No one can afford downtime or safety hazards that come with inadequate maintenance.
Fortunately, when it comes to belt drives, downtime can often be prevented, and there are straightforward steps you can take to improve workplace safety. In addition to proper selection and storage of belts, a preventive maintenance (PM) plan includes proper inspection, maintenance and replacement. Making a PM plan part of routine maintenance frees up plant managers and maintenance engineers to focus on other important tasks—like boosting productivity and improving the bottom line.
Deciding how often to inspect or replace a belt drive isn’t always as simple as it seems. Belt wear and life depend on a variety of factors, including the original drive design, actual loads vs. design loads, sheave or sprocket alignment, installation tension, maintenance practices and environmental conditions.
That said, you'll want to consider the following when determining how often to inspect a drive::
Often, the most crucial factor is the first on that list.
A small, infrequently used, non-critical HVAC unit requires less attention than a belt powering an integral process on a manufacturing line. If the belt were to fail and shut down the assembly line, it could cost the facility a significant sum in downtime.
A general recommendation is to do a quick visual and noise inspection every 1-2 weeks for critical drives and once a month for normal drives. Complete a shutdown inspection every 3-6 months.
Types of inspections
Inspections should be one part of a greater preventive maintenance (PM) plan. Such plans include replacing worn sheaves, cleaning guards, checking for weak brackets and components and ensuring alignment. Even though belt drives don’t require the constant lubrication of chain drives, or entail the mechanical problems of gear drives, optimum belt-drive performance depends on proper maintenance.
Visual and noise inspection…
As noted, visual and noise inspections should be scheduled every 1-2 weeks for critical drives and on a monthly basis for normal drives. These observation-based inspections can be part of your usual maintenance rounds:
Complete shutdown inspection…
Perform a complete shutdown inspection every 3-6 months. Here’s a quick checklist for performing safe and efficient shutdown belt-drive maintenance:
When it’s time to replace a belt on an existing drive, it’s important to select one that is compatible with the sheaves or sprockets. With the vast assortment of belt styles available from numerous manufacturers, choosing the right belt can be challenging.
If you have questions, don’t hesitate to consult your distributor or manufacturer to speak with an expert. Selecting the right belts helps you achieve optimum drive performance, maximize the life of the belt and sprockets and minimize safety issues.
Before removing a guard for maintenance or belt replacement, be sure the drive is off, locked and tagged.
If you’re unsure what corrective action to take, or if there's still an issue after you’ve exhausted your troubleshooting options, don’t hesitate to call your distributor. Tools are available to help you determine how to handle an issue—and experts are available to answer your questions. They may even offer special programs to help you evaluate, design or refine your current belt systems.
Worn sheave grooves can result in premature belt failure. Use a sheave gauge, an inexpensive tool, to assess the condition of these parts.
The importance of a solid PM plan
While many activities go into belt-drive upkeep, PM plans prevent expensive belt failure and ensure productivity and safety. From belt selection to storage, from maintenance to troubleshooting, taking care of your system is a necessary investment. So, conduct scheduled inspections regularly and stick to these solid PM basics:
By observing proper selection and installation principles, then following up with regular inspections and strong PM practices, you’ll have systems you can rely on. MT