Continental Elite Poly-V Drive Belts
by Hib Halverson
Back in the ’90s, Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company introduced a new type of serpentine or “Poly-V” drive belt. It was named “Gatorbackt” for the distinctive helical-cogged, or “helicog,” pattern on the belt’s backside and to associate the product with Goodyear’s “Gatorback” high performance radial tires of the late-’80s and early-’90s. The helicog side of the belt allowed it to flex more easily as it wound around the various pulleys and tensioners of a Corvette engine’s accessory drive system. With any rubber product, be it a tire or a drive belt, when the rubber flexes, heat is generated. If the flexing process is made easier, the rubber runs cooler which enhances durability. While the Gatorback tire was replaced by the GS-C in the mid-’90s, the Gatorback Poly-V belt product line continued. It became the most popular premium, aftermarket serpentine belt product on the market.
In 2007, the Engineered Products Division, which developed and manufactured Goodyear’s belt and hose products, was sold to the Carlyle Group, was renamed “Veyance Technologies” and continued to make Gatorback belts. Seven more years went by, then, in early 2014, ContiTech, part of the huge, German automotive supplier, Continental AGs, acquired Veyance. In mid-2015, ContiTech relaunched its line of high-performance serpentine belts as “Continental Elite Poly-V Belts with Quiet Channel Technology”. Maybe the name isn’t as simple as “Gatorback” but the product is improved over the original helicog design.
Back in the ’00s, tire manufacturers, needing to develop tires which made less noise, hit on the idea of making tread blocks which varied in size. The different-sized blocks produced noise of several different frequencies which reduced the overall noise level over tread blocks the same size making a lot of noise of one dominant frequency. This “variable helicog” design. used in Continental’s belts, applies the same idea. This has an Elite belt running quieter than the previous helicog design. Additionally, a fiber-loaded backing with additional cord support along with the use of (take a deep breath) ethylene-propylene-diene-monomer (EPDM) rubber further improves the belt’s ability to flex and that reduces heat. The result is greater wear resistance and exceptional belt life compared to products using a standard, straight-rib design.
The V-Net’s sibling web site, the Corvette Action Center used the previous Gatorback belts since the product was introduced over 20 years ago and has continued to test the Continental Elite belt with excellent results. Based on the CAC’s experience, we decided to try an Elite Poly-V Belt on one of the ATS-Vs we use to test products.
ContiTech currently does not list an Elite Poly-V Belt for the LS4 in an ATS-V, but after carefully reviewing Continental’s catalog we decided its 78.7-inch, 6-rib belt (PN 4060787) might work so we ordered one. Sure enough it was only .080-in. shorter than the OE belt and it installed easily using our GearWrench Serpentine Belt Tool Kit.
One characteristic we noted was when we made a hoop out of the belt about the size of a pulley, it took less force to deform the hoop of the Elite belt then it did to deform the hoop of the stock belt. Admittedly, this is an unscientific test, but it does seem to indicate that it is easier to flex a varialbe-cog Continental belt than it is to flex a ribbed OE belt.
After putting the belt on, while listening to the idling engine, we thought we could detect a slight decrease in noise in the area of the accessory drive, but again, this is just a subjective, unscientific test which tends to indicate the belt might be somewhat more quiet. ContiTech supplied some test data they developed from a test of an Elite belt against those from the three leading aftermarket belt suppliers which seems to confirm our “play it by ear” test. To view that noise data, click here. https://static1.squarespace.com/static/546e51cae4b07670a35026a3/t/54e372f5e4b0b6d75a40cc6c/1424192245516/1112302_RP_Quiet+Driver+Sell+Sheet_v2_HR.pdf
Bottom line: ContiTech’s new Continental Elite Poly-V Belts are a great product which improves upon a great design. For application information take a look at Continental’s “Part Finder” page at http://www.partfinderelite.com.