High-output alternators, mounted to more fuel-efficient engines that are squeezed into even smaller engine compartments, have resulted in substantially more operational stresses on both the serpentine belts and coolant hoses. “These newer engine designs and tighter engine compartments have created an environment with increased torque demands as well as increased under-hood temperatures. Also, depending upon the belt drive application, alternator pulley diameters have decreased, which just adds to the overall demand on the poly rib belt for flexing,” explains Brian Wheeler of Dayco. “In order to meet and exceed these demands, new belt compounds, such as EPDM, were developed to provide the increased torque capacity that these newer engines require, while also performing in high-temperature conditions with improved flex fatigue characteristics. The bottom line is today’s belts will run longer, even with higher temperature and torque conditions.” The new EPDM belt compounds have been designed to perform at very high under-hood temperatures. This means that today’s belt may perform on an engine application for 160,000 kilometres or more before rib cracking will occur. However, the belt may need to be replaced prior to this due to rib wear. This means that the failure mode of rib cracking, which is easy to detect and was the typical failure mode for the older neoprene poly rib belts, is no longer the standard test for detecting worn belts. EPDM belts require an evaluation of the rib wear in order to determine if the belt is still operating with no issues. This can be done by using a rib wear gauge. “This is important, because if the belt experiences significant wear, the ability to transmit torque efficiently will be greatly reduced, resulting in the possibility of gross slip and/or hydroplaning. Ultimately, this could cause accessories to not function properly – such as a loss of power steering, reduction of alternator output, etc.,” explains Wheeler. Since 2004, automobile manufacturers have been designing drives using self-tensioning belts. These drives do not have a mechanical tensioner to maintain constant belt tension, and they do not have an adjustment slot that allows belt installation and tensioning. Continental’s Elite Stretch Belt incorporates low modulus and high elongation technologies that allow the belt to be installed on these fixed-drive systems and provide the “self-tensioning” capabilities necessary to maintain proper belt tension in the absence of an automatic tensioner. Although Continental’s Elite Stretch Belts look similar to Elite Poly-V belts, they are dramatically different and not interchangeable with the Poly-V or other serpentine belts. Elite’s design uses the latest OEM technology in EPDM compounds and a polyamide tensile cord that stretches for installation, then recovers once installed to maintain proper tension. Continental’s Elite Poly-V belts feature Quiet Channel Technology, making the belt run quieter and last longer. The combination of a unique staggered “Helicog” profile with advanced EPDM rubber compounds virtually eliminates the chirps, squeaks, and squeals typically associated with pulley misalignment. The same advanced technology that makes these belts run so quietly also increases flexibility, abrasion, and heat resistance. While under the hood inspecting belts, the tensioner, and pulleys, it’s a good idea for technicians to thoroughly inspect the hoses, because like belts, hoses have changed in technology. A few years ago, most hose failures were wrongly attributed to heat cracking, yarn failures, or cold cracks, when the real culprit was the result of an electrochemical attack on the tube compound inside the hose. “After identifying the problem caused by dissimilar metal types in the engine, Gates engineers developed a new hose that combats this chemical attack. Any visible damage (such as soft and spongy, ballooning, cracked, or shiny surfaces) indicates that the hose is already beginning to fail. If you suspect any signs of hose failure are imminent, or if electrochemical degradation is the culprit with a failed hose, replace the hoses immediately – cooling system failure is still the number-one engine-related cause of a roadside breakdown,” explains Gate’s Randy Chupka. “As the car market ages, so do all the components.” Not only are the belts and hoses aging and reaching the end of their lifespan, adds Chupka, but other components such as pulleys, tensioners, alternator de-coupler pulleys, and bypass hoses are aging as well. “In other words, if the belt and rad hose are nearing the end of their lifespan, chances are the other components are also, as they have been working just as long in the Canadian climate involving road salt, cold winters, debris, etc.” Gates makes belt, pulley, and tensioner replacement easy with the recent introduction of the company’s Accessory Component Kits. Gates has also designed an online training portal for technicians and counter-personnel; this free online portal (www.gates.techtraining.ca) features an Accessory Belt Drive System training course that will help technicians solve common problems of the belt drive system, improve system performance, and reduce customer comebacks. Jobbers should take full advantage of supplier point-of-sale materials and seasonal promotions to help drive sales, by bringing the importance of belt and hose maintenance to customers’ attention. In order to help fix noisy accessory drive problems, Dayco built the Dayco Laser Alignment Tool, which can be found in the Dayco Belt Diagnostic Kit. The Dayco Alignment tool features a machined aluminum body that is lightweight and durable. Dayco’s aluminum body has magnets that secure it into the grooves of the reference pulley, which is usually the crankshaft pulley, ensuring a stable stage for accurate laser projection. Dayco’s exclusive target component is also magnetic, so it easily attaches and aligns with the grooves of the target pulley. Before using the Dayco laser tool, always make sure to disconnect the vehicle’s battery. Also, remove the vehicle’s serpentine belt before inspecting the accessory drive system. Gates provides counter displays that help the store counterperson convincingly speak to customers about their vehicle’s drive system when explaining potential repairs. The timing belt drive system display educates consumers on the benefits of a complete timing system repair. The accessory belt drive system display shows customers how a worn belt interacts with components.