Snowmobile Wheel Kit

Post by blogger | November 5, 2008      

Time to rally! We’ll, not quite… Snowmobiles can ride pavement better than most people realize. But without a wheel kit on your skis your sled will steer like a barge. Worse, riding pavement will flatten the skegs (AKA carbides) under the skis, and without those your steering on snow will be as bad as on pavement.

If you live and snowmobile in a place where you never have to ride without snow, then good for you. Here in Colorado we get to do plenty of dry running, especially in the spring on roads such as Maroon Creek for access to the Elk Mountains. Thus, a wheel kit comes in handy.

Backcountry Skiing

Modified wheel kit installed on Yamaha Nytro

Last spring I got a wheel kit from Sure Grip. Their dollies worked well for short jaunts from garage to trailer, but on rougher ground they tended to flip up sideways off the skis, and the system of cables holding them wore into our aluminum suspension components, and were too slack to secure the dolly from sliding forward and backward in a way that let the ski tilt to the ground and catch on things. So I welded an extension on each side of the dollies so the ski slot is taller, then rigged it so the assembly is held by a rubber sleeved rod that inserts through the suspension component. It takes a couple more minutes longer to install our modified dollies, but they’re solid and reliable on rougher ground.

We’re still using the solid rubber wheels of the Sure Grip, which are not rated for long distance or speeds over 5mph, but they seem to hold up fine if we keep things mellow. Even so, I could see upgrading this system with better wheels and bearings. Or building something from scratch.

Meanwhile, it snowed last night here in Carbondale, and the high country looks caked. Off we go!


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17 Responses to “Snowmobile Wheel Kit”

  1. Randonnee November 5th, 2008 11:42 am

    My experience last spring with Sure Grip Dollies is that they are great on pavement, and smooth gravel, and it seems to be OK when going from snow patch to snow patch for cooling of the machine and running gear. However, I admittedly have trouble taking it easy on machinery. Last May I finally pushed to the limit with about 5 miles dry road with steep grade and increasingly rough rocks. One Dollie finally fell apart. I was also concerned about abusing the moving parts of my track on dry dirt, worsened on the steep grade.. My Tundra certainly has the low-gearing to do this, but It seems to be hard as far as dirt in the machinery and overheating the engine.

    After this experience, I have had extended thought and some research of tracked ATVs which are legal in my favorite area. The $12k price of a tracked ATV is more than I want to invest when I can just walk a few extra hours or go elsewhere. At least for now. in the future, if my close stashes are overrun by the ski-touring hordes I may have to reconsider.

    Admittedly, my use of a snowmobile for access allows me to ski tour and still be home for dinner and evening time with my family.

    Yeah, the Wenatchee Mountains got a few inches of snow recently, hooray, it is coming!

  2. Lou November 5th, 2008 12:01 pm

    I got rid of all the bolts and welded everything together, but I can still see the limits of these things for long distance or rougher terrain. They need a better axle and tire, for starters.

  3. Randonnee November 5th, 2008 12:08 pm

    Yeah, I looked at various wheels in an Industrial Supply Catalog. There are plenty of good wheel options. My hesitation to fabricating something better is the wear and tear on the machine on longer and rougher trips off of snow. Perhaps the limitations of the Dollies limit the abuse?

  4. Lou November 5th, 2008 12:38 pm

    Yeah, our 4-stroke Nytro can only go so far off snow without overheating. I rigged up a water bag that sprays water on the heat exchanger for the longer trips that involve long dry sections. What a pain. Makes me want my old sled that was much less sensitive. Mech says he can install another heat exchanger as he does on many performance sleds, but doing so is expensive and ads weight.

  5. Matthew Berglund November 5th, 2008 4:46 pm

    Interesting post Lou. I would like to see a pic of the water bag sprayer. That sounds pretty interesting. I usually pack snow on the rear of the tunnel over the cooler on my sled.

    Ive kinda been looking into a fan-cooled beater sled to have in these situations as opposed to liquid cooled. This would solve some of the cooler problems; one problem still being cooling/lubricating the hi-fax which can melt very quick if not cooled/lubricated.

    In this Canadian movie I saw (Trailer Park Boys) two guys ride around on an old fan cooled ski-doo with wheelbarrow tires on the front end. Maybe you could rig up something like that with your welding skills?

  6. Lou November 5th, 2008 4:58 pm

    Matthew, the water bag cooler is no big deal, just a sun shower I sling over the handlebars, and route a plastic tube to a hole I drilled over the heat exchanger. Some of the water gets on the hi-fax (glide rails) but not enough. I’ve found that packing some snow in the tunnel is enough to keep the glides lubed but not enough to provide cooling. I did get ice scratchers installed last winter so when I’m on snow I’m doing okay, it’s just when we’re on dry ground that the problems come up.

    My old Yamaha Enticer charged through all that without a whimper. Funny how thing can get better in some ways but worse in others.

  7. John Gloor November 5th, 2008 9:23 pm

    Has anyone had any experience with Retrax or skiwheelz? I looked online at both products last spring after I got tired of grinding my skiis down. I wore completely through one wear bar and had to get new skiis. The products are retractable wheels which are rated up to 30 kph I think. They are only good on pavement, but thats ok since a little muddy dirt road isn’t very hard on the sled.
    As far as hifax lubing goes, I have gone as far as greasing the slides when the first mile or two has intermittent snow. I do not know if it really helped though. My real problem is overheating. I bought ice scratchers at the end of last season and I bought a radiator for cheap of of Ebay. I’m not sure putting the radiator in the engine space is as effective as added heat exchangers so I have not installed it yet. Any opinions?

  8. Lou November 5th, 2008 9:35 pm

    John, Louie and I looked at those retractable wheels and they not only were too small to roll over rough stuff, but they looked geeky on something like the Nytro so we couldn’t make ourselves do it. Also, they seemed like they’d cause drag while bustin’ pow. it seems to me that a small radiator with a fan might really make a difference. The heat exchanger isn’t going to do much unless it’s got snow or water spraying on it, as it’s not designed for heat transfer via air flow. The guys down here at Colorado Sledstyle, specifically Carson, know all about this stuff. They’re gurus. Nice to have that resource here. Carson has already worked on our Nytro several times.

  9. John Gloor November 5th, 2008 10:45 pm

    Lou, thanks for you opinion on those products, and its good to see pride in one’s machine! I share you opinion. Looking at the sure Grip dollies, If the distance between the axles was about 12-16 inches they would be much more stable and you would have ability to have two or more attachment points to the ski and not the aluminum strut. the hard part would be modifying a single sided axle dolly into a longer wheel base. I think I’ll spend the night looking at bigger wheels online.
    On another note, What is the vehicle for Montezuma in the next few days? RMK or chained up 4runner?

  10. John Gloor November 6th, 2008 12:16 am

    I have another idea. Instead of adapting wheels to your good sled skis, why not run $15 dollar old metal skis with wheels welded on. There is only a short window where we drive up pavement., and during that time powder performance is not required. Ebay, here I come

  11. Lou November 6th, 2008 7:32 am

    John, I tried leaving the wheels on for a short section of hard snow. They still dug in so much that it would have broken something if I’d tried to keep going. The best solution is probably a tracked ATV, but that’s so pricy and so limited in use as to be way way out of my financial scope. A regular ATV with fat tires can work during spring as well, but tends to have trouble when the trail softens in the afternoon, and makes ruts that piss off other users.

  12. DALE March 16th, 2009 5:21 pm

    lou did the bolts you ran through the susspension do any damage to the spindel? and would you see there being a problem with doing so if you ran long and hard on rough terrian? what size bolt did you use? Approx.. how many miles or how long have you been using your modified model? THANKS!!!

  13. Lou March 16th, 2009 6:03 pm

    Dale, the bolts are sleeved with fuel tubing to protect the aluminum suspension parts., I think they’re 5/8 inch but might be 3/4. In terms of damage, the stupid cable that the wheel kits come with completely hacked up my suspension, the bolts have done no damage so far. I don’t use this rig for much distance, I try to be careful about that. And they only work on pavement.

  14. Jesse April 14th, 2010 9:22 am


    The best pick in my mind and from 3 years of intense usage is the ROLLERSKI. Their system is different and powerful, furthermore, didn’t cause any side shifting or torsion on my ski. Anotherpoint, the position of the wheel is perfectly aligned with the suspension pressure point, so it’s not leading to any freakin’ wear. find them at

  15. Jeff November 14th, 2011 7:27 pm

    I have used the Skiwheelz from Rouski for 4 seasons on a Venture TF 1000 four stroke with plenty of weight on the skis. They held up excellent and I used them on dry pavement up to 80 kmh for short duration. They don’t steer real sharp but were more handy to have than not. The wheels held up good to gravel and frozen slob ice, if used with a little care they are excellent, no noticeable snow turbulence from them at all. Keep in my the sled I had them on was no boondocker. I will be getting a set for my new renegade, they really didn’t look odd or take away from the look of my Yamaha. I have no concern with something if it’s practicality outweighs it’s negative cosmetic appeal, to a certain extent anyway. The wheels were easy to install and perfect for garaging each night, I still use dollies for long term and easy maneuvering around the shop.

  16. Lou November 14th, 2011 7:42 pm

    Jeff, the wheel kits that are attached to the ski look really good. If we keep the Nytro I’m definitely installing one on it for spring. The wheels above are just for moving around the shop or short distances on pavement.

  17. Ian March 27th, 2013 8:08 pm

    With the Skiwheelz from Rouski has anyone experienced a problem with the spring that holds the wheel in the up position fail? It happened to me last weekend when the I engaged them across a power dam concrete path and when I went to disengage the wheel would not stay up, so I had to bungee it to the front suspension and was not able to use it for the rest of the ride. How do I fix it?

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