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Conveyor Belt Breakdown: Repair or Replace?


Conveyor belt systems are used to conveniently move very fine or heavy, bulky objects from one part of a processing facility to another. One of the most commonly used conveyor belting  materials is rubber.

As one of the most preferred conveyor belt options, rubber affords durability and high resistance to abrasion and decay.

Although it is highly resistant to wear and tear, this doesn’t mean that it is invulnerable to further damage caused by prolonged use. All damage, no matter how big or small, must be addressed to prevent operational delays.

Common rubber conveyor belt problems include:

  • Covers are cracked and/or hardened
  • Belt edges are curling up/cupping (this happens over time)
  • Excessive belt stretch

If you notice any of these problems, they should be resolved immediately. So, the burning question, do you repair or replace the damaged part? The following information should help you to decide:

Repairing Conveyor Belts

When your rubber conveyor belt has reached grace period, it will most likely begin to weaken and show some signs of deterioration. If you think that replacement is not yet necessary, here are some questions to consider before repairing:

How Extensive is the Damage?

A common rule of thumb suggests that if the damage does not involve more than 25% of the belt’s width, it is practical to repair it. However, if more than 25% of the width is damaged, it is preferable to have a saddle section insertion or a full replacement.

Repairable damage often includes:

  • Small rips or tears along the edge
  • Small punctures
  • Edges fraying or cover scoring

What Repair Techniques Should Be Used?

Belt repairs ordinarily employ vulcanised, metal fastener or cold cure methods.

  • Vulcanised Repairs

This process will sacrifice the belt’s strength by replacing the damaged or missing sections of the cover or carcass. After the damaged part has been cleaned and cemented, a new rubber cover will be inserted and cured using heat and pressure.

  • Metal Fastener Repairs

Metal fasteners are used strictly for splicing. There may have several attachment formats for this type of repair including staples, rivets, hooks and bolts. Metal fasteners provide good grips and they are durable and easy to use. This technique is not applicable for cover-only repairs.

  • Cold Cure Repairs

Similar to vulcanised repairs in the sense that the damaged cover or carcass is repaired by inserting new materials, rather than using heat and pressure, a chemical cure is used to achieve adhesion to the virgin belt.

Replacing Conveyor Belts

Although it is possible to repair damage, it is not always the best solution. It might solve the immediate problem but sometimes a complete replacement is better to avoid bigger complications further down the line.

The following signs are a sure indication that your conveyor belt needs to be replaced:

Gross Damage

If the majority of the conveyor belt has signs of ripping, tearing or fire damage, this will cause an overstressed balance which will most likely result in total failure. At this point, a replacement is clearly needed.

Belt Age

Sometimes, the age of the belt makes the decision easier. It is always wiser to replace old belts, regardless of their condition. If the belt is almost at the end of its life cycle, it wouldn’t be worth saving it with further repairs.

Repair Potential

Assess the potential to repair the conveyor belt. If you determine that by repairing your conveyor belts this will likely cause more significant damage to the machine or to the goods being transported, you should always consider replacement.

Every industry should be aware of the limitations and capabilities of every piece of equipment they use – including conveyor belts.

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