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What Causes Snowmobile Darting? (How to Fix)

Snowmobile darting can be frustrating. Many riders experience it and sometimes don’t understand why it’s happening, or how to avoid it.

What causes snowmobile darting? Darting is when the sled skis go into ruts or other tracks on the trail while riding. It’s often caused by the suspension settings, a worn out wear bar, or damaged carbides. Fortunately, there are ways to prevent it.

Here’s a list of possible issues that may cause your snowmobile to dart and tips on how to fix them.


1. Pressure on the Skis

The reason why your snowmobile is darting may be from your suspension. Darting can happen when there is too much pressure on the skis. The runners will snap and “dart” at any chance. You can modify your snowmobile’s suspension so that the pressure in the ski will be alleviated. Adjusting the rear suspension will also help decrease the pressure.

Increasing the preload on the center shock of the rear skid can also do the trick. Extending the limiter strap on the rear suspension can be an option, too, if you want to make more adjustments. However, make sure that you make this adjustment slowly and test the sled in between so that you will be able to determine whether your adjustment is enough or not.

 A good option for streamlining suspension is the KIT-KNUCKLE ASSEMBLY Genuine Polaris OEM ATV (view on Amazon). However, they are only compatible with models like 2009 Sportsman XP 550A09ZN55AL and FRONT and HUB – A09ZN55AL. Keep in mind that suspension modification should be specific for a rider considering their mass, riding method, and environment.

2. Worn Out Wear Bar

The idea of a worn rod is to protect the ski and to improve steering. As it wears, both the protection and the steering diminish, which may cause you to dart away from the track. Once any part of the wear rods is worn halfway through, then it is time to change them, and you can see a marked improvement with the performance of your snowmobile.

3. Damaged Carbides

Carbides that are broken, damaged, and twisted cause darting. It is essential to check them periodically and replace them immediately if broken. Choosing the right carbides is a vital element of setting up your sled’s friction correctly, but having unnecessary carbide on your wear bars can also cause your snowmobile to dart.

The carbides can dig in and cause the skis to jump eagerly and quickly if you put far too bold carbides upfront without the capacity or friction in the back.

A common mistake about snowmobile carbides is that longer is always better. This, however, is certainly not the case. An extremely long carbide will cause the snowmobile skis to dig in more than they should when turning a corner.

This can make the back end of the snowmobile to break free and come around too fast. Another mistaken impression about carbide length is that the longer it is, so will its longevity. This is misleading because the overall length of the carbide is still making contact. Adjusting the angle of your carbide can also affect how much friction you get around a turn.

Carbide Angles

The two most popular angles are 60 degrees and 90 degrees. Anyone who is into speed should adjust their carbide 60 degrees because it offers more friction. Meanwhile, 90 degrees also provide plenty of traction because the angle is less sharp, and they offer better set up options for the majority of riders since they last long.

Another option that has been becoming popular is snowmobile skegs that have two carbides per ski. You can decrease darting while riding on trails with it. This might be the best option if you are seeing that your skis are regularly dragging to stay in the tracks.

Woodys Dooly Carbide Wear Rods (Check price on Amazon) helps decrease darting significantly and improve handling. These rods also allow for a more comfortable ride with enhanced steering and control.

4. Misaligned Skis

Mountain Snowmobile

Fighting a misaligned front end can cause darting. Skis that are out of the position will reduce pace because the machine’s performance is jeopardized. Toed in skis will also make the sled dart as each ski tries to track its own route in the snow. Toed out skis will set off the sled to thrust throughout the corners. A misaligned track also consumes too much power due to added rolling resistance.

How to Align Skis: Toe-In, Toe-Out

  1. Put the snowmobile on a firm, level surface to correct toe-in or toe-out. 
  2. Position the skis straight using the handlebars.
  3. Next, set a pipe, straight edge, or 2×4 alongside the snowmobile’s back idler with the length running next to the ski’s inside edge.
  4. After that, check the distance between the straight edge and the ski’s inside edge by using a measuring tape.
  5. Take two sizes at the front and back of the ski.
  6. You have zero toe-in if the sizes are equal.
  7. Follow your snowmobile’s company specified tie-rod and radius rod adjustment.
  8. Do this until both front and back ends are evenly spaced out.
  9. Repeat these steps on the other side.

Meanwhile, to align the track, set its tension. Before modifying the track tensioners, you need to free one of the rear-axle bolts. Position the handlebars straightly after that is done. The corner of the tunnel or rear suspension mount bolt should measure to a specific spot on the chassis.

The handlebars should adjust to the same position. After all, that place a straight edge along the track’s end. The adjustment of the alignment should be between the straightedge and each ski’s toe heel. 1/8 to 1/4 inch toe out is regularly prescribed by builders.

Alignment and tension adjustment does not have to be complicated. It is safer for drivers to have proper ski and track alignment, and track tension is to produce a sled that responds better to driver command and is, therefore, more reliable.

5. Incompatible Tracks

Snowmobile Cold

Incompatible snowmobile tracks can cause darting. This incompatibility may be from the terrain where the vehicle is driven, the motor or other parts of the vehicle itself. When the tracks are the cause of darting, it can easily be fixed by replacing them, but before replacing your tracks, you must first be aware of these four considerations; Length, width, drive pitch and lug height.

Choosing the proper length refers to its inside circumference and is calculated as its drive pitch. This modification must be correct to the nearest inch to avoid further alteration and expenses. Shorter tracks can achieve better handling and stability; meanwhile, longer tracks will provide better ride quality and better floatation.

Track Width

The width of the track is also important. This refers to the measurement across the track and is governed by the width of the tunnel. A 15-inch track is a better alternative for a 16-inch track but not something that can interchange. A better speedup and a better speed is something that can be achieved by using narrower tracks because it lessens weight resulting in better performance in light, thick snow.

The drive cog is the center distance around the drive pitch, which is the perimeter of the cogs on the drive axle. For machines older than 2007, the 2.52″ is suitable for all-around production. However, the 2.86″ is more suitable for 2007 and up because it has a lighter mass while a higher lug height results in better friction. A quarter-inch extra can make a huge shift in acceleration and braking. Current designs develop side bites and reduce darting even more, which gives riders more excellent stability.

6. Inexperienced Rider

Snowmobile Winter

The snowmobile rider is also a huge factor of why it may or may not dart. No matter how nice or sophisticated the suspension, alignment, wear rods, and carbide of the machine, the way it drives will always matter. If the rider does not know when and where they should apply power in running a trail, they will more likely dart. This can be fixed by practicing slowly and choosing easier trails before setting off to the advance level. 

Proper Gear

There is a high danger posed by the environment of snowmobiling; hence, it is vitally crucial to take it easy at first and practice to avoid accidents from happening. To protect yourself, in case of darting, always wear proper gear. The 509 Altitude Carbon Fiber Chris Burandt Snowmobile Helmet (view on Amazon) offers both style and protection. It retails on Amazon and is equipped with particularly engineered extended polyurethane chin enclosure, complete 509 goggle fit, and combined front and top intake ventilators and rear exhaust vents with cold weather breath box. It is also made of durable polycarbonate for thinness and support to users.

Generally, a well-conditioned snowmobile will have a lesser tendency to dart. Customizing the specifications on the rider`s preference will also fix common causes of darting issues. The user’s capacity and ability in driving is also something to think about. It is important to do frequent checks and adjustments to avoid an accident.