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Thread: Buying a used machine - what to look for?

  1. #1
    Member Bullelkklr's Avatar
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    Default Buying a used machine - what to look for?

    I am sno-machine clueless, semi-mechanically inclined (built my harley from swap meet parts), and the snow is making me itch for some winter fun.

    What are some things that I should look for when buying a used sno-machine?

    How many miles are too many?

    I have seen some sleds in my price range (under 2K) that look to be in decent shape, but am nervous about breaking down and freezing to death!

    I know that there are no guarantees as I have talked to people with new sleds that break down - and I recently bought a new vehicle that has been in the shop more than in my garage...

    any help is appreciated.

  2. #2
    Member Xanfly's Avatar
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    One of the things I think is key is not so much how many miles but what type of miles.

    I bought a 2000 Polaris in 2005. Biggest selling point to me, it was a one owner machine and the guy used it twice a year, always to the same place. No hard riding, no jumping or any thing abusive to the machine. It's been a good maching for 3 years now.

    Also what type of riding do you plan on doing?

  3. #3
    Moderator AKmud's Avatar
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    Don't buy any machine that -


    - is sold by a teenager
    - has stickers of naked women, "slednecks", "skin", "Turnagain Hardcore", etc... on it
    - is severely modified
    - runs on race gas

    I'm sure there are more generalities, but these are a start .

    Look the machine over closely for cracks, abnormal wear marks, torn lugs on the track, broken driver teeth, filings in the gear oil (a small amount on the magnet is normal), smooth clutch faces, evidence of overheating (melted plastic, burned insulation), leaking brake fluid, condition of cables (throttle and choke), thickness/straightness of the hifax (worn hifax will look "wavy").

    Those are the major components I would look at. There are a ton of things to look over though. Back to my first list though, avoid the majorly modified sleds, they are a pain.
    AKmud
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    Member Bullelkklr's Avatar
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    Default riding

    I will mostly be trail riding - and I think that the first machine that we want will be a 2-up sled for strictly trails.....then after we see what we like, we can get a second sled that is a little quicker. I have a little experience riding sno-machines and know that if I have one that will climb - that I WILL hurt myself

    What is a hifax? Guess that I should spend some time talking to some friends and googling this!

  5. #5
    Moderator AKmud's Avatar
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    Hifax is the (usually white) teflon like material that is on the skid rails. If it is worn, it is a bargaining tool even though it isn't very expensive or hard to change out.
    AKmud
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    The porcupine is a peacful animal yet God still thought it necessary to give him quills....

  6. #6

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    As with any vehicle, concentrate your search around South Anchorage and the Anchorage Hillside. Seems like these people change out vehicles and equipment real often and rarely abuse them often times garage them for storage. Most are not real aggressive riders. DO NOT buy one out in the valley, Wasilla, Palmer, Houston, Talkeetna, etc. Most of these machines have been rode hard and put away wet. Most have never seen the inside of a garage, even to dry out. Try to find one that has under 3K miles, as I figure then it still has half life left in it.
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    Member Bullelkklr's Avatar
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    Default thanks

    so - some sleds get 6k miles...that is quite a bit.

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    I have friends who have 20K + miles on Polaris widetracks. Another has 15K + on a mid 90's Summit. Still going strong. 6K miles is nothing to be concerned with if a sled has been maintained.

    I can tell is a sled is somebody's sweetheart or if they've been bashing alders and hitting trees. I can't tell you what to look for, though. It isn't any different than any other motor vehicle. A well cared for high-miler is better than a trashed low-miler. Look for a machine that got somebody's love.

    Some guys disconnect their odometers. I used to do it. Buyer beware.

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bullelkklr View Post
    so - some sleds get 6k miles...that is quite a bit.
    That is what I think you should expect to get, before you have to start doing lots of piddly things, like clutch replacement, crankcase seals, chasis and drivetrain bearings. etc. After 9,000 miles, I think you could expect to start replacing pistons and rings, total undercarriage overhaul, clutch repair/replacement and electrical wiring connections failing due to vibration. It would also not be unreasonable to think at that mileage, there could be some significant wear on the transmission or chaincase components, especially if they have reverse. A novice rider, using reverse can damage them quickly.
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    Member moose-head's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Akres View Post
    ...significant wear on the transmission or chaincase components, especially if they have reverse. A novice rider, using reverse can damage them quickly.
    I had never thought about that before, that does make sense though.

  11. #11
    Member Rod in Wasilla's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Akres View Post
    DO NOT buy one out in the valley, Wasilla, Palmer, Houston, Talkeetna, etc. Most of these machines have been rode hard and put away wet. Most have never seen the inside of a garage, even to dry out.
    That's got to be one of the stupidest things I've ever read on here. And I've read a LOT of stupid things on here over the years. Thank you for offending everyone in the Valley. My machines spend plenty of time in my heated shop and are very well maintained thank you very much. And, I know of plenty of people in Anchorage that neglect their sleds. Unbelievable.

    OK. Enough of that.

    In order to find a really good deal on a used sled (barring blind luck) you really need to get familiar with the various problems that can occur with sleds and look for signs of both neglect and damage when you're shopping.

    Newer technology is head and shoulders above old tech, but it comes with a bigger price tag. So, be prepared to make some sacrifices in that area. To find a good sled for your sub-$2000 budget, you're probably looking at a mid- to late-90's model sled in the 700 to 800 cc range, or an early-2000's model 500 to 600. If someone is trying to sell an '04 MXZX 800 for $2K, be cautious. There's typically a reason(s) for dumping such a sled so cheaply. And you probably don't want to be dealing with those reasons n the middle of the riding season.

    Fan cooled sleds are typically cheaper than liquid cooled sleds. The liqiuds will have more available power, but the fanners usually have plenty of power for trail running. Just don't expect 'em to win many drag races. Also, I believe that adult-ridden fanners are usually ridden less aggressively than the liquids, and as such have fewer problems.

    Longer tracks provide more floatation, which is especially important when travelling off trail (trust me, you will venture off trail at some point). Of course, longer tracks are typically more expensive than the shorties. This shouldn't be a real issue with a 2-up sled, as they're usually in the 136 inch range for track length, a good all-around length.

    Don't be afraid to take a compression tester with you when you look at a prospective purchase. Anything below about 130, or cylinders more than 10 pounds apart would make me pause. If the owner won't let you test something as basic as compression, walk away.

    Cracked hoods may indicate a more aggressive rider. Cracked windshields may indicate an owner who is unwilling to spend money on basic maintenance. Small tears in the seats are common on older sleds, but wet seat foam is uncomfortable to ride on.

    There are many things on a sled that just wear out over time. These things aren't necessarily indicative of abuse, but will end up making the sled more expensive than you initially thought. Check for worn hifax, leaking shocks, worn wheel bearings, worn carbides and wearbars. Check the condition of the track, specifically looking for cracked or missing lugs and any tears in the main track itself. Although none of these things are necessarily deal breakers by themselves, together they can add up.

    Does the tunnel look bent? Bent running boards may indicate a sled that's been abused, or that the rider was very heavy. Any other warpage in the tunnel may indicate that the sled's been wrecked.

    Check for poor alignment or play in the front end. Poor alignment can mean excessive wear or damage to steering parts or frame. Excessive play may indicate neglect and lack of maintenance.

    Tell the owner that you want to start the sled cold. A worn out motor will be harder to cold start than a motor in good condition. If the sled has been warmed up when you get there, schedule a time to come back later. A cold motor should start easy and idle well, although you will probably need to use the choke or primer depending on conditions.

    After the engine has warmed for a few minutes, and with the track held securely off the ground, slowly rev the motor until clutch engages. Listen for any odd noises from both the clutches and the chaincase and track: clunks, scraping, grinding, rattles, chatters, clicking, etc. (Some clicking is normal with a clipped track) The track should spin fairly smoothly, without binding or lurching. Apply the brakes, watching and listening for the same things.

    Once the engine is warm, and if snow conditions allow it, drive the sled. Take particular notice of any bogging or misfiring. Does the sled accelerate smoothly, or is the clutching erratic? Is the power what you expected? Note the ride characteristics. Does it bottom out easily? Does it dart back and forth? Is it comfortable for both you and your passenger?

    After the sled has been driven for a while and is fully warmed, shut it off and restart it. Again, it should start easily and idle smoothly. This time without using the choke or primer.

    Wow. This got long. But the bottom line is, there are plenty of sleds out there for sale. Not all of them are good deals. In fact, some of them could qualify as outright scams. Take your time. Don't buy the first sled you see that happens to fall into your price range. Get a friend to go with you on inspections, and make sure that your friend will try and talk you out of a less than acceptable purchase. Get familiar enough with what you're looking at to recognize both good and bad deals. Patience is your friend here.

    Oh. And if I haven't overwhelmed you yet, here's a link to a pretty good buyer's checklist.

    http://users.metro2000.net/~rmmc/usedguide.html

    Good luck.
    Quote Originally Posted by northwestalska
    ... you canít tell stories about the adventures you wished you had done!

  12. #12

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    Yes, Rod has a point about checking compressions and if the machine idles smooth when engine is hot and if it starts well when engine is hot. Also if sled is 2 stroke and has more than 2k I would ask if he ever replaced pistons or have he done anything on the engine like over haul.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Akres View Post
    DO NOT buy one out in the valley, Wasilla, Palmer, Houston, Talkeetna, etc. Most of these machines have been rode hard and put away wet. Most have never seen the inside of a garage, even to dry out.
    WOW!? I don't think that location has anything to do with "garage time". Me and everybody I ride with keep their sleds in a garage all year!

  14. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by snoriderak View Post
    WOW!? I don't think that location has anything to do with "garage time". Me and everybody I ride with keep their sleds in a garage all year!
    Me too, but I think we are the exception, and not the majority. Most of the sleds owned by guys and gals that can ride out of their backyard, get a pretty good workout. It has been my experience that the majority of vehicles, all vehicles including snowmachines and atv's get treated better and ridden less, by those living in South Anchorage and the Hillside. I have looked over a lot of machines and know how difficult it is to find a decent machine in the valley and beyond. Way easier and more productive to look in the concentrated areas of population. I can drive around and see sleds of every sort laying around in the yards of valley folks. What I cannot see are those like you and I who keep them inside, nice and dry. Again, I think we are the exceptions and not the preponderance. I have bought and helped look at a whole lot of snowmachines, and this has been my experience. Yours might be different.
    "96% of all Internet Quotes are suspect and the remaining 4% are fiction."
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  15. #15
    Moderator bkmail's Avatar
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    Default The valley is fine...

    Our equipment is in excellent shape, very well taken care of, always garaged, and we live in the valley. After all, we depend on this equipment to get us home and it must be cared for.
    BK

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