Complete Guide to V-Belts

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Complete Guide to V-Belts

V-belts are friction-based power transmitters that move along a wheel known as a pulley. This mechanical linkage is called a V-belt because it has a cross-section that resembles the letter "V". These belts are commonly found in automobiles as well as industrial and agricultural machines. They are an upgrade from flat belts as they wedge into the pulley's groove, greatly reducing the likelihood of slippage and enhancing transmission efficiency. The following guide highlights everything about V-belts, from its history to common uses today.


History of V-Belts

In 1917, John Gates developed the first V-belt, but it wasn't until years later that the multiple V-belt system was designed (by Walter Geist). This multiple V-belt system, which became widely used in automobiles, put multiple V-belts in parallel positioning. Each V-belt drives a separate component. V-belts were widely used until the 1980's and 1990's, when serpentine belts arrived on the scene.


Function of V-Belts

V-belts are located in the front of the engine, and are often set up as a series of belts coming off the crankshaft. V-belts, along with their pulley system, take the force (or torque) coming from the crankshaft's rotation and use it to drive ancillary components within the engine, such as the power steering pump, alternator and water pump. Hence, V-belts and their complimenting pulley play an important role in overall vehicle operation.


Advantages and Disadvantages of V-Belts

There are distinct advantages to having a V-belt drive system, the first of which is that they are reliable and can last nearly 40,000 miles. They wear gradually, grip the pulley effectively, operate quietly and absorb shock (which equals a more comfortable ride). All of this leads to solid mechanical efficiency. Moreover, since multiple v-belt systems don't rely on one belt to drive all systems, if one breaks, chances are the car can still operate. With serpentine belts, this isn't the case, as all functions are driven by that one belt. If the serpentine belt breaks, the driver probably won't be able to go much farther. Additionally, v-belts don't require much maintenance and don't need lubrication.

Disadvantages, though, are evident, especially when compared to a serpentine belt. Since multiple V-belts are needed to drive peripheral devices in an engine, these belts take up a lot more space. Also, when driving at high speeds, there is a slight chance of that V-belt flipping over in the pulley groove. Conversely, the serpentine belt is wider, and this increases tension in the pulley and thus decreases slippage. Decreased slippage enhances overall engine efficiency and eases stress on the vehicle, which can result in better performance (better power distribution, response, gas mileage, etc). Serpentine belts can easily exceed 60,000 miles and sometimes more than 70,000, which makes them more durable than V-belts. V-belts are also much harder to replace, as reaching them is difficult.


Types and Sizes of V-Belts

V-belts are commonly utilized in industrial machinery as well as vehicles. For clarity, this section separates the two.

Car V-Belts

V-belts used in automobile engines can be separated into larger sections of conventional and narrow ones. Narrow V-belts have a smaller width, which allows them to move faster. Both conventional and narrow V-belts can be standard or cogged. Standard V-belts boast tapered sides to move smoothly along the pulley system, while a cogged V-belt has a grooved base to make gripping engine components and gears easier. Standard ones suit light-load applications, while cogged ones suit high-load applications. In general, car V-belts can be between 10 and 25 millimetres in width and can be manufactured to any length (depends on the vehicle).

Industrial V-Belts

Industrial belts can be heavy-duty or light duty. Heavy-duty industrial V-belts can be conventional or narrow; conventional ones are sized from A to E and narrow ones are sized at 3V, 5V and lastly 8V. Light duty industrial belts are sized between 2L and 5L. The bigger the size, the greater the load the V-belt is able to transmit. For industrial use, many V-belts are wrapped with tensile cords to increase strength, durability and rigidity; others feature aggressive grooves to handle heavy loads. Most are oil-resistant, able to operate at extreme temperatures and also dust-proof.


Common Uses of V-Belts Today

V-belts aren't commonly used in new cars, though many older vehicles still utilize them. However, V-belts are a common sight in agricultural and industrial machinery, from production equipment to large tractors. They are truly a key component of the manufacturing industry.


Replacing V-Belts

Replacing V-belts is a delicate and tedious task. However, they must be replaced every three to five years as a precautionary measure. V-belts can be found at auto parts stores or at e-commerce shops. To replace one, open the hood, and locate the V-belt that has issues. Then, loosen the adjustment bracket on the pulley that is applying tension to the belt. After loosening, remove the belt and replace it with a new one, being sure to tighten the adjustment bracket.

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