Let’s stretch that word “wheel” to anything that goes round and round on a vehicle. Do you have any idea how many parts on any combustion powered vehicle go around hundreds or thousands of revolutions per minute even when the vehicle is just idling? There are dozens on many engines and every one of those has bearings that need lubricated or belts that need checked often. Failing to properly maintain any one of these could lead to being stranded or total engine failure.
Today’s engines often live under a nearly sealed environment. Just a decade or so ago when you lifted the hood on any vehicle you could see the entire engine and all the connected parts. Today when you open the hood you may only see the top of the engine and a few filler ports. All of the moving parts have been removed from site – but they are still there and working just as hard as ever.
Checking And Replacing Drive Belts
Out of sight out of mind is just as true today as ever. Your vehicle still has components which are driven off the engine by belts and pulleys. While many manufacturers have gone to a single belt system there are still others which use separate belts to drive some systems. Just a few such belt driven systems are your vehicle’s alternator, the air conditioning system, the power steering system, the coolant fan, and sometimes even separate pumps for things like vacuum or pressure systems.
Belts don’t last forever and your vehicle’s owner’s manual will give you some really good clues about the life expectancy of these belts. It is very important that they be checked regularly because a misalignment or additional friction can cause them to fail prematurely. In vehicles with a single drive belt system this means all of your systems which rely on that drive belt will fail – usually terminating the operation of the vehicle immediately.
What we don’t usually realize is that the pressure placed on the pulleys, brackets, and components of these systems can be very high; Often in the hundreds of pounds of pressure. For some components every revolution can place several hundred pounds of stress on the shaft and bearings and that’s with thousands of turns per minute! A vehicle running at 3,000 RPM may in turn spin a component at 9,000 RPM due to the ration of pulleys on the drive system. Make sure you include shaft, pulley and bearing inspection in your next auto service visit.