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A few weeks ago I penned a piece responding to the burning question: “How long will a 2-stroke last?”

I’ve been following your comments and there is a definitive group making impressive 4-stroke longevity claims. I’m excited to hear accounts of huge klicks amassed on many 4-stroke rides.

For the record, I would not disagree 4-stroke snowmobile engines, on average, will go more miles than a comparable output 2-stroke before needing a major overhaul. There are a lot of reasons for this but suffice it to say the reality of much larger 4-stroke displacements required to generate power comparable to a 2-stroke has something to do with the “less stressed” lives these engines are living.

For sure, the very nature of the 2-stroke versus 4-stroke argument is rooted in a pressurized oiling system on all 4-strokes (either dry or wet sump) versus a total loss oil delivery system on 2-strokes. When carefully analyzed and compared, the average 2-stroke delivers a pretty small amount of oil to critical engine parts.

This is why high performance snowmobile 2-strokes all use roller bearing crankshafts. Roller bearings can live in a low oil environment. Plain bearings? Not so much.

The inescapable reality is this: 4-strokes get better lubrication at all temperature and RPM levels. Oil is important – very important – and its abundance in any 4-stroke to 2-stroke comparison pretty much tips the scales in favor of a 4-stroke having superior longevity.

Before 2-stroke lovers send hate mail, I need to say this: The quality of today’s full synthetic 2-stroke oil has made a huge improvement in those engines’ longevity, too.

On the other side of the ledger consider this inescapable reality: The cost to maintain and the cost to rebuild a 4-stroke. Its one thing to envision your 4-stroke sled lasting 50,000 klicks (30,000 miles) but in order to get to that mileage, what was your investment? For sure, you likely paid more in the beginning for a 4-stroke powered sled.

Simply put, if you compare apples to apples, except for engine choice (2 versus 4-stroke) a 4-stroke invariably commands more jing when new. The need to perform an annual engine oil and filter change is a consideration as is a valve lash adjustment every couple seasons.

Finally, if you do crest that lofty 50,000 klick (30,000 mile) threshold and its time for a rebuild, look out! The cost to rebuild a 4-stroke will make your eyes water compared to a 2-stroke.

Am I saying a 2-stroke snowmobile engine makes more sense and is cheaper to put big miles on its odo? Nope, not at all. Here’s what I will say. Don’t keep your 4-stroke until it has tens of thousands of klicks on it.

In the same way a 2-stroke’s resale is negatively affected as the odometer climbs, so will your 4-stroke sled’s resale rise and fall with the odometer – understanding the 2-stroke will fall further.

The difference is how much use (miles) you can rack up before dipping into your wallet for a 4-stroke rebuild. That somewhat elusive number is critical in calculating the 4-stroke payback equation.

Mark Lester
Mark Lester
Mark Lester is Co-Publisher of SUPERTRAX Magazine and a regular Host on SNOWTRAX TV, which can be seen on Sportsman Channel across America and in Canada on OLN, Sportsman Channel Canada, Wild TV and REV TV and globally on our YouTube channel.

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