You might have heard of dryer belts breaking before, but stretched belts are a problem that doesn’t seem to be spoken of as often. However, this problem is no less serious in the sense that it can also disrupt the functioning of your dryer.
Let’s look at why dryer belts stretch, what happens when they do, how it impacts the dryer, and what you can do in this predicament.
It’s definitely possible for dryer belts to stretch out or become loose over time. This is because they are made of rubber, which gradually loses its ability to bounce back into shape as it ages. This can prevent the belt from rotating the drum or cause it to slip off.
What Are Dryer Belts Made From?
Dryer belts are essentially giant rubber bands, although they aren’t quite as stretchy. Despite this, dryer belts do still have some elasticity.
Since rubber is an elastic material, it is able to return to its original form after being stretched. This is an important quality that makes rubber an ideal material for a dryer belt – but why is that?
Well, a dryer belt uses a pulley system to rotate the drum. We will go into more detail about this pulley system below, but the important thing to note is that the dryer belt must be under tension in order for the system to work properly.
Because the dryer belt is elastic, it is able to be gently stretched over various parts in the pulley system without becoming loose as soon as it is set into place. Instead, it is constantly trying to shrink back to its original size, keeping itself taut.
This tension allows the belt to both operate the pulley system and keep itself held in place, so it does not slip around aided by the fact that rubber can grip the drum due to friction, and the belts are usually grooved to increase that grip.
Elasticity Means Stretching Is Possible
Rubber is a relatively durable material for something that is meant to flex. However, much like any other material, it still wears down over time.
Inside a dryer, the belt is exposed to several forces. These include heat and friction while the dryer is running. And, as discussed earlier, the belt is also always enduring a level of tension.
Over time, these forces break down the rubber. It is common for the dryer belt to fray over time thanks to the heat and friction. However, tension and age can also cause the belt to lose its elasticity.
This is because elastomers and plasticizers in rubber begin to oxidize over time. In less technical terms, the components that give rubber its elastic qualities begin to break down the longer they are exposed to air.
As rubber ages and breaks down, it may begin to dry up and crack. In the case of objects like dryer belts that are constantly being stretched under a level of tension, the rubber may stretch out and lose its ability to return to its original size as it ages.
What Happens When Dryer Belts Stretch?
The idler pulley can take up some of the slack from a loosening dryer belt, but at some point, it becomes too loose. Once a dryer belt has stretched out to this point, your dryer may undergo some problems, to say the least.
As mentioned earlier, clothing dryers can run thanks to their pulley system. There are three main components of this system: the drum, the dryer belt, and the drive pulley.
The belt wraps around the drum and the drive pulley, which is connected to a motor and creates the force that allows the drum to rotate.
The belt is also wrapped over a piece called the idler pulley, which picks up any remaining length or slack, and thus pulls the belt taut.
Without the idler pulley creating tension on the belt, the belt wouldn’t have enough grip to actually rotate the drum, and it would freely slide over the drum instead. The belt could even become displaced.
The same thing happens to a stretched-out belt. When your dryer belt loses its elasticity, it is usually no longer tight enough to rotate the drum, and it may even slip out of position.
Essentially, the belt must be kept constantly tensed in order for the pulley system inside the dryer to work.
Can You Tighten a Dryer Belt?
Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do to repair or tighten a dryer belt once it has broken or stretched beyond the point of being useful.
Fortunately, a dryer belt is a rather cheap part to replace. It is also rather simple to install. Therefore, if you so wish, you can save yourself the cost of calling a professional to have it done for you.
With that said, if you are going to replace your dryer belt on your own, you must make sure that you purchase the right belt. Different models come in different sizes. A wrong type or size of the belt can cause it to break quickly or to otherwise keep your dryer from running optimally.