Equipping snowmobiles with ice scratchers isn’t a new thing; mountain snowmobilers have been using these accessories for years. As a matter of fact several mountain models come with ice scratchers as standard equipment. But what about using scratchers for trail sleds? With the recent weather in the flatlands and its constant melt downs, ice scratchers are making more and more sense.

Have you ever come to a lake crossing and found that there is no snow, just glare ice? Riding through this situation is bad for a modern snowmobile. Machines depend on the snow for lubrication of the sliders and depend on the snow dust to be tossed on the heat exchangers for engine cooling.

VIEW: Read our feature on ice scratchers for mountain snowmobiles

Snowmobile Ice Scratchers

Without snow, or the lack of snow, the engine will overheat and the sliders will stick to the track. With no snow for lube, the friction created from the track cleats passing by the nylon slides, will create heat, which will melt the nylon and make the cleats stick to the heated nylon, and this situation stinks, both in smell and in mechanical failure. All of this can be avoided by using ice scratchers. Snowmobile.com conducted a product test on different ice scratchers this past winter. Here’s what we found. Installing Traditional Wire Spring Ice Scratchers

RSI Ice Scratcher KitThe RSI kit includes everything for a short track sled, but just in case make sure the kit includes the idler wheel adapters.

One thing we discerned early on was that the traditional wire spring scratchers are hard to mount to a short track snowmobile. But they are easy to install on the long tracks that are found on the mountain-style sleds. The main problem here is mounting the scratcher far enough ahead on the skid to make a snowy/ice dust difference.

RSI, a Minnesota-based aftermarket accessory manufacturer, makes an idler wheel adapter that mounts both the idler wheel and the spring scratcher together. This enables you to get the ice scratchers mounted towards the front. Installation can be done in the sled, but in this case we took the rear skid out to replace the sliders at the same time. We needed to drill a lager hole in the rails to mount the lager bolts that come with this kit. It’s importation to get the wire spring scratchers mounted as far forward as you can – this is key and these adapters make this possible.

VIEW: Read about smart phone apps for the trail

RSI Idler Wheel AdaptersThe RSI kit with the idler wheel adapters installed, notice the wire wrap around the idler wheel adapter.

There are warnings printed all over the packaging and it is also well known in the mountains that you never back-up with this style of ice scratchers. If you do, they will be destroyed, bent beyond repair.

Installing the Newer Cable-Style Ice Scratchers

ACS Cable Ice ScratchersThe cable system comes complete and is the easiest to install.

The cable system is from ACS, a Canadian manufacturer based in Ontario. This system is easy to install, just drill two ¼” holes close to the edge of the running boards. Now bolt on the mounting bracket and then bolt the cable on using a pair of 9/16 wrenches. Mount the cable with some pressure on the cable so the carbide tip has a chance to dig into the ice. The carbide tips are replaceable, so you can always keep this system sharp.

Cable Ice Scratchers Mounting BracketThe cable system mounting bracket, ready for the cable install.

On-Snow Tests of the Ice Scratcher Types

In order to keep things equal and constant, we used the same test sled, same driver, maintaining the same speed over the same test area.

VIEW: Read our review of the TEAM clutch

Wire Spring Ice ScratcherThe wire spring scratchers leave a snow cloud, which is exactly what you want!

During testing the wire spring scratchers worked really well – better than expected. You can easily fold the wire scratchers over the rails when not in use or when you are ready to back-up. This system works better than the cable system, but these are harder to install. We believe the success of this system is due to the additional spring pressure that is put on the end that scrapes along the ice. The extra spring pressure is significant when compared to the cable system.

Cable Ice Scratchers in ActionNote the cable system in action and how it leaves a scratch line.

The cable system does work and it was easy to photograph, but it doesn’t leave a snow /ice cloud like the wire spring system. This system is also very awkward when not in use, it was hard to tie up and our technicians felt it would lose its tension from being was tied up. We recommend that you remove the scratchers and carry them in your tool pouch until they are needed and can be installed on the fly with two wrenches.

Shop For Ice Scratchers

We are committed to finding, researching, and recommending the best products. We earn commissions from purchases you make using the retail links in our product reviews. Learn more about how this works.