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Save Money by Re-covering Worn Parts

Nothing lasts forever. So when a roller, actuator or lifter starts wearing out, what’s your first step?

The solution actually starts before the part breaks down.  Many operators may run a part or roller well beyond its lifespan, which can cause a wide variety of problems.  For example, if they’re using the roller to apply an adhesive to a part, the application will be uneven. If being used to drive a belt, the belt can slow down or may have difficulty tracking, which will lead to wear or damage on other components of the system. Not to mention producing an inferior product.

A part needs attention when it starts slipping, sliding, failing to grip or failing to drive. Sometimes, in an effort to delay the inevitable, operators perform quick fixes like placing tape over it to counteract the wear. But that’s simply a Band-aid approach. Operators who do that are simply fooling themselves into thinking they’ve solved the problem.

For the most part, their efforts are a misplaced desire to do the best for their employer. They want to keep the job running and the machine in service but don’t understand that by not replacing the parts in a timely fashion, they’re actually doing more harm than good. 

Deciding Factors

How can you tell if a rubber covered part needs to be replaced or just re-covered?

Consider a roller. If the metal core of the roller is undamaged, in most cases, there is no need to replace it. You simply need to put a new rubber covering on it. That same logic applies to any part, not just rollers. If there’s no damage to the roller, gripper, or other metal pieces that the rubber is attached to, more than likely, you just need to re-cover them, not replace them.

To determine damage, examine the metal pieces. Are there any wear marks? Has it thinned out in spots?  Is the core shaft marked where the bearings roll on the roller? If not, then you don’t need to replace that steel core, just the rubber on top of it.

This is where companies can save a lot of money—by replacing the rubber surface, not the whole metal core. A reputable vendor will take your specifications and, using the original metal pieces like the roll core or the metal subframe of the part, re-cover it with new rubber or polyurethane.

More information, the better

Vendors need to understand as much about the operating environment of this item as possible. The type of information you need to share may include:

  • Where and how is the part used?
  • How hot does the part or item get?
  • Does it come into contact with any chemicals or fluids?
  • Is it a food-grade application where the item comes into contact with food or food products? If so, be sure to let your vendor know so they will use a material suitable for food contact.  Also, be specific about the types of food the item will contact.  The acids in some fruits or vegetables can actually attack different kinds of rubber.

Now that the vendor understands your needs, make sure it can deliver. Key questions to ask the vendor include:

  1. How are you going to apply the rubber to my part? Are you going to hand build it, compression mold it, or transfer mold it? Since some parts require a different approach, call more than one vendor, then compare their responses.
  2. What services do you offer in house? What services are outsourced? Outsourcing adds more time and cost to the project.
  3. Have you ever done this type of job before? You don’t want to be their test case or learning experience.
  4. Ask about lead-time., which can vary widely depending on the complexity of the job.  Make sure you are clear on how long it will take the vendor to complete your repairs.

Selecting a Material


You may know the type of material that was placed on your item. If it worked very well, tell the vendor so they can re-cover it with the same material. If you are not sure what is on your part, don’t remove the rubber. Send the item to the vendor with the rubber still attached so it can be tested.

Keep in mind that there are dozens of different rubber and polyurethane materials. Any reputable vendor can help you choose the best material for your job. 

If the vendor suggests a material without knowing anything about the application or environment the part is used in, that’s a red flag that its material selection is probably limited.

Experienced vendors offer multiple benefits. They can examine and refurbish old parts, and help you understand how the part was designed and why it was designed to those specs. They will give you a deeper insight into how your machine operates. Overall, they can help you choose a material that can extend the life of your part and eliminate down time.

Michael Field is president of Field Rubber Products, Inc., in Noblesville, Ind. Supporting a dozen employees, the company is a full service rubber and polyurethane manufacture that produces molded rubber and polyurethane rollers and other goods for clients worldwide in industries ranging from mining to food product manufacturing.

Michael Field can be reached at 317-773-3787 or via email at

Visit Field Rubber Products online.

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