Conveyor Belt Maintenance & Common Conveyor Belt Problems

If your conveyor belt isn’t working properly, it will have untold ramifications throughout your machine. Entire operations can be thrown off schedule, resulting in loss of both money and productivity.

To prevent this from happening, you need to keep a close eye on the precise workings of your conveyor belts. By carefully watching and checking up on your belts, you can catch many problems before they develop into larger issues that take time and money to fix.

No matter how careful you are, mistakes still happen, and parts and equipment eventually break down. When this inevitably happens, it’s important to know how to fix complications as they arise.

It’s crucial for you to understand how to complete conveyor belt maintenance as well as what some of the more common conveyor belt problems are and how to fix them. This information will help you keep your conveyor belts running smoothly and stop them from breaking down due to preventable issues.

Common Conveyor Belt Problems

While it is impossible to compile a list of every bad situation you will ever encounter with your conveyor belt, this is a list of some of the concerns you are most likely to face, as well as their probable consequences.

  1. Conveyor Belt Mistracking
  2. Belt Slipping
  3. Seized Rollers
  4. Blockages
  5. Material Spillage

In addition to learning more about the most common conveyor belt issues, learn:

  • How to prevent them
  • Safety measures for maintenance
  • When to contact a professional

1. Conveyor Belt Mistracking

This issue occurs when there is a conveyor belt tracking problem. Tracking is the process of managing and aligning the belt onto the correct path, and it’s critical to ensuring the smooth functioning and output of equipment. Mistracking, then, is when something goes wrong along this track. In most cases, it means that the belt has moved to one side or another, and the entire system has shifted out of alignment.

Mistracking leads to numerous negative consequences. It has the potential to throw the entire system off its specified course. But the consequences can also be less extreme than this. Mistracking might simply lead to uneven belt wear, which is the cause of a whole host of other problems in its own right.

If the belt moves entirely off the track, the whole system could begin malfunctioning and shut down. It’s best to keep an eye out for small signs of mistracking, even if they don’t seem to be causing much damage. By catching this problem early on, you can prevent it from worsening and creating a larger issue.

2. Belt Slipping

Conveyor belts rely on a precise balance of tension to work correctly. If there is too much tension or too little, things begin to go awry, and the belt can slip. Specifically, if the head pulley breaks down or even becomes overly worn, there will no longer be enough tension to keep the belt from slipping around.

This loss of tension can result in unnecessary stretching and strain on the belt, as well as loud, grating and squealing noises and the aforementioned slipping. It will require time-consuming maintenance to fix such a problem as this. To avoid this situation, check all parts and pieces of the conveyor belt regularly to ensure that they aren’t experiencing any undue wear and tear.

3. Seized Rollers

In most cases, conveyor’s are constructed from metallic materials such as steel. This construction is good because it means the parts are usually highly durable and long-lasting. However, it also means that when the rollers on the conveyor belt seize up, they have an unfortunate tendency to develop sharp edges.

These sharp edges, in turn, can have major repercussions throughout the conveyor system. They can cause the belt to mistrack unequally down the center line of the conveyor belt. This circumstance is an issue for several reasons.  It can pose a significant safety hazard to any workers in proximity to the conveyor belt.

If the problem is severe enough that the entire system malfunctions and shuts down, you will most likely be looking at a long shut-down period while the system is repaired. Check the rollers frequently to prevent this scenario.

4. Blockages

The primary purpose of any conveyor belt is to transport material efficiently from one location to another. It only makes sense, then, that when this efficient travel is disrupted, the entire system stops working.

It’s all too easy for a material to get caught. When this happens, the next load behind the first one gets caught, and the pileup simply builds from there. It can lead to the entire system becoming clogged and jammed.

While random occurrences are hard to predict and often impossible to prevent, you can do a great deal to stop preventable blockages. Check your conveyor belts carefully for any sharp edges, surfaces, corners or other spaces that might snag material as it goes past. Remember that even if something looks like it’s not a big deal now, it’s always better to deal with it while it’s still small. Otherwise, it might soon become a much larger complication.

5. Material Spillage

It’s fairly common for there to be some issues with material spillage at some point along a conveyor. This term refers to any material that accidentally slides or spills off the belt, and it’s most common along transfer and load points. This occurrence isn’t necessarily due to any mechanical failures or problems with the belt, but it can still be an issue, as this spilled material can lead to blockages or buildups that will have a domino effect and cause other problems later on.

If you find that material spillage is a common factor on your conveyor belt, try installing impact beds, skirt clamps or a belt plough. These solutions will help reduce wasted material as well as time spent cleaning up, and they’ll decrease the possibility of breakdowns caused by blockages on the belt.

How to Prevent Problems with Your Conveyor Belts

Here are a few of the most important things you can do to keep your system running smoothly.

  1. Check for Buildups
  2. Clean Your System Regularly
  3. Make sure the Frame is Square and Level
  4. Make Sure the End Pulleys are Even
  5. Check That the Belt is Cut Straight
  6. Keep the Idlers Running Smoothly
  7. Replace Any Worn Parts

1. Check for Buildups

As part of the regular checkups you perform on your conveyor belt, you should complete a routine cleanliness check. Carefully look over your entire machine from top to bottom, side to side and every way you can think of. Look for buildups of dirt, debris or residue of any kind. Wherever you find these types of buildup, remove them as thoroughly as possible.

Debris is a common cause of mistracking. It can cause the belt to become aligned incorrectly, and it can also be responsible for blockages in your equipment.

2. Clean Your Machine Regularly

This process goes hand in hand with checking for buildups. However, if you clean regularly, you reduce the possibility of allowing buildups to happen in the first place. Make a regular habit of cleaning your conveyor system’s. You’ll be more likely to catch issues early on and prevent any problems that would arise as a result of excess material buildup.

3. Make Sure the Frame is Square and Level

It’s hard for your conveyor’s to run properly if the entire system is tilted at an unusual angle or thrown out of alignment, which can happen just from the regular motion of the machine as well any number of other factors.

It’s essential to check regularly to make sure the conveyor frame is squared up neatly and everything is lined up correctly. You can easily confirm by using a standard level and checking to make sure that both sides are even.

4. Make Sure the End Pulleys Are Even

Pulleys are easy to check at the same time that you’re already investigating whether the frame is square. Verify that each pulley in the system is evenly lined up with the conveyor frame. If these pulleys are off, this could lead to bigger problems with the belt slipping and parts wearing down more quickly.

5. Check That the Belt Is Cut Straight

This feature isn’t necessarily something you need to check every time you perform maintenance since looking at it once will get the job done. However, it’s still crucial to perform this analysis. While ideally, every belt is cut and formed perfectly, it’s not impossible that you may have gotten a defective belt that simply isn’t cut straight. If you didn’t know about this defect, it could be wreaking all kinds of havoc in your machine through mistracking.

6. Keep the Idlers Running Smoothly

The conveyor belt’s return idlers can become dirty, frozen or incorrectly aligned over time due to improper installation or natural wear, tear and motion. These parts should be cleaned regularly, and their alignment should be checked.

If your idlers freeze or stop working in any way, it could have various ramifications for your machine. It could lead to your belt wearing out faster than usual and needing to be replaced, among other possibilities. To avoid this situation, simply check the idlers regularly for any problems, cleaning them as they become dirty and replacing them as they begin to wear out.

7. Replace Any Worn Parts

This advice should go without saying, but it’s so important that it’s worth drawing special attention to. If any single part of your conveyors begins to wear down, it needs to be replaced. If it is allowed to continue breaking down without replacement, it will put added strain on the other parts as they work to carry the extra load that the damaged part is unable to. This situation results in the rest of your equipment breaking down more quickly or malfunctioning and needing to be shut down altogether.

There are many reasons a part could break down. It could be that there was excessive buildup destroying the material or that the part was never installed correctly and it was experiencing excessive strain. Or it could simply be that the part has grown old and is naturally breaking down with time. Whatever the case, it’s important to replace it now before it causes damage to the rest of the machine.

Safety and Conveyor Belt Maintenance

While not as inherently dangerous as many other pieces of heavy machinery and equipment, conveyor belts are still capable of serious damage if the correct safety measures aren’t taken. If you or any of your team members are about to start maintenance work, take note of these key safety precautions before you begin.

  1. Turn the Machine off
  2. Don’t Take on More Than You Can Handle
  3. Contact Professionals if More Help is Needed

1. Turn the Machine Off

This point cannot be stressed enough. Do not perform maintenance on any conveyor while it is in use. Doing so would be a good way to get a finger crushed or broken if your fingers happen to get caught in the machinery. To avoid problems with dangers such as these, take extra precautions. Be safe and make sure everything is shut off before you begin maintenance.

2. Don’t Take on More Than You Can Handle

The amount of electricity needed to power a conveyor system is nothing to take lightly. That kind of power can cause serious damage, especially if you’re inexperienced and aren’t especially sure what you’re doing. If you begin to suspect that the problem with your conveyor belt is much more involved than anything we’ve covered here, take a step back. It may be time to call in a professional maintenance team. While this may seem like an extra hassle, it’s always better to be safe than to end up seriously damaging your equipment or endangering yourself or an employee.

3. Contact Professionals for Help With Your Conveyor 

If you find yourself in over your head with repairing or maintaining your conveyor belt, sometimes the best thing you can do is to call a professional who is equipped with the correct conveyor belt maintenance tools.

Our employees are extremely knowledgeable and highly qualified to help you troubleshoot whatever problem you may be facing. If some of your parts are wearing out and need replacing, we can work with you to help you determine the correct part that will get your machine back up and running again.