Shocks…every sled has them and in today’s world of modern buggies with high-zoot suspensions and top-shelf dampers, maintaining them is without question one of the most important things you can do to ensure top suspension performance. Whether you’re looking for supreme comfort, precise control or both, shock maintenance is critical…even if you are a casual trail rider or only ride your sled a few times a year, the ravages of time can take their toll on your top dollar shocks.
In this installment of Shop Hustle we actually left our personal confines and journeyed to Baxter, Minnesota, home to FOX Shocks Midwest Service Center and their crazy crew of dedicated service technicians who know there way around the plethora of shocks offer by FOX better than grandma knows the recipe to her famous chocolate chip cookies.
Our long term Yamaha Viper sled had spun the odometer a good deal last winter, and with some spare time this summer, we figured it was a good idea to get the now year-old gal in tip top shape for the coming season. To do so we removed the front suspension FLOAT 3 shocks and headed to see our friends in Baxter.
According to the boys and girls at FOX, a nitrogen charged shock should be serviced every year, even if that means you just need to have the shock checked out. Simple things like heat cycles from riding in sub-zero weather to late spring rides can have an impact on your shocks and a simple service will ensure your seals and ice scrapers are in good shape, are properly greased and your oil is fresh. One of the biggest contaminants in shock oil is water and since snowmobiles are used in snow which eventually melts, water is everywhere when you ride.
When water contaminates shock you end up with a muddy oil stew that looses its capacity to properly control the shock, not to mention the damage the water will do to the metal portions of the shock body through corrosion. While shocks are relatively simple devices, the tools required to properly disassemble and reassemble them are very unique and failure to use the right tools can easily result in far greater damage to the shock body, the valves, shim stacks, seals and the shock rod itself.
A shock service performed through FOX ranges from just $20 for air sleeve maintenance to about $145 for the top of the line FOX X EVOL units, not including parts. What’s nice about having the kids at FOX do the work for you, aside from the assurance that certified professionals are doing the job right, is they have a wealth of tuning knowledge to go with it. Looking for more comfort from you sled this winter? They can recommend a valving stack to get you there and install it at the time of service. Or maybe you want improved performance in the big bumps, they can help you out there as well. What’s more, you can simply fill out an online service form or call them directly and talk with a real person who not only knows the ins and outs of the shock, but is a real snowmobiler as well.
In our case we were looking for some improved performance from our FLOAT 3 front shocks and to get there we opted to have the EVOL (Extra Volume) upgrade kit installed. At just $350, you not only get the entire EVOL kit installed, but it also includes a complete shock rebuild as well…bonus!
We’ve talked about the benefits of the EVOL chamber in other articles in the past, but here’s a refresher. The added air volume of the EVOL chamber helps to further control the final portion of shock travel, thereby helping to eliminate harsh bottoming while at the same time allowing you to have a more plush ride in the initial stages of travel. With more pressure in the EVOL chamber the spring rate curve of the shock becomes more progressive, giving you greater spring rate as the shock nears full stroke. In short, the addition of the EVOL chamber will give us more adjustability for more varied terrain, rider weight and/or riding styles.
Aside from shock service, the installation of an EVOL chamber is relatively quick and easy, provided you have the right tools. With a price of just $350 bucks and quick turnaround, having the crew at FOX do the work for us was a no brainer.
The beauty of air shocks is they are infinitely tunable, unlike a coil spring, but knowing where to start and how much pressure each chamber should have is one of the most often asked questions from owners. Fortunately the FOX website at www.ridefox.com has a host of tuning and set-up recommendations as well as Frequently Asked Questions. You can download manuals, set-up sheets and application guides, print them off and have them at the ready in your trailer, shop or toolbox. Once you get the base settings in place it’s a good idea to keep notes on different pressure settings, trail conditions and ride temperatures. Eventually you’ll have a real good idea of what type of pressure you’d like to run for conditions and how much you may want to change it to fine tune the ride.
OTHER UPGRADES – Aside from the EVOL kit, FOX also offers a Kashima Upgrade kit that converts your standard finished shocks to the super slippery and tough as nails Kashima coating. The stuff is incredibly durable, resisting chips and dings, and the slippery surface delivers improved performance through reduced “stiction” (the initial resistance a shock has when making an initial movement from a static state).
Also new for 2016 will be a Quick Switch 3 Upgrade, allowing you to convert your shocks over to the latest, easy to adjust, 3-position compression control found on many of the latest new offerings from several of the manufacturers. Frankly we love the range of control of the QS3 compared to shocks with 20-clicks of control. The settings are easy, simple to tune, and each stage can be easily felt from the saddle, even for riders less in tune with how their suspension is reacting to terrain. The FOX website has yet to show the QS3 kit, but simply give them call to learn more at 1-800-369-7469 extension 4619. You can also email the Baxter Service Center at firstname.lastname@example.org