Why does my Snowmobile Backfire?

What is a backfire, why does it happen to your snowmobile, and how to prevent it

Snowmobiling is one of the many winter attractions for seasonal hobbies. If you are not into high slopes and heavy skis or boards, this is an option. Or maybe you just want a bit of motorized excitement into your life.

Owning or renting a snowmobile may not come cheap. For the aficionados of such winter activities, there is a whole hustle that goes with the thrill of sporting. And when you own a snowmobile, problems are bound to happen. Let’s answer the issue of a backfire when starting your sled.

What is an engine backfire?

A backfire is a small explosion that happens when an engine is running. This happens internally, but it is not uncommon also to witness a small flame.

Backfires occur in internal combustion engines, yet the explosion takes place outside the combustion chamber. The reason for this is an unbalanced amount of fuel and air.

If the mixture of these two components is richer in air, then the ignition fails. The fuel remains unburnt, but it still has to travel out of the system. Inside the system’s exhaustion pipe, the fuel may ignite as a reaction with the hot components.

The same happens when the imbalance is the other way around. If you get a mixture of more fuel and less air, ignition does not happen. Still, the fuel comes out of the machine reacting with the hot environment in the exhaustion.

Another possibility is a backfire produced before the combustion chamber. When you start your engine, the plug holding the spark might fire too soon. This causes combustion that reaches into the intake manifold and fires up the mixture of fuel and air. The explosion caused by these untimed events finds its way out of the carburetor, and there you can have another backfire.

Before or after the combustion chamber – it does not matter. The phenomenon manifests with a loud noise or pop. In common terms, we call such a noise a backfire.

When & why does a backfire occur?

Most often, people describe hearing backfires when starting the engine. However, it can happen when turning off the engine or when slowing down.

There are many reasons for such an event. You are advised to check your engine, exhaustion, plugs, pipes, fuel mixture, etc.

Here are some potential factors that cause backfires:

  • The spark plug(s) might be damaged, overused, dirty, or wet. This prevents the ignition from properly firing. Get new spark plugs (link to Amazon) if you need but make sure they are good!
  • Not allowing your engine to properly shut down. Before completely stopping the snowmobile, give the engine time to reach idle mode. Only then can you turn it off.
  • The fuel quality and ratio. Too much fuel or too much air doesn’t allow proper ignition. Also, additives in the composition of the fuel can cause a fire. Butane is often a reason for such reactions. Check your fuel! Water may also accumulate in the gas.
  • Bad timing. When igniting the fuel, the spark plug can open sooner than expected and unburnt fuel comes out the exhaust pipe, exploding. Improper wiring also is a cause for bad timing.
  • A problematic catalytic converter. When damaged or missing altogether, a converter can cause backfires down the pipe. Check your converters!
  • It is not out of question having a mouse or small creature live inside your exhaustion system. Check it out by undoing the exhaust pipe from the head pipe and getting a good look!
  • When all else failed, take your snowmobile to “the doctor” for a check-up. It could be trouble with the coils or other components.

In any case, a backfire, regardless of what caused it, signals a malfunction of the system. Ignoring the situation will not make it go away and, in the long run, it can cause more damage.

Do backfires harm the engine?

As mentioned, a backfire rarely is a cause for no concern. Unless it is the desired effect like in custom-built racecars, it means something doesn’t function well.

When a component is faulty, the fuel cannot burn entirely. This has undesirable effects over time. If the bad combustion happens inside the exhaustion system, the pipes and converters will suffer progressive damage. At the same time, if the explosion is strong, some other component may crack.

The bottom line is that it all depends on what caused the backfire and how strong it is. Your snowmobile may be in trouble, or it could survive to see another one.

Tips on how to prevent backfires

There are things you can consider to keep your snowmobile from backfiring. First and foremost: maintenance.

  • Do regular check-ups and keep the machine up to date. Most manuals that come with a vehicle have a set of caring tips.
  • Keep the exhaust clean at all times. A dirty or clogged exhaust system will enhance the effects of faulty combustion.
  • Keep a healthy catalytic converter. When this piece is compromised, backfiring can happen in the exhaustion.
  • Make sure your spark plugs are clean and in mint condition. Maybe you don’t want to be that old fellow that keeps poking on their toy. Yet, good sense and cleanliness can help prevention.
  • Ensure airflow through the system is good. The valves and sensors should be working properly. If too much air reaches the fuel, the imbalance will cause backfires.

A healthy body makes for a strong and reliable individual. The same applies to machines like the snowmobile. They are powerful vehicles with an ability for thrilling experiences. Speed and challenging terrain make snowmobiling an exciting hobby and activity.

Short intro to snowmobiles

We found a cool name for it, but the truth is that a snowmobile is a motorized sled. It is how grown-ups cope with missing childhood and winter play. Thus, adults have their own fun in the snow in a slightly more speedy way than childhood.

Also known as a motor sled/sledge or snowmachine, it has been created for driving on snow or ice. There is no need to follow a road or trail; you can drive one over any type of terrain, with snow of course. For many, this is far more convenient than skiing at resorts or the weight of carrying a snowboard or skis uphill.

Originally, snowmobiles were designed with two-stroke engines and kept simple. Nowadays, the most common machines have either a two- or four-stroke engine on them. To keep up with new trends and advances, electrical sleds are coming up in the market.

A strong quality of these vehicles is their ability to reach remote places. With a mountain snowmobile, rescue interventions, for example, are much easier.


However, poor maintenance or lack of it will lead your snowmobile to give up. Remember that backfires might signal damage or malfunction. Keep your hands dirty and your snowmobile healthy!

Check out our recommended gear page for some tips.

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