Learn more about lawn mower belts.

Lawn mower belts are the ink that directs the energy produced by the lawn mower engine and directs it to spin the mower blade. The are not visible when you look at a mower from above and because of that, they tend to not get much attention. But there is much we can learn about these belts, such as how often should they be replace, can automobile belts be used in their place etc. Let’s take a look deeper into the world of lawn mower belts from this discussion on the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum and I bet you learn something new about them you never knew before.

One lawn care business owner wrote “how do you feel about your lawn mower belts? Is it good practice to change them every year or just wait until you have a problem? Normally my standard operating procedure is to wait until they break, or almost break.With that in mind, I always keep spare belt’s with me. But if I see them starting to crack, I tend to change them out.

A second lawn care business owner said “here are some things to think about when it comes to changing belts on lawn equipment:

-With age belts get something like dry rot. The inner lining of belts get brittle and crack.

-With wear, and age, the belt strings start to show. Next, the belt starts to unravel and the string gets into everything. In some cases the string can get caught up in other parts of the mower and bend, break, or move parts underneath.

-With heavy use, age, and wear, the belt stretches. In some situations this will cause the belt to slip because the belt is too loose (depending on the mower set up. I have seen belts become so loose that they would not engage anymore). This does several things:

1) There is less productivity due to the belt slipping under load, causing the blades to turn slower, etc. (you do the math).

2) When the belt slips, that causes friction. Friction causes heat. Heat transfers from the belt to the pulley, from the pulley to the shaft, to the bearings and seals. Hot bearings and seals shortens the bearing and seal life.

3) A belt that is too loose and slips will also wear out quicker. When it gets extra wear it slips more, which makes it wear more, which makes it slip more…. You get the picture.

With that said, when you buy the belt to replace the bad ones, I have learned from years of experience to either buy OEM parts or a quality after-market brand belts. Don’t buy belts at the auto parts store. Belts that you buy at the auto parts store are what they call ‘fractional horse power belts.’ This simply means that the belts are not intended to have multiple horsepower (like a lawn mower engine) pulling on them. They simply won’t last. They are designed to turn a cooling fan, alternator, water pump, etc. Not 2 or 3 lawn mower blades under a heavy load.

When you listen to a mower run, let’s say with an 18 hp motor, when you hit the heavy grass, the engine will pull down. This means that you have 18 hp that are pulling against that belt. A fractional HP belt will last a VERY SHORT time like that. So, do yourself a favor and buy a good quality belt.

Another thing to know about belts is that most manufacturers today are making it harder to replace the belt with a non-OEM or non-OEM spec belt. They make the belt odd lengths like 81 5/16″ long, many play the same game. Don’t think for a second that you can use an 81″ or 82″ belt. One will be too long and will slip (see above section on slipping belts) and the other will be too short and you won’t be able to install or if you do get it installed it will put extra strain on the machine and depending on the mechanisms involved, it may not disengage.

So, with that all that said, buy a GOOD QUALITY and CORRECT LENGTH belt.”

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