Area 51 Project - Duncan's 2017 Yamaha VK540:
Long Term Review
Iím the owner of a 2017 model VK540. The sled was built in August 2016 and was
part of the first shipment of these sleds to the North West Territories. The
snowmobile was delivered in January of 2017 to a tiny community called
Ulukhaktok on Victoria Island, NWT. There are no roads into the town so it was
delivered via air from Yellowknife on a First Air ATR42 Passenger/Cargo plane.
The temperature on the day of delivery was -37 (this is without wind chill. Iíll
quote temps several times during this review and I wonít be going off of wind
chill at all, just what the mercury says on my thermometer), and it stayed that
cold or colder for the first four weeks of the sleds life. At the time of
writing (April 2019) the machine has just over 1400km on it. Iíve condensed my
overall impressions into what I consider to be Cons, Pros, Modifications that
Iíve found useful, and a short summary. These are based on my uses for the sled,
and I encourage anyone reading this to formulate their own opinions.
Suspension is a basic up front with two pillar shocks and integrated springs. It is narrow and it isnít sporty. This is also a pro for getting through heavy brush, but nowhere near as controllable at speed as a modern suspension.
The battery they sent with this model was a basic Yuasa lead-acid battery. I wouldnít keep this battery on an ATV, let alone a snowmobile designed for cold weather. They may as well not have put a starter on the machine with this battery and it failed almost immediately. I replaced it with a similar-sized XS power brand battery several weeks after delivery and itís been performing well ever since.
The head bolts on this sled have come
loose twice, once shortly after delivery (part of the recommended break in that
I forgot to check) and again after just over 1000km. I find on this machine that
just a few pounds off of torque spec causes problems for fuel delivery, likely
made worse by the single carb design. I make it a habit to check the head bolts
every time I bring it in to grease it, but the problem hasnít surfaced again.
Since itís only happened a couple of times I canít say if itís a design flaw in
the engine, or if itís just a fact of the engine going from -30 and colder up to
operating temperature and back again repeatedly, could be affecting the lock
nuts and how they interface with the cylinder head.
I have had an issue with ice in the fuel pump. In fly-in communities in the far north, our gasoline is delivered once a year via fuel barge. The fuel companies do a very good job of getting clean fuel in, but we still get water in our gas, and itís made worse by the constant blowing snow. My sled got to the point where it wouldnít start unless I pressurized the fuel tank to push fuel through, and even then it would stall out after several seconds. I was forced to tow it into a garage, thaw it out and add some fuel de-icer to burn out the water. A common issue with carbureted sleds, especially up north of 70, but still an issue and needs to be mentioned.
Fuel tank is 44L, not huge for a utility sled, but decent sized. It has an old school float style fuel gauge/cap that is reliable in all weather. Itís also calibrated very well, and ľ tank still leaves the rider with about 15L, which is a nice insurance policy.
The belly pan is very low. Many riders, especially in the tundra, have experienced a hard time seeing dips and bumps in the trail. This is very bad on overcast days and I often have a hard time seeing drifts and small ridges in the snow. With hard packed snow on a standard machine this can lead to some rough riding when you hit a drift at speed. The VK bottoms out fairly quickly but the included plastic full length skid plate just sucks up the bumps.
The power and acceleration on this
machine is surprising. It is by no means a performance sled, and I am by no
means a performance rider, but acceleration to 80k is very quick. After 1400
hard and very cold kilometres my compression is still 117/119 PSI, which for a
sled that is specíd for around 100psi out of the factory I find to be quite
impressive. Acceleration and towing is better than any comparably sized Skidoo
or Polaris two strokes I have used. The hood opens up like a sled from the 70ís,
and thereís lots of room under there to get at the engine and belt. The belt
comes off quickly and without tools. These two features alone were a huge
selling point for me. Not to mention the old school under seat storage and the
included large rear basket.
The VIN sticker says ďmade in JapanĒ
and it may be one of the last ďactual YamahaĒ snowmobile on the market. Fit and
overall construction is very good. Most of the fasteners are small powder coated
bolts with lock nuts, something I donít see on many new sleds. The machine comes
standard with factory heated grips and thumb warmers, LED rear tail light, back
rest and rear handles, a generous windshield and the aforementioned large rear
basket. I added a set of Gear Grips to hold a rifle out back and I havenít
wanted for anything else. When compared to a similarly specíd Skandic, I found
the price tag to be quite a bargain
Fuel Delivery/Starting particulars:
-25 and colder:
Note: this starting sequence is only for the first start of the day. Once itís been started once, I use the key and both cylinders fire up as normal. Seals shrink in the cold and the fuel delivery process gets less efficient as the mercury drops. Something that isnít a problem at -15 is a problem at -33. I personally believe that this sled could desperately use a fuel primer bulb or pump from the factory and this would really improve starting in extreme temps. I havenít installed one yet, but itís on my to-do list. Itís worth noting that I keep the idle on this machine higher than recommended. There is no tach on this sled, but I believe instead of the 1200rpm, I am more like 1500+, possibly 1800rpm. It shortens the life of the machine no doubt, but it also starts and idles better.
Cheers, Duncan Marsh
Copyright © 2011 Michael Smith