Drive belts have many applications in the industrial sector; the purpose of a drive belt is to transmit power between shafts in equipment or engines. In car engines, belts are particularly important, as they run the cooling fan, the power steering pump, the water pump, the air pump and the air conditioning compressor while helping the alternator keep the battery charged.
Troubleshooting Belt Problems
Because of the load placed on the belt drive systems that are used in industrial equipment, belts tend to wear out and can produce noises or even break. Serpentine belts in car engines are often the cause of troublesome squeals or chirps. Replacing the belt usually eliminates the noise, but as the old belt may have polished the belt pulley or belt tensioner so it is smooth, you will also need to make sure the pulleys and tensioners are scrubbed clean to ensure the noise does not return.
A V-belt, also known as a fan belt, has a V-shaped cross section; the V shape helps the belt to firmly grip the pulleys. These belts should also be replaced after several years, or earlier if a car's mileage is higher than average. With today's belts, a visual inspection is insufficient to determine the amount of wear; it is better to replace them preventively based on age and mileage.
The timing belt, which is also known as a timing chain or cam belt, is a critical component of an internal combustion engine that controls the timing of the solenoid valves. Most cars use timing belts rather than chains, as the chains make more noise and are more expensive to manufacture. The purpose of the timing belt is to turn the camshaft at exactly half the speed of the crankshaft. Car engines have at least one and as many as four camshafts, which cause the exhaust and intake valves to open in time with the engine's pistons. In order for the engine to run properly, the opening and closing of these valves must be perfectly timed with the movement of the pistons.
Regular timing belt inspection and service is important because the pistons and valves may interfere with each other and actually collide, which can cause extensive damage to the engine, resulting in expensive repairs.