Belt dressing is a helpful lubricant you can use for various machines and equipment, such as cars and lawnmowers. It conditions the rubber drive or serpentine belt to prevent it from drying up, slipping, and making noise while the engine is running. However, there are downsides to using belt dressing.
Using belt dressing is bad because it doesn’t effectively fix the problem of a squeaky drive or serpentine belt. It only masks the issue and provides temporary relief. It’s best to identify and address the main cause of the problem to prevent further damage to your machine.
In this article, you’ll learn how a belt dressing works and its downsides. I’ll also discuss when and how to use belt dressing, the common causes of problems with your drive belt, and how to fix them properly without using belt dressing.
How a Belt Dressing Works
A drive or serpentine belt needs to move smoothly enough to start your engine. Otherwise, you may encounter several issues with your machine, such as:
- failure to start
- difficulty in keeping the engine running
A belt dressing or grease is a lubricant that helps condition serpentine or drive belts to move smoothly by reducing the friction that causes the squeaky noise in the engine. Belt dressing products also claim to prolong the life of your drive belt.
Here’s a video showing how a belt dressing works:
Belt dressing is pretty famous because it’s significantly cheaper than the services of a repair shop. It’s also easy to use as you only have to aim the nozzle at the exposed part of a moving drive belt and spray the liquid. Once you do so, you’ll notice a significant decrease in the squeaking or crackling noise.
Because of this, it gives users the impression that the noise issue has been resolved. However, it’s common for the problem to recur even after using belt dressing.
The Downsides of Using Belt Dressing
Although it seems like a quick fix to hush your squeaky drive belt, using belt dressings frequently isn’t a long-term solution. It may even pose new problems in the long run.
Below, I’ll discuss the downsides of using belt dressing:
Belt Dressing Can Leave Residue
The first time you apply belt dressing, you may notice a significant decrease in engine noise. Perhaps you may think your problem is over. Your belt moves more smoothly, and the disturbing noise is gone. Sadly, however, it’s only a temporary fix.
As the belt dressing dries up, it may leave residue on the surface or ribs of the belt, reviving the noise in your machine and introducing new problems. The residue may get caught between the belt rib and the pulleys and cause friction. It will then cause more squeaking noises and may result in your belts slipping or being misaligned.
Belt Dressing Can Be Bad for Synthetic Serpentine Belts
Most modern cars use synthetic serpentine belts made of ethylene propylene diene monomer (EPDM). The material is more durable than the traditional neoprene rubber and more resistant to wear and tear. You shouldn’t apply belt dressing on EPDM serpentine belts unless your car dealer or mechanic recommends it.
Also, with the material’s long lifespan and high performance, it’s highly unlikely you’d need to use belt dressing. EPDM usually lasts 100,000 miles (161,934 km) or longer. Once you reach the mileage limit, you can have your car undergo a routine checkup. Experts can tell when it’s time to replace your serpentine belt.
Moreover, applying oil-based belt dressing on your EPDM serpentine belt may cause the belt to swell and lead to loud noise in your engine. When this happens, you may need to replace your serpentine belt sooner.
Belt Dressing Cannot Fix Problems Not Related to the Drive Belt
Not all engine noises are a result of a problematic drive belt. There could be some mechanical issues at play that you can’t fix by simply applying a lubricant to the drive or serpentine belt. In that case, applying belt dressing can be counterproductive and even dangerous as it can speed up the movement of the drive belt or slow it down due to residue. It’ll then add more pressure on mechanical parts like the pulley or loosen some bearings even more.
When and How To Use Belt Dressing
Hearing squeaking noises from your machine or car’s engine can be alarming. Unfortunately, mechanics may not be readily available all the time. As such, you may need a temporary fix while you make your way to the nearest repair shop.
If you want to use a belt dressing, it’s best to always read the package instructions on using the particular brand you have. The best way to use belt dressing often depends on what kind of machine you’re applying it to.
Some products may instruct you to apply it while the engine is off. Others may advise you to use it while the engine is idle. You may also sometimes need to apply it on both sides of a serpentine belt for better results.
Either way, be sure you’re familiar with your car’s materials or components and that you have consulted your mechanic or car dealer before using a belt dressing.
Common Causes of Squeaky Drive Belts
As discussed, it’s best to identify the root cause of the problem and solve it instead of using belt dressing as a quick fix. The alternative may be costly, but it’s likely the safest option for your car or machine.
Let’s look at some of the common causes of squeaky drive belts:
Dust and Debris Buildup
Dust and debris build up in your engine over time. These specks of dirt get lodged underneath the serpentine or drive belt, increasing the friction and reducing the belt’s performance. Larger and sharper debris may also cause some tears on the drive belt.
In such cases, applying belt dressing can temporarily remedy the situation. However, once the grease dries up, it can contribute to more debris buildup on the belt.
If you suspect that dirt buildup on the drive belt is the culprit for the noise, the best thing you can do is have it cleaned. It’s a cheap and appropriate fix to your squeaky drive belt.
Wear and Tear
Like any old machine, drive belts can wear and tear with age. They can dry up and have cracks along the surface, reducing their overall performance. The rubber may also lose its tension over time. As a result, it stretches and becomes loose. When this happens, no amount of belt dressing can fix it.
The best solution for this issue is to replace the worn-out drive belt with a new one. It’s best to consult or hire a professional to perform the replacement so they can install the new drive belt properly.
Structural Problem in the Pulley
Sometimes, the main reason your drive belt is making noise has nothing to do with the belt. It could be because of misalignment in the pulley system or worn-out pulley bearings. In such cases, you need to realign your pulleys or tighten or replace some accessories and bearings.
In this situation, regardless of how much belt dressing you apply, you’ll still hear the squeaking noise.
Once you suspect that the problem is with the pulley, ask a professional mechanic to check what needs to be done or replaced.
Using belt dressing as a temporary fix to your squeaky drive belt is sometimes okay. However, relying on the lubricant whenever your engine starts making noise may ignore the root cause of the problem, leading to further complications.
Therefore, it’s essential to use belt dressing only when you don’t have immediate access to a mechanic or car repair shop who can help you properly address the issues with your car or machine.