When you have a record player or a turntable that has direct drive, which is the way many new ones are made today, you never have to worry about replacing a belt. Direct drive means the motor is located underneath the record platter and it rotates it all by itself.
Belt driven platters have the motor offset and there is usually a belt made from rubber which is wrapped around a spindle and works like a pulley system turning the platter. It’s a big difference.
Unless you are a DJ in a professional capacity, a direct drive turntable might not be your best option. Direct drive allows you to change speed and mix music easily using two turntables at once.
For the average person, listening to their vinyl records at home is their main objective and not the fancy finger work and mixing that a DJ might need. A belt-driven turntable will allow you to perhaps hear all of the nuances of your vinyl with less distortion.
How Do I Know If My Turntable Belt Is Bad?
As most of us know, products made from rubber are great, but over time they can become dry, brittle, cracked, and eventually break down altogether. This can be the case with turntable belts made from rubber.
There is one sign that you can definitely look out for if your turntable belt is going bad. It may begin to slip a little or the sound can become pitchy. This can be heard because the platter speed may have become unstable by a belt going bad.
Another signal that your belt may be bad is a sluggish start up or if the platter seems to run too fast. The belt system has been designed with a specific belt thickness and tension in mind. A belt that is worn will develop a reduced resistance and the platter speed will increase.
How to Clean A Turntable Belt?
Once you begin to hear a slight pitchy sound when playing your vinyl records, your speeds are not changing correctly, start up is slow and sluggish, or your belt is falling off of the pulley, it may not necessarily need replacing just yet. It could just need a little cleaning.
When attempting to clean your rubber turntable belt, make sure the player is off and unplugged from any electricity. After that, in order to get to the belt to clean it, you must first remove the rubber mat from the platter, then lift the platter off of the spindle. Then you can easily and carefully remove the belt.
You will need paper towels, isopropyl alcohol, soapy water and some Q tips. You should locate any black specks or other debris on the surfaces that the belt rides on, mainly the pulley. Use the isopropyl alcohol on a paper towel to clean the easiest to get to debris first. Then you can use the Q tips and get into any nooks and crannies.
Next use a little warm and slightly soapy water on a paper towel to thoroughly clean the belt. Make sure it is rinsed well so there is no soap residue left on the belt. Although some may use the isopropyl alcohol to clean their belt, this might cause the felt to dry out more easily, so soapy water is considered best. Make sure everything you cleaned is completely dry before you reassemble the belt and platter.
How Often Should You Change a Turntable Belt?
The frequency with which you change out your turntable belt has a few varying factors. If you use your turntable almost every day for at least a couple of hours, then you are much more likely to need to change your belt more often. A typical turntable belt can last anywhere from 3 to 5 years or even longer.
If you are someone that only uses your turntable every once in a while, then you may get the longest amount of use from a belt. One of the best ideas it to simply look at your belt about every six months to a year if you use the turntable a lot. If you use it less often, then check the belt once a year or so.
When checking your belt, hold it up to a light and see if it looks shiny or glossy. See if there are any tiny cracks in the rubber. These can be signs that you need to go ahead and replace the belt with a new one. Replacing a bad belt early on will ensure you will get the best sound from your vinyls. If the belt looks good, simply put it back.
What Size Turntable Belt Do I Need?
Turntable belts come in many different sizes. You might think you must take your turntable to a repair shop in order to make sure you get the right size, but that’s really not necessary. There is a fairly simple measuring method you can use. It’s easy to purchase a new belt from a local store that sells them or you can easily order the correct size online.
You will need to first remove your old belt from underneath the platter. The platter is easy to remove. Remove the old belt. You can not just simply measure the total length of an old belt because when they are well worn, they have more than likely stretched out. A turntable belt must fit snugly around the pulley parts in order for the turntable to spin correctly.
Next, you will need a non-stretchable string long enough to go around all parts of the pulley. Follow the same path on the pulley that the belt was on. Start by placing the string at one point of the pulley system. You can secure the end with a piece of tape.
Then wrap the string around the pulley path and meet the other end of the string where you started. Use a marker to mark the end of the string. Once you have marked the length on the string you can remove it and measure it.
What you will end up needing is a belt that is 3-5% shorter than your string measurement. This will ensure the correct belt tension when you play your vinyls. You also need to notice whether your belt is flat, square or round and how thick it is.
How Tight Should a Turntable Belt Be?
How tight or loose your turntable belt is matters a lot. You must have the right amount of tension on the belt to ensure the vinyls will sound correctly when played. A loose belt can cause slippage. A belt that is too tight can put too much tension on pulley parts.
The belt must be tight enough so that it holds on the inner hub with minimal stretching. You can deduct 5-10mm from the circumference to calculate the right length. In other words, if you have the correct belt size you will not need more than 5-10% stretch to get the belt around the pulley system.
If you followed the step above about determining what size turntable belt you need, then the belt should go around the pulley parts smoothly with just a slight bit of stretching.