Drive belts may rebel: keep them under control with these helpful tips

Consider some of these ideas to keep your drive belts from revolting

By Russ Kratowicz, Executive Editor

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Drive belts are items that really ought not to be ignored. Sure, in terms of sexy, they can’t compete with digital technology to get your attention, but they’re still important. Assuming your best practices endow them with good alignment and tensioning, a power transmission belt generally wears either from having to transmit large loads or from being left in service long past its normal life expectancy. With so much attention being focused on the idea of industrial reliability these days, your maintenance department might want to consider using horsepower-hours as a performance indicator for monitoring belt life.

V-belts, cogged V-belts and synchronous belts each have a different cost structure and relative operating advantages. In general, synchronous belts are the most efficient, while V-belts are the most commonly used. Depending on your circumstances, a change to synchronous belts across the board might prove to be a lucrative move. One of the sites we found shows the calculations.

There are many more tips you can glean from this month’s slog through the digital morass we call the Web in search of practical, zero-cost, noncommercial, registration-free resources that can help you improve your plant’s bottom line. Remember, we search the Web so you don't have to.

Technical information

Kelly Bramble, president of Engineer’s Edge in Monroe, Ga., wants to provide you with information that can help you solve typical and complex problems in a variety of technical disciplines, but we’ll focus on matters related to belting for power transmission. Let’s start exploring Bramble’s nugget by zipping ye olde mousie to , a densely linked home page. Once there, click on “Vee and Flat Belt Design Data” shown in the right-hand column. This will give you access to a dozen links that open up tables and graphs related to belt sizes, applications, pulley groove sizes, tensions, torques and power, standard sizes and sheave diameters, service factors, design horsepower versus service factor and flat belt calculations.

Access more of Bramble’s belt information by clicking on “Engineering Calculators,” which appears at the top of the home page. Keep your eye on the center column as you scroll down to “Motion Control Design.” Click on “Motor Driving Speed Reducer” for the equation and online calculator to determine the torque and force to drive gear, belt or chain mechanical systems. While you’re at it, you might as well spend a few moments examining the other offerings Bramble provides.

From Down Under

Even if V-belts don’t really rotate in the opposite direction when you’re south of the equator, they’re still transmitting power in Australia. The School of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Western Australia offers an online tutorial about belt drives that should prove to be of interest. It covers drive geometry, kinetic effects, the relationship between belt fatigue and life expectancy, selection tips and a bit of information about traction mechanics. Because the posting is intended to be a teaching tool, it includes problems and their solutions. You might want to consider using this material as the basis for your in-house training. Waltz Matilda Mouse down to if you want to get the goods. Enter the phrase “V-belt drives” in the search box in the lower right corner of the screen. When the page loads, the specific entry I’d recommend that you examine is titled, “DANotes: V-belt drives: Index of topics.” From there, navigation becomes intuitive.

More from the Aussies

Victoria is the province at the southern tip of the island continent and Sustainability Victoria is a provincial program that focuses on using resources efficiently and minimizing human damage to the environment. The program is inclusive in that it covers homes, offices, schools and industry. When it comes to energy efficiency, every little bit helps and, whether or not you believe it, V-belt performance affects overall energy efficiency. That’s why the Victorians offer a bit of help with a toolkit that you can access at Click on “Take action” at the top center of the screen. Then, click on “Energy and greenhouse management toolkit” under “Business and Industry” at the far right side. You’ll want to open Module 5 and perform a search for “Efficient belt drives.” This will yield information about available belt drive types, their benefits and belt maintenance tips, including a troubleshooting guide. The latter element might work well for root cause analysis when belts start giving you a problem.


The ability to exploit some stranger’s programming skills to solve your current problem is one of the beautiful aspects of digital life on the Web. Using the many downloads available should enhance your productivity, if not make it a bit easier for you to run in place vis-à-vis your competition. If you feel comfortable with downloads, you might consider MITCalc, the work product of Ing. Miroslav Petele in the Czech Republic. This site has a collection of Excel-based calculations for solving a variety of engineering problems. Because of its open format, you can freely modify the spreadsheets to suit your particular needs. As you’d expect, one of Petele’s downloads addresses V-belts, and accessing it is simple. Pop over to and click on “V-belt.” Then, click the “Download” link on the left. Finally, skip the registration section and scroll down to the standalone calculations, where you’ll find the download link. The demo package self-installs on your machine and expires in 13 days unless you purchase the authorization code. To run the software, you may need to reconfigure your settings to accept popups. When you’re finished, the software’s uninstall option simplifies digital disposal.

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