In order to extend the lifetime of your machines, regular inspection can be a great preventative measure in maintenance. As belts are integral to a machine’s productivity, proper inspection is required to ensure that your equipment continues to work correctly. When belts fail, equipment can break down resulting in unsafe workplace conditions, which ultimately costs the business in downtime, repair, and replacement parts. Luckily, these events can be prevented through routine inspection and maintenance, allowing your business to focus on productivity.

Inspection & Replacement
While there isn’t a perfect answer as to how often belts should be inspected or replaced, there are many factors to be considered when deciding on your business’ preventative maintenance plan:

Equipment Design
Knowing the design of your machines is critical to maintaining it. If anything is out of place, misaligned, or unclean, the operation of the machine can be unbalanced.

Operating cycle & speeds
As mentioned above, understanding your machine also requires knowing the cycles and speeds when in operation. A machine running too fast or too slow can create improper wear on your belts.

Equipment accessibility
Being able to access equipment in order to inspect it is important. If equipment is in a limited access area, you need to schedule inspections during times you are allowed to access it.

Load Tension
There is a difference between suggested loads and actual loads. If a belt has been adjusted to handle a load of 200lbs, but the actual load being placed on it is 210lbs, the belt will wear out quicker and will keep the machine from functioning at optimum levels.

Alignment of sprockets and sheaves
Misaligned sprockets and sheaves can cause a belt to slip, resulting in damage to equipment.

Environmental & Temperature conditions
Whether a machine operates indoors or outdoors can adjust how it is maintained. A machine that operates externally may need to be checked often for rust or other damaging outcomes due to weather conditions. Furthermore, unregulated temperature can cause components of a machine to expand or contract, causing tension or alignment maladjustments.

Critical Nature of the equipment
The critical nature of a machine refers to how necessary the machine is to a project or production. For example, a smaller machine with less output will require less attention than a high-output machine necessary to the functions of production. 

Inspection Types
When inspecting as part of a preventative maintenance plan, it’s important to plan for equipment cleaning, alignment, check for weakened brackets and parts, and replacement of components.

Basic Inspection
A basic inspection should be completed every 1-2 weeks for critical, high out put units, and monthly for normal output units. A basic inspection is based on observation of noise and visuals. When performing a basic inspection, check for the following:

Belt Drives
Belt drives should run smoothly. Listen for any unusual vibrations, clicks or sounds while the machine is running. Motor Mounts Check all mounts, brackets and rails for proper tightness, making sure they are clean and lubricated.

Visually inspect the guard for accumulated oil, grease, or grime which can increase the temperature, thus reducing belt life. Dripping grease or oil from a guard can be a sign of over-lubrication of bearings.

Keep the machine’s environment clean, removing any debris, spills or other hazards.

Thorough Inspection
For thorough inspections, you’ll want to have a complete shutdown of equipment. High output units should be inspected every 3-6 months. When performing a thorough inspection, check for the following:

Warning Signs
When performing a thorough maintenance, always be sure to completely power off the equipment and post a warning sign. 

Neutral Position
Make sure all moving parts are locked in place or in a safe position and that fans and belts are not allowed to freewheel.

Remove the guard and inspect for any damage. Check for signs of wear or rubbing. Clean and realign when reinstalling guard.

Belts Check belts for cracks, frays, cuts or unusual wear patterns. Check the belt for signs of excessive heat. Check belt’s tension and alignment and adjust if necessary. When belts are loose, slippage can create heat and belt failure. When belts are too tight, it can reduce the belt’s life. Be sure to use a tension tester to correctly check belt tension.

Sheaves & Sprockets
Check the alignment of sheaves and sprockets in conjunction with belts. Restart Turn the unite back on and check for any unusual sounds or visuals.

Belt Replacement
Belts will need to be replaced on occasion—when that is necessary, make sure to select a belt that is compatible with the unit’s sheaves or sprockets. If you are unsure which belt works with your equipment, be sure to consult with your distributor to select the proper belt. Let your distributor know your needs such as belt life expectancy, production output, expected load, tension, environment and critical nature of equipment to ensure that you are able to be recommended the best belt for your project.

When inspection finds a problem, the following actions can help you determine the correct solution:

Identify the Problem
What is wrong? When and how did this problem occur? Have environmental or output conditions changed? What belts are being used and are they being used properly for their intended performance?

Record observations
Look for any visual signs of belt failure or listen for unusual sounds. Check that everything is aligned, in good functioning condition, and clean.

Cause & Effect
When a problem has been identified, find the root of the issue and then list the corrective solutions, whether that is part replacement, cleaning, lubrication, re-alignment, or any other valid solution.

Once a solution has been implemented, check to see that the problem has been fixed. Be sure to maintain routine inspections (1-2 weeks/monthly) and check that the problem remains fixed.

When all troubleshooting options fail to produce a solution, it is important to call your distributor to help you determine whether all solutions have been attempted. Often your distributor might offer alternate solutions or be able to replace or evaluate your current belt system.

Routine Maintenance
Preventative maintenance is the best way to promote productivity and workplace safety. Regular inspections and correcting small problems can prevent larger problems from occurring, and ultimately maintain equipment you can rely on.