Seven Steps for Belt Drive Maintenance

| BlackHawk Team

Did you know that improper maintenance is the primary cause of drive belt problems?

According to Gates Corporation research, approximately 40% of belt drive failures are the result of poor maintenance or neglect. Factors might include inadequate tensioning, failure to replace worn parts, dirty assemblies, weak components or misalignment.

Gates, a global manufacturer of engineered power transmission solutions and BlackHawk partner, strongly recommends a regular and thorough maintenance program for all of your belt-driven machinery. The Gates Belt Drive Preventive Maintenance and Safety Guide lays it out, step by step. Here is a high-level look at the key points to consider.

Elements of a good maintenance program

  • Maintain a safe working environment
  • Regularly scheduled belt drive inspections
  • Proper belt installation procedures
  • Belt drive performance evaluations
  • Belt product knowledge
  • Belt storage and handling
  • Troubleshooting

Maintain a safe working environment

First and foremost: Power down the machinery and use lockout/tagout devices to keep it offline during maintenance. Maintain safe access to the belt drives. Make sure drive guards are in place. Wear protective clothing.

Inspect regularly

The type of machinery and its use determine how frequently belt drives should be examined. For critical drives, inspect visually and measure noise levels weekly or every two weeks. Monthly checks may suffice for other belts. Schedule a complete shutdown and thorough inspection quarterly or semi-annually.

What to look for

Examine belts for uneven wear, cracks, frays or cuts. Check tightness for slippage. Use laser tools to verify proper alignments. Use tension meters or spring scales to adjust tension. 

Install belts properly

Never service or change a belt until you confirm that the power is shut off and tagged out. Remove the guard. Loosen the motor mounting bolts or adjusting screws until you have enough slack to safely remove the belt. Inspect and clean the assembly. Check the alignment. Install the new belt and tighten the mounts. If there are multiple belts in the drive, replace all belts at the same time.

Know your belts

Understanding the different types and sizes of belts helps you to identify and choose the correct replacement belt. Options can be confusing. The Gates guide lists the most common types and sizes with illustrations.

Store belts properly

Prevent premature damage to belts by storing them in a cool, dry environment away from direct sunlight, moisture and chemicals. V-belts can be hung on wall racks. Keep packaged belts in their boxes until ready to use. Do not leave belts loose on the floor.


Be systematic. Describe what went wrong, when it happened and how often it happens. (Excessive noise and vibration are two telltale signs that something is wrong.) Identify the belt used and any changes in machine operations or output. Document symptoms and observations. The Gates maintenance guide includes a comprehensive checklist for each type of belt. If necessary, contact BlackHawk or Gates for technical assistance.

Proper maintenance ensures that your belt drive systems deliver optimum performance and a long, trouble-free service life.

New from Gates

MegaSys™ MXG™ 4K Hydraulic Hose — lightweight, highly flexible and qualified to 1 million impulse cycles! Drop-in replacement for conventional spiral hoses. Exceeds many ISO and EN performance criteria.

G-Force Redline™ CVT Belts — designed for the wildest rides in dunes, deserts, mountains and racetracks.

Fun fact

The earliest recorded belt drive dates back to China in 15BC! Belt drives were used to power weaving machines to make silk fabric.