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All-terrain vehicles (ATVs) use either a dry or a wet belt drive transmission in the machine's design. The difference in the ATV belts used in these machines is the ability of the belt to operate in or out of an oily environment. Typical ATV belts are manufactured from a rubber composite that can contain many other ingredients, including Kevlar®, a component used in bulletproof vests. As with any rubber-based component, the ATV belts must be occasionally replaced due to wear, damage or breakage, and it is critical to replace the belt with a proper replacement. Most of the belts are directional, therefore, they must be installed in the correct direction in order to operate for more than an initial break-in run.
The typical ATV uses a rubber belt to provide the engine power to the transmission. Even on ATVs that claim to be shaft-driven, a belt is still used to provide the initial engine power to the transmission. The ATV belts act similarly to a clutch in a manual vehicle transmission. The clutch mechanism in an ATV operates by squeezing the belt, thereby applying a driving force to the belt. In some ATVs, the clutch is designed to operate in an oil bath which acts not only as a lubrication component, but it also provides cooling for the clutch components as well as the ATV belts.
In this type of transmission, the belt is manufactured of such components that it remains able to provide friction even when wet with oil. The metallic clutch face is able to grip the wet belt. This ability enables it to apply power to the transmission so that the machine is able to operate properly.
If, by chance, this wet belt was replaced with a belt intended and designed for use in a dry transmission, the vehicle would not operate properly. The transmission would slip, overheat and could possibly catch fire. Conversely, placing ATV belts designed to be operated in a wet transmission into a dry transmission could also result in faulty operational behavior. The wet belt would overheat, slip and would potentially break due to the heat.
The intricate design of ATV belts requires that the belts also be placed on the clutch and drive pulleys in the proper direction. Failing to install the ATV belts in the proper direction will result in the belt material separating and coming apart prematurely. Following the ATV manufacturer's recommendations for the proper care and and riding of an ATV will typically result in much better belt wear and a much more enjoyable ATV riding experience.