuel mileage, but safety switches can prevent a lot of problems. 
  • Ride at a steady pace. Quick accelerations and riding full throttle will decrease your mileage. Use a steady hand on the throttle when starting from a stop or accelerating to assault a hill.

Octane Boosters – Yay or Nay?

Many people swear by octane boosters, but are they really effective in increasing your mileage? The short answer is yes, at least for 4-stroke engines. The jury will remain forever deadlocked for 2-stroke operators.

If you aren’t familiar with how an octane booster works, we have a few quick words. An octane booster increases the octane rating of the fuel. They work to improve performance by aiding in the proper ignition of compressed fuel in the piston chamber. 

Fuel stabilizers are not the same thing. Stabilizers are used when you intend to store your machine for more than 30 days. They use chemicals to keep the fuel from breaking down. Gasoline tends to thicken when sitting, so using a stabilizing agent will help it remain viable.

Most snowmobile manufacturers recommend using 91-octane or higher fuel in your sled. With that, is using an octane booster necessary?  Not really. However, it will increase your engine’s performance, horsepower, and mileage.  

Necessary?  No. Helpful?  Yes.

Octane boosters also help to clean fuel lines, injectors, and cylinder walls. This keeps your engine running more efficiently and consistently. The recommendation is to use an octane booster with every fill-up, but that isn’t always possible with your snowmobile. At the very least, you should consider using an octane booster every other fill-up or when forced to use a lower octane-rated fuel. 

Should You Burp Your Snowmobile Tank?

You all know that it is necessary to burp a baby mid-meal so they can finish eating. And you’re sitting there wondering how that relates to your snowmobile. It’s all about squeezing in a few extra drops of fuel.

As you fill your tank, natural air pockets develop and use up some of your available tank space. In order to get a bit more fuel tank, you can “burp” your tank to remove those air pockets. Ensuring that you have as much fuel as possible between fills can make a huge difference on longer trail rides.

To burp your tank, fill almost to the top, but not quite full. Gently bounce the back of your sled a few times to release the trapped air. Be sure not to bounce it violently, as that can cause fuel loss due to splashing. Once you are reasonably sure any excess air is out of the tank, finish topping it off.

Fueling Etiquette

If you do any type of distance riding on your sled, you will need to fill your tank on the go at some point. Knowing a few tips on fueling on-the-go will help.

Gas stations are usually clear of snow, so you will want to look for a path to the pump that has at least a few patches of snow. Try to avoid turns when positioning at the pump. The pavement can and will tear up the edges on your skis, so try to make a straight run into the station to the pump.

Some other quick tips:

  • Always start any adventure with a full tank
  • Never trust the gas gauge 
  • Don’t sit on your sled while fueling 
  • Always pump your own fuel 
  • Use an octane booster if no premium fuel is available

When planning a long trip, it is a good idea to call fueling stops before you leave to make sure they are open. Getting 100 miles into a trip and finding out your planned fueling stop is closed for remodeling can really dampen the mood. 

Getting the Most Out of Your Sled

Operating your snowmobile in a responsible and reasonable manner will incrementally increase your overall mileage. Running at full-throttle will decrease mileage. Keeping those two facts in mind will allow you to get more miles out of every tank of fuel. 

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My Favorite Gear

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

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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.