Auto Service World
Feature   September 1, 2014   by Steve Pawlett

Tougher Conditions, New Tech Driving Belt And Hose Sales

With OEMs using higher-output alternators in vehicles to meet growing electronic demands from entertainment and communication devices, as well as smaller, more fuel-efficient engines to meet impending CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) requirements, substantially more operational stresses are being put on both the serpentine belts and coolant hoses.
“These newer engines and enclosed 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.”
“EPDM compound is now used in serpentine belts to provide better heat resistance during driver operation, and hoses are compounded to also withstand electrochemical degradation, which is inner tube cracking due to static buildup in the coolant,” explains Marc Therien, account executive, consumer products, for Veyance Technologies Canada.
Most consumers, do-it-yourselfers, and even many technicians are unaware of the fact that at around 90,000 kilometres, approximately 80% of the belt life is gone, and there are still many technicians that check for cracks on belts as a sign of wear. On older neoprene belts this is fine, but today most belts are made with EPDM technology and don’t crack. In this instance, it is good practice to use one of the free belt wear gauges provided by the major belt manufacturers or download a free smartphone app.
According to the Car Care Council, one in five vehicles on the road today needs a new belt. Counter staff may be surprised to learn that many warranty claim failures on alternators and other parts are actually caused by worn or improperly tensioned belts. As more material is lost, the pulleys ride deeper into the belt valleys, resulting in slip, noise, and even hydroplaning. A slipping belt (shiny or glazed-looking belt) can be caused by a worn tensioner, or worn or contaminated pulleys. Additionally, it’s important to inspect the pulleys for proper alignment, because as little as one degree of misalignment can cause belt chirp. Installing a new belt will only temporarily fix the problem, and within as little as 5,000 km the belt will begin to chirp again if not corrected.
“The new EPDM belt compounds have been designed to perform at very high under-hood temperatures, which have drastically improved the flex fatigue properties of the serpentine belt. This means that today’s belt may perform on an engine application for 160,000 kilometres or more before rib cracking will occur. But although the EPDM serpentine belt may not show any rib cracks up to 160,000 kilometres, the belt may need to be replaced prior to this due to rib wear,” says Wheeler.
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 will 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,’ which allows the technician to determine if the belt ribs have experienced significant wear,” Wheeler continues. “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. (This is the same principle by which you check if a tire needs to be replaced, by evaluating the wear of the tread.) Ultimately, this could cause accessories to not function properly, such as a loss of power steering, reduction of alternator output, etc.”
Dayco recommends that the belt be evaluated for rib wear at approximately 80,000 kilometres (even though it most likely won’t show any other signs of failure), and then during subsequent mileage intervals to insure that the belt is functioning with minimal rib wear.
Turbochargers are a growth market and are becoming increasingly common. What was once seen as a specialty product for imports with small engines or heavy-duty trucks is now an attractive option for a full range of vehicles.
“In response to this trend, Gates has introduced its new line of turbocharger hose kits for Ford and Dodge applications. They are OE-plus and consist of a turbocharger hose and T-bolt clamps for quick replacement. The hose has a high-quality silicone cover and a specially formulated fluoroelastomer liner that prevents oil seepage for superior service life and excellent heat resistance. The T-bolt clamps provide higher torque for better sealing over traditional worm gear clamps, while the stainless steel band and bridge resist corrosion,” explains Gates’s Randy Chupka.
Gates OE-Exact Turbocharger Hoses for Volkswagen and Audi feature hoses with aramid reinforcement for maximum durability and strength and original metal couplings crimped with the original calibrated machinery, to resist high temperatures, high pressures, and oil permeation, and to absorb vibration and shock.
“Jobbers can expect to see more and more opportunities for turbo-related parts replacement as repairs for turbochargers grow in popularity, and can expect more additions from Gates to this new line,” adds Chupka.
While under the hood inspecting the belts, 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, and 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 (ECD) 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,” says Chupka.
What key facts should counter staff share with customers to educate them on the importance of timely belt and hose replacement?
The obvious is the preventative maintenance factor, to avoid a costly breakdown on the side of the road and the expensive tow bill that goes with it. It’s also important to speak about secondary damage that can occur such as engine overheating, strain on the battery and other related components, etc. 
“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, he says, but other components such as pulleys, tensioners, alternator de-coupler pulleys, 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.”
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.
Annual and monthly promotions have always been front and
centre with Veyance Technologies Canada. Point-of-sale material includes counter displays drawing attention to a worn tensioner, comprehensive timing belt kit displays showing all wear components for consumers, and poster and counter mats.
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.
Earlier this year, Dayco added augmented reality-based training features to its VIN Scanning smartphone app. This new training was created to help provide awareness about serpentine belt and timing belt replacement jobs, and is accessible through the Learning Center within the Dayco app. AR training is a three-dimensional training feature that gives users the ability to see when to replace a serpentine belt and what goes into a complex timing belt replacement job.
To help explain the need for serpentine belt replacement, Dayco created counter mats and flyers that activate Dayco Augmented Reality training. This innovative training technology is accessible when users hold their smartphone or tablet over specially designed Dayco counter mats and/or flyers. When this is done, the image of an engine “comes to life” through the use of augmented reality technology, creating a digitally enhanced view of the engine.
“Dayco’s 3D training is available for serpentine belt drive systems as well as complex timing jobs. If a user does not possess a Dayco counter mat or flyer, that user may still take advantage of the training through a video embedded within the Dayco app,” adds Wheeler.
Jobbers who take full advantage of the sales tools that are now at their disposal can confidently bring the importance of belt and hose maintenance to a customer’s attention and build sales in this category.

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