Monday, March 22, 2021

End of the season

 Well, at least we had some season this year.

The other day Ben and I went down to put the machines to sleep for the summer.

We take the drags off so the machines take up less space and leave parking for dog walkers and other woodland adventure types.

It had been really cold the night before so I hoped that the ground would be pretty hard but as you can see on the ground it really wasn't. The Pisten Bully with its steel cleats really chews up the sod. Since its a shady area the grass isn't really all that thick. I'll go back with a rake in a day or two and clean it up a little more but compared to last year this is great. Last year I couldn't get the ASV drag into its spot for the life of me, I ended up chewing great ruts in the ground. Of course I took the drag off in May...

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Riding 2021, Jag repair

 I think it's been 3 years since we went for a real trail ride. The registration on the '98 Jag ran out last year anyway...

So a couple weeks ago when the snow was still good Angie and I got the two Jags out for a rip.

We had groomed the night before so the trails were really good. The snow wasn't great but what snow was was flat. We did about 20 miles just around the park, I had updated the registrations but as it was kind of late in the season I didn't get trail passes. As a board member I'm allowed a free trail pass but I've only taken one once. That was the year we rebuilt the track on the Pisten Bully and Ben wouldn't take my money. The club still has to pay for the pass and we're not exactly flush with cash.

Angie rode the old '91 the whole time, it was smooth enough that the lack of suspension wasn't a problem. I think I'll look for a Z or ZL machine with a blown engine and swap the suspension into it. The machine is a little lighter than the '98 and the dual carbs make a little more power.

The '98 ran like crap, it would spit and pop and fart and just had a terrible time. I had an inkling that the problem was the throttle safety switch. There are two little bushings where the pin that holds the throttle lever on are so I replaced them. I really miss having a shop just down the street to get parts like that.

Arctic Cat calls these "seals" and you can see that they're kind of chewed up. The new ones didn't make any difference though so I pulled the connection. Arctic Cat is interesting, they used 2 different electrical systems. Some are "normally open" which means there is an open circuit and to shut the sled off you close the circuit and ground the coil. Then a bunch of them are "normally closed" so the circuit powers the coil and you open the circuit to shut the machine off.

My '91 Jag is "normally closed", when the throttle switch failed on that and the previous owner wanted to jump around that switch he had to add a little jumper. The '98 is "normally open" and so I could just unplug the kill switch plug which includes the throttle switch. 

With the kill switch unplugged the sled ran perfectly. For the first time since I've owned it I could bomb around the yard. Used to be the sled ran great on the trail but poorly in the yard, now its fine all the time.

I had hoped I could just pull the throttle assembly apart and just jumper out the throttle switch but in doing I managed to break the kill switch. The sled still runs but I don't like not having a kill switch. Fortunately replacements are available. Unfortunately they cost about 15% of what the sled is worth...

The snow is gone now anyway, so I don't need to worry about it right away. I'll probably fix it, I like riding the sled. I'd thought about getting a brand new machine to replace both Jag's but they did so well...

Monday, February 1, 2021

Dead Sled Wrenching again!

 Ahh dear readers you must think I've abandoned you. Well maybe I had but here's some dead sled wrenching content.

The first big snow of 2021 is here so Saturday and Sunday I took some time to get things going.

I started with the two Arctic Cat Jags. Last year I had the '98 going although we never had any snow so I figured I'd start with the '91 this year. It was wicked cold when I dropped them off the trailer and I was disappointed when the '91 wouldn't crank at all. I stuck an electric heater under the hood and shifted my attention to the '98. It was simple enough to pull the plugs, squirt some gas down the plug holes and I was shocked when it fired up and ran on the very first pull. I did have to reprime before it would stay running on fuel from the tank and then the track really didn't want to spin but we got 'er going with relatively little fuss.

With that little accomplishment I moved to the '91, the recoil still wouldn't make the engine turn so I grabbed the clutch and broke it free with little trouble. I've seen this before where a little condensation gets into the jug and since it was so cold that ice held it a little. With the engine free I yanked the rope and, it stayed out... Blarg, a little Kroil fixed that and I shot a little more into the engine to lube it up. A little gas down the plug holes and this one also fired right up. I gotta say I love how the wedge Jag's go, they're lighter and snappier than the newer machines. I suspect the dual carbs on this one help too.

Flushed with success I moved on to the '79 Polaris Cobra. I haven't run this machine for several years, in fact I see my last post was working on that machine and it was very nearly 2 years ago. At that time it had no spark and I failed to fix that.

Well here is one of the culprits, this is the rear set of points. I don't remember which cylinder they're for, it doesn't really matter, they were both dirty. It was hard to get a picture but you can see how they're kind of greasy, what you can't see is that they were also kind of green. I tried my usual trick, Deoxit and a business card. While I could get the business card to come out dirty it didn't seem like things were really improving so I resorted to a file. Harbor Freight sells a nifty little file set that isn't marketed toward filing points but they're the right size and shape. I scraped on 'em a little bit, then sprayed off the residue with cheap contact cleaner, then repeated with Deoxit. Then got frustrated and quit for the day. Actually I shouldn't have been frustrated, we went from absolutely no spark to a little blip. It might not seem like much but thats improvement.

So yesterday I went back out, filed more, cleaned more, etc. The frustrating thing is that the recoil and inner cup have to come off to get to the points so you have to put it all back together to test it. Anyway after two more cycles I put it back together and YOWSA we've got spark!

At some point Saturday I did have the forethought to take the airbox off and have a look inside.

Mr. and Mrs Mouse got evicted...

The nice thing about having the airbox off was to make it easy to shoot gas into the carbs. And thats where we got stuck again, it would pop on premix but wouldn't stay running. So I pulled each carb out of its boot, flipped it over, popped off the bowl and cleaned it and the jets. I also make sure the needles were moving. Surprisingly nothing looked too bad, a little schmoo in the bowl maybe but nothing to write home about. 
Put it all back together and it STILL wouldn't run, I mean it'd run for a second on premix but wouldn't stay running. I figured it needed more gas so I got a couple fresh gallons mixed up and, well blarg...

Finally in desperation I took the torch and heated each plug until it glowed red, stabbed 'em in, shot in gas one more time and sonofagun she took right off. This machine has always idled high and it still does. Maybe when we get some snow and I can run it some more I'll try to adjust it, I do have a carb synchronizer I've never used...

So everybody is running and moving, I really like riding the Polaris, its light and geared low so its quick off the line although it runs out of snort pretty quick. The brake isn't working but thats just the fluid leaking out after sitting a couple years. I'll top it up and it should come right back.

If you've always wanted a Polaris Cobra (or one of the Jags) let me know, you could have this one. Its been a fun sled but I'm ready to play with something else for awhile. I'm open to trades even...

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Back to the Polaris

I got an email from longtime reader Vanessa a couple weeks ago. Her Panther 303W had no spark so I sent her my procedure for cleaning points.
In a nutshell: Get a can of Caig De-oxit, open the points, squirt in some de-oxit, let it sit for a minute, pull strips of paper through until they come out clean, repeat.
Vanessa replied that she got spark bag and now has a running machine, sweet, score one for the good guys!
So yesterday I decided I'd get a snowmobile running, we really don't have any snow and theres none in the forecast (50s tomorrow...) but what the heck, maybe the snow gods need a sacrifice.

This is my '79 Polaris Cobra 340. When I first bought it there was no spark, I cleaned the points and got it running, then a couple years later put in new crank seals. This one has always been a little finicky to start if its been sitting awhile and since I didn't run it at all last year I knew it was going to be a challenge.

Right off the bat no spark on the mag side so as you can see in the picture I proceeded to clean the points which resulted in? No spark at all...


This sled has always been sensitive to plugs and it uses B8ES which I don't seem to have in stock. I'm going to order a box of them this time...

Friday, January 18, 2019

Broken Groomer Part 2

It was the beginning of April, the snow cover was decent but the days were warm. We decided it was too warm to groom at night, the snow wouldn't move good so we made a plan to groom first thing in the morning, 6am. This would be our last day out, club picnic and the trails would close the next day so get the trails nice.

Everything south of Lake Dennison was already closed so just a quick run to groom the park. I only have one regular loop inside the park, Ben does all the rest but we figured after I'd done my normal loop I could pick up some of the other stuff. Mike was riding right seat, his second trip out with me, I had plans to get him some stick time.

Just as we turned onto the main drag I knew we had problems, little tendrils of steam. I'd never groomed when it was warm though and just passed it off for that but about the time I got the drag full of snow and grooming good the little tendrils became a big cloud, uh oh...

Looking under the machine I could see a geyser of coolant, I couldn't tell where from but it had to be a heater hose to the cab. We limped the machine to the beach where the picnic was to be held.

I didn't get any pictures but the cab tips up so the driver's door is about 4' up. With that tipped I could see a ragged hole in one of the heater hoses. Apparently this had happened to Chris the year before but on the other hose, he'd fixed that with a union connector. This time I used the same union to connect the two heater hoses together, topped up the coolant and drove it back to the yard...

A couple months later we moved it to my house. I wish I had pictures of it, the machine is heavy, like 9,000# heavy, too much to pull with a normal pickup. Glenn came with a 3 axle dump truck and trailer. The ASV looked puny on his big trailer.

 With the right seat out I could get to the heater, fortunately there are two unions right in the middle of the picture which were a lot easier to access than the heater core itself. I sent this picture to the other groomer operators with "That escalated quickly" as the caption.

I got a funny look from the parts guy when I asked for 18 FEET of 3/4" heater hose, apparently thats how much they normally sell each month. It took 17.5 feet in total...

These are the old hoses. Theres a hydraulic leak at the controls which drips down through the access hole below the cab and pools on these hoses which then deteriorate from the oil. I intend to fix the hydraulic leak, I think its just o-rings but I want to do it with help from somebody who really knows what they're doing, for now its not too much of a problem. I put a catch pan with a pig pad in it under the leak, hopefully it'll will prevent the new hoses from deteriorating.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Broken Groomer Part 1

Well, its not a dead sled but groomers are not without troubles.

Early on last season Ben had trouble with the Pisten Bully, none of the hydraulics at the front of the machine would cooperate. He couldn't lift the blade or manipulate it in any way. A little investigation revealed water in the hydraulic oil. After running the engine for half an hour or so the fluid would warm up enough so the water would go liquid and everything would work until the next time. This, of course, was a big issue. We swapped the fluid (its actually Automatic Transmission fluid, ATF) from the reservoir but the lines and pistons still had significant water. It was looking to be expensive (and a lot of work) to swap all the fluid when I hit upon an idea, could we boil the fluid to drive the water out? Thus began the saga of the weirdest thing I'd ever done with a Coleman stove:

In the post script we actually pulled and replaced the fluid 3 or 4 times, we'd draw the fluid out, boil off the water, let it cool, put it back in the machine and let it cycle for awhile and then repeat. Actually to be 100% honest we had 2 sets of fluid so I could be boiling off water while another batch was picking up water. This seems to have cured the issue, we also pulled the filter out of the fluid and actually submerged it in boiling fluid to get the water out of it, I think that helped a lot, I suspect water had gotten trapped in the filter and was being slowly released back into the dried fluid.

Chris and Harold, meanwhile, had both had trouble with tracks on the Northern and Southern Tuckers. I guess I haven't mentioned the Tuckers. When most people think "Snow-Cat" they're thinking of a "Tucker Sno-Cat". The club owns two, here's a terrible picture of the Northern Tucker.

I've heard a Tucker called "Farm equipment with delusions of grandeur. As near as I can tell its a 1 ton, rear engine pickup with tracks. They make several variations for personnel carriers but ours is the common type, its bigger than my ASV but smaller than the Pisten Bully. Power comes from a Cummins 4BT, the drivetrain is an automatic transmission with essentially 2 rear axles, the front axle pivots to steer.
I don't have much experience with them but so far the weak point seems to be the tracks, we replace/repair a lot of tracks on our Tuckers, like 2-3 a year.

Anyway with Ben, Chris and Harold all having troubles I was pretty pleased to get to the end of the season having zero breakdowns and feeling pretty smug, sadly that smile would get wiped off my face all too soon.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

A Groomer operator?

I went back and fixed almost 3 years of pictures, did you realize the blog is now almost 10 years old? I didn't...

Anyway something new and really the answer to why I haven't done much snowmobile stuff. You might remember back in 2015 when I was "Working with the Groomers" well last January Ben gave me a call "Can you get that ASV to start?" what a loaded question, remember I'd been in the ASV once, 2 years before. I gave him a "maybe" and headed over. 

We'd had some good snow and of course somebody had decided to replace the batteries in the machine but hadn't installed them. I plugged in the block heater and got to work on the batteries. 

Actually before I talk about the batteries let me mention the block heater. I'd been told a couple times it didn't work but I'm one of those "well let me try it" kind of guys. One thing I noticed is that the outlet we were using was GFI protected so I made sure it was set to on using my heat gun. Then after I plugged in the heater I wondered "How will I know if its working?" A couple years ago I'd tested it with a Kill-A-Watt meter but I seem to have lost that. On this day I used my infrared thermometer.

It was 6F outside, I figured if the block heater was 93F it had to be working. These days I just touch it, when its warm to the touch I know its good.

It is of course way more fun (sarcasm!) to repair something you didn't take apart so it took me considerable time to get the batteries in

You can see my heat gun in the foreground, that was the next step, I stuck it in air cleaner and waited until that was good and hot. It was really cold out and Ben was scared that I'd ruin the brand new batteries so I wanted to be sure this thing was going to start. A few minutes later I texted Ben

"We're in business."

And thats the story of how I became a groomer operator. It really how my life has generally worked, I'm usually the guy at the place that can do the thing. In this case my experience with driving (and starting) old Mercedes diesels was exactly what was required. The engine in the ASV isn't anything like an old Mercedes but the principle is the same and I knew I needed to get it warm to get it to start...

Anyway I don't want this to become a groomer blog but its closer to snowmobiles than anything else I've been doing and I don't want the blog to die from lack of content. Hopefully I'll find time to get the sleds out this year, in the meantime I hope this is good enough.