Break in your belt – not your bank!

by • December 24, 2014 • ColumnsComments (0)1773

Mechanic: Hunter Burgess, Ski-Doo master technician
Shop: Team CC, Wasilla
Contact: 491 S Willow St., Wasilla, (907) 357-3200

Dear Mechanic’s Minute: I’ve been told it’s good to break in your new belt before riding your sled hard? Is this true, and if so, why?
– Breaking the bank on broken belts

Dear Breaking the Bank: Something that is often overlooked in maintaining your sled is proper belt break-in procedure. This is a very important procedure to the life of a drive belt on any CVT system. The proper way to break in a belt on a sled is easy. It starts by operating the machine on a trail or packed surface for around 25 miles at lower speeds however it is advised to avoid hard acceleration, prolonged periods of the same speeds, or towing a load during this time.
You might wonder why we have to break in a belt in the first place. The importance of breaking in a belt starts with the protective coating that each and every belt has when new. The coating is needed as it prevents belt slippage and glazing, which allows for better motor efficiency and longer belt life. During break-in, it will wear off the coating gradually with friction during slower speeds or when changing speed constantly as the belt moves up and down the pulley faces. Although it sounds easy, not many people want to spend precious riding time allowing for the breaking-in process to occur.
Here in Alaska, a big factor is simply your riding location. If you’re riding is to be done in the mountains, off trail in deep snow, or to get to and from your cabin, a proper break-in procedure is important. I believe many ignore the potential problem because they simply don’t know better – they simply run until the belt blows. Once that occurs a new one is slapped on and they continue to ride on like nothing ever happened. This can lead to many issues like belt debris wrapping around the drive shaft or debris compromising a crucial engine seal.
Therefor my tech tip of the month is a fast, easy way anyone can break in a new belt before leaving home. Take your new belt over to your kitchen sink, crank the water up as hot as it will go and scrub the belt surfaces (sides) with a scotch pad or an abrasive sponge and hot soapy water. Once thoroughly scrubbed make sure all the soap is washed off then towel off and allow to air dry completely.  This will remove most of the coating. I have used this technique on my mountain sleds for years and it truly makes a difference.
If you don’t have time to break in your new belt properly then make sure you hot wash it before slapping it on after a blowout. Though this technique is fast and easy, it may not be as effective as the manufacturers’ recommended technique.
However it does work well when time for a break in isn’t in the cards. This being said, following the manufacturers’ recommended break in should always give the best results.
On the topic of belts let’s look at the three important ways to extend belt life as long as possible, with belt prices approaching the $200 range this topic grows more and more important.
While riding, especially hillclimbing or boondocking through deep powder, it is a huge help to stop every 30 to 45 minutes, open up the clutch side panel and remove the clutch cover to just let the pulleys and the belt cool off.  Usually 10 to 15 minutes is enough to reduce clutch and belt temperatures drastically.
As a belt wears, it gets thinner or narrower, and this causes it to drop down into the secondary pulley. When this happens the belt tension loosens. Proper adjustment of the secondary belt tension is helpful as it will keep the belt in good shape as it wears down. This will also ensure you’re getting the maximum performance possible; this adjustment is often called deflection. Consult your owner’s manual for proper adjustment procedures as this will vary from brand to brand.
Keep the pulley faces as clean as possible, as often as possible. This can be achieved using a scotch pad or steel wool on the pulley faces. You can then scotch the faces until they become free of any black rubber streaks or residue. Then using a clean rag or towel, spray the faces liberally with brake cleaner and wipe clean with a rag. Acetone also works well for this application. Simply apply a small amount on a clean rag then wipe down the pulley faces until clean. Clean pulley faces keep clutch and belt temperatures down and thus help prolong the life of the belt. This should be done every 500 miles or so, after any belt failure, or any time you see black marks or residue on the pulleys. I like to visually inspect my clutches after every ride or at the end of a weekend of riding.

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