This theoretical and experimental study identifies a key nonlinear mechanism that promotes strongly coupled dynamics of serpentine belt drive systems. Attention is focused on a prototypical three-pulley system that contains the essential features of automotive serpentine drives having automatic (spring-loaded) tensioners. A theoretical model is presented that describes pulley and tensioner arm rotations, and longitudinal and transverse belt vibration response. A recent investigation demonstrates that infinitesimal belt stretching creates a linear mechanism that couples transverse belt vibration to tensioner arm rotation. Here, it is further demonstrated that finite belt stretching creates a nonlinear mechanism that may lead to strong coupling between pulley/tensioner arm rotation and transverse belt vibration, in the presence of an internal resonance. Theoretical and experimental results confirm the existence of this nonlinear coupling mechanism. In particular, it is shown that very large transverse belt vibrations can result from small resonant torque pulses applied to the crankshaft or accessory pulleys. These large amplitude transverse vibrations are particularly sensitive to seemingly small changes in the rotational mode characteristics.

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