How to save downtime when replacing belting on balers

By Chad Haugen, senior engineer at WCCO Belting

Purchasing replacement parts for equipment today may seem far more complicated than ever.

Advancements in technology, new market entrants, and a proliferation of models and features has made identifying the correct replacement parts much trickier, to say the least.

The product specifications are tighter in allowance, the features vary, and the economic pressure you face is critical. There is no time to waste correcting the right choice, and you want to make sure you get what you pay for.

Using experience from more than six decades in the belting industry, here are responses to frequently asked questions to help in the pursuit of quality replacement belting this season.

Identify what belting needs to be replaced

For draper headers, most often there is a right draper, a left draper, and a centre or feeder belt. How to tell right from left is the view from the seat of your cab in your machine.

Since right belts and left belts can vary due to the lengths and features, it is important to start by identifying right from left ahead of your search for the correct replacement.

Because there are so many possible specification combinations on a draper belt, it will be helpful for you to familiarise yourself with what you are using today before contacting your supplier.

Then you will be prepared to answer questions that will lead to the correct replacement part.

Here is a quick breakdown (table below) of features, components, and what to measure:

   
Cleats Cleats are placed approximately every 12” perpendicular to belt length and help transfer material to the feeder house. Cleats can run the full width of the belt or they may be recessed. The measurement from the recessed cleat to the belt edge can be used to help determine the correct replacement.
V-Guide V-guides, located on the bottom side, help track and drive the belt. Their locations vary and are specific to each manufacturer. Measuring the centre v-guide location to the belt edge can lead you to the correct replacement. If the belt was the original on a new machine, it could have two v-guides.
Side Seal Side seals, located on the top side, help prevent material from going under the belt and building up on the rollers. If the belt was the original on a new machine, it could have two side seals.
Connector Assembly The connector is the metal part that connects the two belts ends. Each equipment manufacturer has a different hole pattern punched on the belt ends that coincides with a connector designed specific to their machine. If you are only ordering a new connector, the hole quantity and pattern measurements can guide you to the correct part.

Unlike draper belting which can be replaced as needed, baler equipment functions optimally if the whole set is replaced at the same time. If you choose to replace part of a set, one or two belts, you need to measure the length of the belts prior to looking for a supplier.

Baler belts are made of rubber and fabric which can stretch and flex over time. You need the measurement of the belts being replaced rather than the length when installed. 

If the new belts are shorter than the others on the machine, it can affect your output and lead to premature belt failure.

Find a supplier you can rely on

The belting industry, like many others, is saturated with providers. Some people are willing to gamble on a deal that seems too good to be true, and that strategy has its risks and rewards related to product quality and service.

Most of us, on the other hand, are looking for a value-added supplier. Whether you are visiting a dealership, calling a distributor, or shopping online, ask yourself if you can trust their service and where their belting originated.

Although the physical differences from one belt to the next can be indecipherable to the untrained eye, a quality belt will make or, quite literally, break your operation.

There is a science to the manufacturing of rubber belting, and all belts are not created equal.

Start with the make and model

You narrowed down which belts need to be replaced; you found a reliable supplier and need to get your parts on order.

The best place to start is with the make and model of your equipment, e.g. if you are looking for swather canvas – canvas being an old industry term for belting – is it for a pull-type swather, self-propelled swather, or harvest header?

If you are speaking with a representative or working through on online catalogue on a website, once the make and model are identified, you will most likely be asked other investigative questions to determine the part you need, e.g. is the cut size of your platform 30ft, 35ft, 40ft, or 45ft?

Familiarising yourself with the belt components and measurements ahead of time will also support the supplier’s ability to get you the part you need.

For baler belting, belt specifications are determined by the manufacturer according to the design and function of the baler.

Understanding the options

Significantly deviating from manufacturers’ recommendations could result in equipment malfunction and downtime, e.g. going from a 2-ply belt to a 3-ply belt (adding an additional layer of rubber and fabric), or changing the top pattern, increases the overall gauge and your baler may not be designed with enough clearance.

If you are considering going with a more aggressive baler belt, a qualified supplier will help you understand your options.

Minor changes, such as changing from texture top (TT) cover to mini rough top (MRT) cover or slightly increasing the overall gauge can have positive impacts when it comes to starting the bale and rolling it tight. Going ‘the next step up’ is the best rule for increasing the aggressiveness of your baler belting.

Understanding belting basics to source the correct parts for your machines will drive both uptime and output.

Spending just a little extra time talking with a knowledgeable supplier about your specific needs and specifications will pay off in spades down the road, both in terms of keeping your operation running smoothly and improving your total cost of ownership.