Indy Project Sled - New Track Installation

Installing a '96 Lightning Track

Nov. 01, 2005 By ORC STAFF
Cost: $200 to $400 (US)
Risks: None that I can think of
Benefits: Greatly imroved traction
Tools Required: Assortment of sockets and wrenches
Parts Required: New track, bearings if you are going to replace them
Mechanical Skill Required: Average "shade-tree" mechanical skills

I was fortunate enough to find a track and suspension for sale together as a package deal. I had to have a new track, since I was converting an SKS to a short-track and my old track would not work. Otherwise I might have stuck with the stock track, which, in restrospect, would have been a huge mistake.

Not only is the new track lighter,


1996 Lightning Track 36 pounds
1990 Indy 500 SKS Track 40 pounds

which offsets the increased weight of the new suspension, but it hooks up better without studs than the old one did with studs!

Switching tracks is an easy job after you've done it a few times. If you are a "buy it and ride" kinda person, it might seem daunting. Don't let it scare you, it's easy and doesn't require any special tools or special, insider knowledge.

Move your sled to a convenient work spot, assemble your tools and pop the hood. Even an inexperienced mechanic can tackle this in an afternoon. Even though I will give you explicit instructions, my very first recommendation is that you go to you Polaris dealer and purchase a copy of the shop manual. It's not as complete as some I've seen, but it is really, really nice to have. It's not cheap, but that's because it covers so many models. Your dealer will help you (he'd better!) get the correct manual for your sled.

But back to the track install. First step is to remove the old track. Loosen the track tension by backing off the locking nuts on the rear axle tensioning bolts, then back out the bolts. Then remove the four bolts in the tunnel holding the suspension in place. It's always been easier for me to remove the suspension when the sled is on it's side, which is going to happen in the next step, so you might just want to leave the suspenion where it is for now and get started freeing the driveshaft.

To do that, first, disconnect the speedometer cable from the clutch-side end of the driveshaft. Then remove the three bolts that secure the bearing retainer on clutch-side end of the driveshaft to the tunnel. Then flip the sled up on it's right (chaincase) side (now's a good time to pull out the suspension - it's a little tricky, just keep yanking on it, it'll come out) and remove the three bolts that hold the driveshaft bearing retainer to the tunnel. It's easier to work here with the secondary clutch removed, which requires removing the belt and the bolt that holds the clutch on the jackshaft.

Once that is done, the clutch-side end of the driveshaft is free to move out of the tunnel. Be careful not to lose the speedometer drive key.

Next, flip the sled over to it's left side (clutch) and remove the chaincase cover. You can do all the rest of the work with the sled on it's side, so you don't absolutely have to remove the chaincase lubrication. Although it's a good opportunity to do that, I read somewhere recently that Polaris recommends changing that lube every 500 miles!

Now you need to take the tension off the chain by backing off the lock nut on the tensioner and backing out the tensioner bolt. Once it is out far enough to free the chain, then unbolt the bottom gear from the driveshaft and pull it off. Then you can pull the driveshaft out of the bearing in the chaincase and pull the old track out. To reinstall the new track, just reverse the steps.

If you are working on an older Indy that has not had the driveshaft bearings changed recently, my advice is to do it now. Either that or you'll have to repeat all this work again, more likely sooner than later. You'll have to loosen the Fafnir bearing collar on the clutch end of the driveshaft, but other than that, most of the work of replacing the bearings is done at this point. The only other item is to remove the bearing from the chaincase by removing it's retaining ring with a snap- ring plier and tapping the bearing out from inside the tunnel.

To remove the Fafnir bearing, loosen the hex screw that holds the Fafnir bearing lock collar to the driveshaft. Then turn the lock collar counter-clockwise to unlock it and free the bearing so it can slide off the driveshaft. You might have to lightly file the burrs or rust off the shaft to get the bearing off - use a light touch. Once it's off, slip the new lock collar and bearing on the driveshaft and put the clutch-side end back in the tunnel, put the new track in place and then slip the chaincase-end of the driveshaft back in the chaincase bearing.

Then reinstall the lower chaincase gear - be sure to put any spacers you find back in the same place! It is critical for chain life and efficient operation that the two sprockets be exactly the same height so the chain can run straight. If you aren't sure things are correct, you can check by bolting the bottom gear back on without the chain and using a straightedge to check the two gears. They should be at exactly the same level - if you hold the straight- edge flat on the lower gear and it doesn't touch the upper gear, then the lower gear is too high (too many spacers) or the upper gear is too low. Now is the time to adjust that.

When you are ready to put the gears back on for good, the gears and chain might have go on as a single unit, depending on your gearing. It's a bit tricky that way, but hang with 'em until you get it on.

If you want to experiment with gearing, this is a good time to do that. There are a couple of things to keep in mind regarding chaincase efficiency if you change gearing. First, the less excess chain you have, the more efficient the drivetrain will be. So, as a rule of thumb, use the shortest chain you can. Also, the chain goes around in big circles more efficiently, so use the biggest gears you can. Rather than dropping the size of the top gear, try raising the size of the bottom gear instead.

Once the gears and chain are on, reinstall the tensioner and tighten the tensioner bolt. When the tension is correct, hold the tenstioner bolt with one wrench while tightening the lock nut with another.

If you've removed the chaincase lube, replenish it now with enough of your lube of choice so that the oil just begins to come out of the level hole on the older chaincases or on the new-style chaincase, until the oil reaches the full level on the dipstick. Some people use ATF or even regular engine oil. Personally I like to stick with the manufacturer's recommendations so I use a good-quality 90-weight gear oil. Put the chaincase cover back on and tighten it down.

Lay the sled back over on the clutch side and bolt the bearing retainer back in place. Be sure to get the speedo key installed correctly.

If you've loosened the Fafnir bearing on the other end of the driveshaft to install new bearings, now is the time to retighten the lock collar. If you didn't replace the bearings, you're ready to reinstall the suspension and go riding on your new track.

To tighten the lock collar, make sure the new bearing is where it should be on the driveshaft - it probably is, if you've reinstalled the bearing retainer properly, but double-check just to be sure. Then push the lock collar up against the bearing and turn it clockwise to lock it against the bearing. Then tighten the hex screw to hold the collar in place on the driveshaft.

A new track will make a huge difference in your sled, especially if you have an '89 or '90. The new tracks are lighter, so they take less HP to spin, they're thinner so they bend around the drivers and rear wheels easier and they hook up so much better you won't believe it. All this will result in a quicker sled that accellerates and stops better. Well worth the money, time and effort.

I still recommend studding, unless you live in the Peoples Republic of Minnesota, of course, but with the new tracks, it's not as much of a necessity as it used to be. For safety on ice, nothing beats studs, if you are concerned about that (as I am) then by all means, stud your track!

As with suspensions, you can find take-out short tracks at western dealers, who routinely long-track sleds for their customers. This is the best way to find a new short-track, in my opinion, but you can go to Polaris and order a new one, which will cost a bit more.

You can also put on an aftermarket track, but unless you need a paddle track (in which case you would probably want a long-track anyway), the OEM track is as good as anything available.

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