Before we blast off across the frozen tundra we all make sure we have a spare drive belt with us for when, not if, the stock OEM drive belt decides it is time to sign off. You know, thumpa-thumpa-thumpa. We’ve all been there, right?
What’s maybe worse than having a drive belt fail on you is having a brand new spare belt on your sled, but it isn’t ready to go. Like, what did you just say? Hello! You can’t just install a brand new drive belt and think it will instantly be ready for maximum power and instant abuse!
One of the hardest things for any drive belt is when the rider is out doing some high-load riding, like deep snow off trail, where the power being applied is very high and the load from the track is also very high. These are the conditions that put the most heat into the drive belt as the clutches are constantly shifting and the sled is moving along at slower ground speeds. If a drive belt is going to go, this is when it happens. And, this is when you need your new belt to be ready to go.
We checked with the drive belt experts at GBoost to see what their recommendations are for drive belt prep. Glenn Erlandson and his team of CVT transmission experts work with clutches and drive belts all day long every day, so they know how to make them perform up to their greatest potential.
The Gboost team tells us that, for maximum longevity and best performance one should always first wash the brand new drive belt in warm soapy water and let it air dry. We’ve always used something like Simple Green, and that logic still holds true. This should be done to brand new belts on brand new sleds as well as any brand new drive belt being added to the sled as a spare as it removes the mold release lubricant from the drive belt. Most of us should be familiar with how many drive belts will have kind of a slimy or slippery feeling to them when we first grab them, that’s why. You need to get this crap off of the brand new drive belt so it doesn’t transfer to the sheaves.
The next piece of expert advice is to scuff the (smooth) clutch sheaves with a Scotch Brite pad. No sand paper or steel wool, please! This isn’t always going to happen out on the snow, but it is a good idea to do so when installing a new drive belt. The logic is to give the sheaves some traction to grab the new belt sidewalls with. Brand new sheaves have little grooves from the machining process of manufacturing and these traction grooves disappear after a while. Be sure to clean the sheaves afterwards, using a towel moistened with your (Simple Green) hot soapy water or even some brake cleaner or contact cleaner. Yah, some people don’t like the solvents for cleaning because they say it gets released back into the drive belt, so if you prefer go the organic soapy towel route instead. Just clean the sheaves after you scuff them up!
Now for the tough part. Ideally, you want to have your drive belts broke in and ready to go before you place them in the spare belt holder. Otherwise you really need to take it easy when you install it. The break in is nothing magic, just take it easy for the first 15-20 miles after installation, varying the engine speed and load but not putting it to the coals right away. This allows the drive belt sidewalls to get seated properly to the sheaves, as the exact angle of the sheaves and belt sidewalls are never perfectly matched right out of the box. It also tends to relax and wake up the cords and materials gently before asking them to handle maximum loads and temperatures.
This way, if you should blow a belt or find that the one on your sled is getting narrow and is time to replace it (which is actually more common now than blowing one) you can put the new one on with confidence and know it will work properly with maximum performance and extended durability. These suggestions apply to all CVT drive belts of all brands in a perfect world, which many of us admittedly do not live in. Please, at least clean the drive belt of the slime and take it easy for a few miles when you first install it. They’re far too valuable to be a bonehead about this!