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Can Snowmobiles Go in Reverse? (Mechanical vs. Electronic)

Most snowmobilers are well aware of the functions of their sled. However, some don’t know everything about their snowmobile and what it can do.

Can snowmobiles go in reverse? Most older snowmobiles are unable to reverse; however, newer models are coming out with the reverse function. In addition, you can retrofit reverse parts into older snowmobile models that initially weren’t designed to reverse.

With these new options, you can now do much more with your snowmobile. The new function has given snowmobilers greater capacity to enjoy their sled because of this very convenient use.

Snowmobile Going in Reverse

Mechanical vs. Electronic Reverse

Before you can begin to think about what to get, whether it is to purchase a new snowmobile with a reverse function or to search for the reverse parts to install in your current snowmobile, you should know about the two reverse system types that you can get.

What is Mechanical Reverse?

The mechanical reverse option is exactly as the name implies, it requires mechanical effort to engage the vehicle into reverse mode, typically through pulling a lever. This system has been around for a long time, and most classic or older snowmobiles use this form of reverse. You will also find that most 4-stroke and utility sleds even today continue to have the mechanical system.

How Does Mechanical Reverse Work?

During a mechanical reverse, the gears realign themselves from the forward position, then lock into the new position for the track to spin backward, resulting in reverse movement.

One of the most significant drawbacks to this type of system is that it adds a considerable amount of weight to the sled. Obviously, the greater the weight, the harder the snowmobile will have to work, or the more difficult it will be for you to drive it. For this reason, many prefer the electronic reverse system.

What is Electronic Reverse

The electronic reverse system is also referred to as RER (Rotax Electronic Reverse) or push-button reverse. This came about in the 1990s and became so popular in the 2000s that more snowmobile vehicles began having built-in electronic reverse.

How Does Electronic Reverse Work?

The electronic reverse is much easier than the mechanical reverse. With just a press of the button, the engine slows down to a near stop, then slowly starts up again to begins rotating backward to reverse.

There is also another electronic reverse version called the PERC. A different manufacturer or company released it, but it does pretty much the same thing as the RER. With these releases, almost every person with a snowmobile that didn’t have a reverse function jumped on this new ability and purchased the parts that they could install into their sled.

What Is PERC Reverse?

Man Riding Snowmobile

The PERC does the same thing as the RER, but the motor instead stops and restarts to go in reverse. With both the RER and PERC, pressing the button the second time will return the engine or motor into the forward position in their similar and respective patterns.

These new methods of reversing make it much more convenient for drivers to change directions without having to hop off their sled and manually lift their snowmobile into the right position. Although handles are available on sleds both at the front and the back for easy lifting, it was still a hassle for many drivers to do the heavy lifting.

Why Does My Sled Die When I Put It into Reverse?

An important thing to remember about both reverse methods is that you should be at a low RPM (around 1500 is best) before you press the button; otherwise, it would be unsuccessful or unresponsive. In some circumstances, the engine might need to warm up a little before it can switch successfully to reverse.

For you to know if you’re sled is ready to move in reverse, the reverse light should glow or flash on the dashboard. Some upgraded models have an audible back-up sound that accompanies the light.

The Benefits of the Reverse Function

Snowmobile Reverse

When you have a large vehicle in your yard or garage, you sometimes can’t help but think about a means to move or transport it around easily. So, having a reverse function can open up many new possibilities that were once not possible for snowmobiles.

Here are some of those possibilities:

  • Convenient Parking – For those with snowmobiles that didn’t have reverse, it was common to park their vehicle with the front-facing outwards. This way, it would be easy to drive out of their garage or parking space without having to pull the sled backward or into a front-facing position before driving away. With reverse, you can park however way you want without having to worry about the struggle of getting it out the next day or the thought that you have to park it in a particular position.
  • Easy Loading – If you transport your snowmobile often, then you would certainly understand the amount of effort it would take to get your sled up and down the trailer (View on Amazon). Similar to the parking method, with the reverse function, you can reverse out of the trailer just as easily as you drove it into it. This method beats having to pull it out by hand, initially. Alternatively, you can use a dolly (View on Amazon) to help transport your snowmobile.
  • Course Correction – It’s widespread for snowmobiles to get stuck in snow or for drivers to make a wrong turn. Because this is so common, all snowmobiles have lifting handles on the front and the back of the vehicle. Despite how heavy snowmobiles look, it’s not as hard as you might think to turn it into a different direction quickly or to drag it onto a better path.

Of course, with reverse, these become even easier with a press of a button or pull of a lever. Drivers will no longer need to hop out to make these changes, and this is especially useful if you have children tagging along with you as it will also save time.

With these great benefits, it is worth upgrading your vehicle to have the reverse system. However, you may want the upgrade to come, either by buying a new snowmobile or getting the parts. What form it may be in, mechanical or electronic, the benefits will still produce efficient results.

Can a Snowmobile Reverse While Going Downhill?

Another significant factor about having reverse on your snowmobile, one that many snowmobilers love about this feature, is that you can activate the reverse function while going down a hill to help your sled slow down.

It is common to get out of control while descending a hill, even for experienced drivers, so this function has proven to be very useful for many who like to go hill climbing or who live in hilly areas.

What Do Idler Wheels Do on a Snowmobile?

Idler wheels are small wheels inside the track that allow the track to spread evenly and over a larger surface area, thus giving your track better as well as more extended traction. Also, they provide suspension for your track.

Before the reverse function, for drivers to slow down on a decent or to completely stop, they would slide the back end of the sled toward the front. So, the idler wheels help to make this possible. Now, with the reverse approach, you instead dig your track into the snow as you turn the throttle without sliding.

You can also use this method to stop in place while on a slope. This becomes a beneficial ability if you’re out there to enjoy the beautiful mountainous scenery or to take photos or videos of the view.

What Are Some Cautions of Reversing Downhill?

While it is useful and mostly safe to use this feature down a slope, there are some things you should be aware of.

  • Make sure the brake is locked up before switching into reverse. This will reduce the damage to your belt from automatically going forward as you go down with it in reverse mode.
  • Make sure to switch to reverse when you’re in low RPM. Otherwise, it may stall, and that can become very dangerous while descending. Also, always keep your hand on the throttle to be ready.
  • Make sure not to use this method frequently. Despite its effectiveness, this reverse function was not meant for this use as using it puts a lot of strain on your snowmobile, such as on the chaincase, clutches, etc.

Final Words

Now you know that snowmobiles can go in reverse. You also know the two different types of reverse functions that can come with your new snowmobile or that you can install on your old one. Having beneficial knowledge of this great feature and what you can do with it can allow you to enjoy snowmobiling more and spend less time worrying.