Lessons learned, when to replace the belts

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by topsites, May 25, 2006.

  1. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 21,653

    I used to think I needed to replace a belt as preventive maintenance once it became apparent the belt wouldn't last much longer, or of course in the case where one doesn't see it, when it breaks.

    I learned over the years the true trick to success is to ride on those parts for as long as I can, so until it breaks is the answer. The reason behind this is every yard I get done with the failing belt is one more yard the new belt doesn't have to deal with, and one more yard ahead of the 20-30, 40 or 50, sometimes even 70-80 dollar expense coming for time after next, so to speak.

    At first, I noticed this cut in one of my belts, thing which might lead someone to replace it before it breaks:
    (it's deeper than it looks, goes about halfway through)

    But that was about a year ago, well over 100 yards got cut with that same machine and that same belt until today I noticed THIS:

    Still, I stubbornly stuck to my guns and decided, let it ride one more day (I do have the spare in the truck), and sure enough I got today's 5 yards done on that very belt, and if it doesn't break tomorrow that's one more day the new belt will last beyond when it eventually needs to be replaced.

    What this does in effect is reduce cost, every yard is one teenie percent of 50 dollars that doesn't get spent until that failing belt is gone and I mean gone and not replaced because I know it will break. How many yards will it take? At this point it can break any time, but it might make another 20 or 50, fact is you never know.

    This is one way in which I operate beyond manufacturing specs, or another way to say it is, digging deep into profit by looking far into the future, and in effect postponing not the inevitable but the replacement after next. Some exceptions are bearings going bad :)
  2. Jason Rose

    Jason Rose LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 5,858

    YEP! I keep spare belts for everything on the trailer and I don't replace it till it's broken in half!

    I too have replaced belts that were cracked, just cause I thought they were going to "go". Only to see cracks on the new belt within 50 hours...

    MOST blets can be replaced in a matter of minutes. Some of the trickier ones, especially the ones located directly under the engine and or muffler area, are not so easy in the middle of a lawn on a hot day...

    "If it ain't broke, don't fix it!"
  3. specialtylc

    specialtylc LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,656

    I agree with you on most of what you said. As long as its a belt that is easy to change, less than ten minutes.And if you are a solo business, the down time in the field is not as important. Some mowers, my Kubota ZD for example is not a ten minute job. But they put a heavy duty double V belt on them and I put on 1000 hrs on mine before I changed it and it still showed no signs of damage.
  4. eastham

    eastham LawnSite Member
    Posts: 17

    I replace worn belts to prevent an accident that could cost me a lifetime of regret.

    What if a kid ran up to you from behind to ask something and the belt broke right at that second and the equipment spun around an cut off his leg? I dont like "what if" questions but really strange stuff has happened to me while cutting lawns.
  5. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 21,653

    Agreed on the down-time, also if you happen to have enough mowers to play musical chairs with then you might keep the rough one around as a backup especially on hot days just to make SURE you don't have downtime you take out your best machines on the worst days and use the lesser mowers on the easy days :)

    That one is my '98, I use her anytime it's not so bad out, also on those yards where it's a lot of crap for lack of better words, I keep the '05 for when things get busting busy and for the class-A yards, mostly but not always, I got pretty good at it thou.

    And the reason I said some exceptions are bearings, yes you have to consider how long it will put you out of commission, some things can not wait until they are broken, a failing engine or transmission might be another example of this.

    It is a blade belt... But in the case of a wheel belt, my machine is a T-bar mower, if a wheel belt gives first I get plenty of warning, at least a day or two, nowadays I can tell one or both of my wheel belts are going several weeks ahead of time, I can just feel it.
    When it does break, it was so bad not two minutes ago I was hardly moving anyhow, and with the T-bar, the mower doesn't spin around because one gives the most pressure to the side that is failing while the other side barely tags along... Unlike pistols or ECS controls, the T-bar is proportional as one puts more pressure on a side, more speed comes as a result, and the failing side gets the most pressure so when it fails, you sit dead in the water. I do agree that one might replace it before it breaks as it gets highly frustrating once it gets near that point.
    On the note of bystanders, I can not stress it enough: There is to be absolutely nobody within 500 feet of running machinery, and if I see someone approach it is time to either shut down or as I do in most cases, head to another section of the yard. They can not come up from behind, the machine is too fast for that and ok they could do it running but it is highly impractical.
  6. lqmustang

    lqmustang LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 620

    I agree with all the above except for the drive belts on a belt driven mower.Over time those will wear out and start to lose grip long before they will ever break. I replace mine about every 2 years or so.
  7. DLCS

    DLCS LawnSite Platinum Member
    Posts: 4,379

    What I have learned from expirience is that nothing breaks at a convenient time. So, any trouble I can head off is a win for me. How many belts will you actually save during the life of the unit by "getting by" with a damaged belt another day, week? Belts are cheap and a parishable item to be figured into noraml maintenance. Do you guys only change your engine oil filters once a year, you would probably could get through the whole season without a change.:rolleyes: and you could save a few dollars too. What about air filters, do you run the same prefilter even though it has a tear or hole in it, could save a few dollars there too.
  8. Scotts' Yard Care

    Scotts' Yard Care LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 343

    I do agree with you guys but only if there aren't chunks missing from the belt:laugh: I think missing sections of belt sets up a cyclic hammering on the pulleys, shafts and bearings that isn't good. Minor cracks are probably not a real big problem. I did a dumb one today and ruined a perfectly good deck belt on our little Z. I've fallen into the habit of turning the deck electric clutch on at just above an idle. This seems to cause more of a load and today caused the belt to throw and be damaged requiring replacement. From now on I'm going to try half throttle as that seems smoother and less of a shock. I liveth and learneth:)
  9. 6'7 330

    6'7 330 LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,823

    The long mower deck belt on the Toros aint cheap...it's about a hundred bucks.But I agree with your premise, out in the field down time is money,and employee time changing a belt that was obviously in poor shape costs more then the belt replacement .As posted minor cracks, no big deal,looking for an obviously frayed belt or one in poor shape should be checked as part of routine maintenance.

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