Total Newbie - Questions!
First off let me explain something: I moved from Texas to Alaska this past Febuary and originally planned on leaving by October before I froze my behind off! Now I've postponed my plans for at least another year or two (yeah, I know this state grows on ya!).
I didn't see a FAQ on this forum, for newbies like me who want a quick learning curve on riding in this state.
I'm eye-balling Craigslist and Alaskaslist at the 1200-1500 dollar machines, with around 3,000 miles (and under).
I take it that over 4k miles a machine has some serious wear and tear, depending if it was ridden hard or not?
How would I go about visually inspecting one before purchase?
Do I need to register it? If so what are the costs?
Is there a minimal amount of snow on the ground one must meet before riding upon it, per city rules?
Can I cross traffic in it as a "pedestrian," legally without fearing looking like a "weirdo" out in the middle of traffic? (Yes, I know of the 4 wheeler paths alongside the road but some are so deep and dilapidated it could ruin one if not crept over.)
I'd like to use one for mostly ice-fishing Wasilla Lake and maybe for cruising the Little Su. Or, perhaps, just getting out of the house to take great pictures of the Alaskan winter snowfalls for family back in the lower 48.
What kind of fuel does it use? Gas? Two cycle oil?
Mind ya, I worked for years as a backyard mechanic and know cars very well, as I repaired, rebuilt and repainted dozens of 'em for resale. So I guess you can say I'm mechanically inclined. And as such (being mechanically inclined) I don't want to spend more than 1500 on my first machine when learning the ins-and-outs of 'em.
Most snowmachines use regular gas and it has a seperate oil tank for two-cycle oil. It either mixes the oil before it enters the carb or some injects the oil directly into the intake.
Originally Posted by Crab_n_fish
If you are just going to putt around not too far from civilization, an older machine would be great. I'm partial to early 90's Polaris. I have a '92 500 Indy. It runs great and has a bit of pep to it. I'm not sure how many miles make it high mileage. It is easy to find a machine that is older but has very little wear on it. Especially around Anchorage because they don't have the trails out their backyards like we do out in the valley.
As for the legality of riding on the roads and pedestrian trails...keep in mind I'm not a "real" cop...but as long as you are not being an idiot...nobody will really mess with you much in Wasilla. I'm not sure if there is a statewide amount of snow before you go but there are some areas that require a certain amount of snow. Willow, Nancy Lake Recreation area, I think the Little Sue too maybe. Just be aware that if there isn't a good base you will tear up the trails and your snowmachine. It is not good to get dirt up in your tracks.
As for the mechanic part...half the fun to me, is working on stuff. That's why I don't mind having an older machine. I just don't travel too far away from civilization and I always have my spot.
I know I flaked out on fishing but if the day is right I might be able to go looking with you. I am looking for another machine too.
The heart and soul of any snowmachine are the clutches. They need to be kept clean and balanced so your machine will optimize the HP put out by your motor.
Buy a long tracked mountain sled as they are the most versatile for Alaska. It's addictive and the more you ride the more the deep snow and backcountry beckons. Early 2000's Polaris RMK, Skidoo Rev, Arctic Cat M series are all capable machines and can be found in good shape for 3-4K...a little out of what you're looking to spend, but you'll get a whole lot more machine.
When checking out used machine inspect the clutches first. Remove the belt (have the owner show you how). Look for pitting on the sheaves and a build up of belt dust (looks like brake dust) in the primary (front) clutch.
Check out the engine compartment. Does it look like it was cleaned regularly? Is there dirt and oil residue streaked everywhere? Rust? (some on the exhaust is normal).
Inspect the rear skid and track. Look for (excessive) torn or missing lugs, missing clips, worn hyfax(plastic wear strip on the bottom of each rail), loose or missing bolts. Check the rear shocks for settling--get on then off machine and see if shocks rebound.
Inspect the steering for slop and front suspension for damage--cracks, bends, kinks, overworn bolt holes, broken or missing grease zerks. Check the skis for cracks especially around the attachment point (saddle). If front end is out of adjustment that's easily fixed but replacing parts can get expensive.
Start the machine, it should idle smoothly. Ask the owner for some means of propping up the rear end and roll on the power. You're checking for engagement RPM most sleds it's around 3200-3500 RPM andthing over 4000 is excessive. Have the owner spin the track while you get down and eyeball the track sag. It should be about 2" while spinning. The you run the throttle. You're checking for response and smoothness. If you feel a throb or thump that speeds up and slows down with the gas then it's most likely a wear spot on the belt.
In general, well cared for is obvious and so is neglect.
Think about coming into Anchorage Sept 25-27 for the Winter Rec show at the Sullivan Arena. The Anchorage Snowmobile Club hosts a sled & gear swap. Lots of used machines and knowledgeable folks to help you out.
Eric...I didn't start the thread...but thanks for the detailed answer. I printed it out for future reference!
Some more stuff to look for with used sleds:
Loose boggie wheels under the track (not a big deal, just needs new bearings)
Stay away from sleds with excessive mods. try to find a bone stock machine.
rips in seat, lots of scratches on the windshield
headlight not working (check low and high beam)
cracks or damage in cowling or the break light (collisions)
bent handlebars (flipped sled)
certain motors you should stay away from: large polaris triples from the early to late 90's (stick with the polaris twins)
Bad chaincase oil (smell it)
if you find a sled that has any of the above mentioned issues or issues that Erik pointed out...let the know seller and make a lower offer based on your findings....they will usually either get pissed off and ask you to leave....or give you a lower price.
MatSu Motor Mushers
Check with the MatSu Motor Mushers, You can get info from most sno-go shops. If you have any doubts about a machine get with someone who rides, it's pretty easy to see how good shape a sled is once you do a little riding. The things I would make sure is ,;engine compression, Jack Shaft bearing , Broken speedo cable (indicts other issues) and if the machine looks like it been taking' care of.
I've had several machines’ that had over 5000 miles on and was still in good shape because they were river miles. But a mountain sled with 2000 miles is probably hammered.
The Mat Su musher has newbie classes, and one last piece of advice....
Always wear a helmet even if you are going 5 mph.
Originally Posted by matjpow
Oh yes you are!