roller chain vs v belts

In many industries across the world you'll find v belt drives and roller chain drives powering all sorts of machines. Both styles have been across the power transmission industry for many decades. Some engineers favor one drive system over the other, but both have their advantages and disadvantages, which limit the use in certain applications.

V Belt Drive System

V belts and pulleys are a pretty basic, simple and cost effective choice for powering many different applications. V belts transmit power by friction which is created when the belt wedge's into a pulley or sheave. V belts are best suited for high speed drives running in clean environments with minimal torque requirements. A great feature of a v-belt drive is when the drive becomes overloaded, the belt will slip preventing damage to the machine or related components. One drawback with slippage is that you will experience overheating and faster wear that leads into more stretch. When making a new belt design it will require a tension-arm with a good amount of take-up travel or a special designed adjuster to keep proper tension on the belt to prevent excess slipping.

V Belts Options

You'll find that v belts comes in a wide variety of styles. The standard v belts are the most economical belt and used in several applications such as agricultural, industrial and HVAC. An alternative to standard belts are cogged v belts, which has a raw-edge construction that offers increased flexibility, higher HP ratings and runs cooler make them a more premium belt. The last v belt type is the wedge v belts that has generated better HP ratings over standard belts due the updated wedge design. All styles do come in a wide range of multiple band options ranging from 2 bands up to 12 bands wide.

  • Very cost effective
  • No lubrication required
  • Reduced vibration and runs quiet
  • High speed, low torque drives
  • Generally requires more space
  • Poor performance in dirty environments
  • Requires more adjustment to accommodate stretch
  • Can deteriorate fast in many environments

Roller Chain Drive Systems

A roller chain transmits power by meshing with a toothed wheel called a sprocket. When a design engineer requires higher efficiency under higher amounts of torque, then the most obvious choice is roller chain. The primary reason for this is that roller chain will not slip. Chain is also a recommended choice when a design requires multiple direction changes or short distances. A drawback that many engineers engineers don't like is that chain is considered "high maintenance". This is because roller chain does require constant lubrication throughout it's entire lifespan. In fact, the #1 cause of chain failure is improper or inadequate amount of lubrication. What happens is you'll experience metal-to-metal wear between the pin and bushing area. This is commonly referred to as stretch, but a chain does not actually stretch. When the chain wears, the joints or "bearing areas" become elongated causing the chain to become longer. A roller chain that elongates more than 3% of its original length is considered worn out and should be replaced.

Roller Chain Options

There are many sizes and types of roller chains to choose from when designing a chain drive. Nitro Chain offer many chains such as standard, heavy duty, cottered & super premium. There are many other choices for special applications such as sealed or self-lube roller chain, corrosion resistant roller chain and attachment roller chain. The attachment chain is used for attaching parts to a chain or triggering sensors in a conveyor system.


  • No slipping
  • Perfect for short or long distances
  • Takes up less space
  • High torque drives
  • Better resistance to stretch
  • Can operate in dusty, corrosive and extreme temperature ranges


  • Much more costly
  • High maintenance, always requires lubrication
  • Can be noisy in higher speeds