Many of the parts inside your dryer are connected through the dryer belt, which means the belt is an essential part of any dryer. However, it also means that many things can affect it. Let’s take a look at what they could be, so you can prevent it from happening again or prolong the lifespan of your belt.
1. Natural Belt Wear and Tear
The dryer belt is the piece that allows for the drum of a dryer to rotate by way of a pulley system that is not too unlike the treads that allow large tank vehicles to move.
Due to the nature of the way they work, dryer belts are naturally subjected to constant and gradual wearing and damage from friction.
The belt is installed by looping around the entire drum, and the loose, remaining length of the belt is then looped around a “drive pulley” as well as another piece called the “idler pulley.”
The idler pulley helps create tension on the dryer belt by taking up the extra slack. By keeping the belt under this tension, the idler pulley allows the belt to grip onto (tread side down) and rotate the drum.
The drive pulley creates the movement that pulls on the belt. When the motor runs, the drive pulley rotates, causing the dryer belt to move and therefore pull on the drum so that it also turns.
This rotational movement can only occur because the belt is attached to the drum by tension. That means that not only is the belt always under tension in order to operate, but it must endure a level of friction every time the dryer is in use.
Just like car brakes wear down over time due to the constant friction of stopping your car, the friction caused by rotation can gradually wear down and cause damage to your dryer belt. Points of weakness develop and make the belt vulnerable to breaking.
2. Overloaded Dryer
If you overload your dryer regularly, this could be causing extra wear to your dryer belt and essentially lead to the belt breaking faster than normal.
Overloading your dryer could be caused by either putting too many items into the appliance or by putting in the dryer items that are too heavy such as thick blankets, cardigans, or soaking wet clothes that haven’t been through a spin cycle in the washer.
When you overload your dryer, you’re putting excessive strain on the system that runs it. Too much weight inside your dryer will cost the motor more effort to rotate the drum while the dryer is running.
There are other consequences of overloading the drum that can affect the dryer belt. The drum sits on rollers that are supposed to rotate with the drum. If the dryer load is too heavy the rollers might not operate smoothly and the belt system will have to overcome the friction created by the stationary rollers as well.
If you have seriously overloaded your drum, the drum could potentially fail to rotate. This would cause the belt to burn through as it endures excessive heat and friction from trying to move an immobilized drum.
This means that not only could you cause the dryer belt to wear down faster and even break from the increased tension, but your motor could overheat. Other components like the support wheels may wear down from the increased weight and pressure as well.
If your dryer belt does not break from sustaining excessive weight, it may still stretch out from the pressure.
Furthermore, the idler pulley may not be able to compensate for the size of the belt if the belt becomes too worn out and stretched by the weight of a heavy drum.
3. Fault in the Pulley System
Your belt may also wear down from a defect or fault in part of the pulley system, not just from normal wear or user error.
For example, your drum’s supporting wheels (rollers) might be worn down, thus making it hard for your drum to rotate. This would put extra strain on your pulley system and cause it to break down faster, likely resulting in the belt breaking as well.
In some cases, the pulley’s axle or bearing may fail, causing the drum to not be able to turn and, therefore, increasing the friction on the belt.
The problem could also be your idler pulley, the piece that picks up the extra slack of your dryer belt and allows it to fit snugly around the drum.
If the idler pulley is not able to turn freely, it could be creating an excessive amount of friction, which generates heat that may cause your belt to melt. This can produce a burning smell even in a new belt.
Other parts of your dryer could also be the cause of your belt snapping. As you can see, it is easy for the malfunction of one part to affect all the others.
It can’t hurt to take a look at each part of your dryer to assess the cause. Or you can have a professional inspect it if you are not confident in your diagnostic abilities.
4. Belt Was Damaged When Installed
It is possible that your dryer belt was damaged before installation. Perhaps a belt with a nick or missing dent managed to pass by quality control. Or maybe it was damaged during shipment or even the installation process.
Whatever the cause, some damage to the belt occurred. Now, the damaged portion becomes a weak point that is more vulnerable to wear. Think about how a crack in glass or ice is its weakest point, and how added pressure will cause the area around the crack to snap first.
The same concept applies to a dryer belt. Even though part of the belt is weakened, it has to carry out the same task.
Needless to say, this damaged portion of the belt is likely to wear out quicker and become the breakage point.
5. Dryer Panels Dented Inward
As established, friction is both an integral part of how the dryer’s pulley system works and a force that causes breakage and wear over time.
While some friction is necessary for the pulley system to operate, you want to reduce any unnecessary friction that could occur.
If one of your dryer panels is dented inward – maybe it was bumped during moving one time, or someone fell into it – your dryer will likely still work fine if no other parts were affected.
However, it is also possible that the dented panel reaches too far inward and is comes into contact with the belt.
This means that while the belt is turning, it is now facing additional friction from the outside, where it is rubbing against the dented dryer panel.
If you have a dented dryer, it is worth a shot to look inside and see if the offending panel could be the culprit behind your broken belt.
6. Wrong Belt Was Installed
Dryer belts are a part that can vary in size from machine to machine. This is because each model is built differently. Some dryers may handle more weight than others and require thicker or wider belts as a result. Some machines simply have a bigger drum.
If a belt that is too narrow is installed, it is more likely to slip around on a pulley system built for a wider belt. This side-to-side motion can create additional strain and friction, and we know what friction can do to the belt.
A belt that is too long will slip off and likely create more friction and melt. If the belt is too short, it most likely won’t even work. However, if it does, the tension on the belt will be too high, causing it to wear and snap.
The design of the belt may also play a part. Some belts are smooth, while others are grooved for better grip or to endure more wear before replacement. It’s always best to get compatible parts to ensure your machine is running optimally.
I have an entire article dedicated to the causes of and solutions for slipping dryer belts.
7. Poor Quality Belt
As with all things, it is possible that quality comes into play when figuring out the reason behind your broken belt.
A good kitchen knife will keep its edge longer and cut better, a quality pair of shoes will last longer before coming apart, and a glass mug will last longer than a paper cup.
A dryer belt also follows this general rule. If the belt that was installed was made with poor materials or design, it is likely that it will not last nearly as long as a belt with a better grip made from higher quality materials.
Rather than wear down and break, a poor-quality belt may also dry out and develop small cracks in the rubber. As this happens, its flexibility and ability to grip onto your drum decrease.
That is why it is important to always look for belts from reliable brands that are recommended by your dryer’s manufacturer.