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A Belt is a looped strip of flexible material, used to mechanically link two or more rotating shafts. They may be used as a source of motion, to efficiently transmit power, or to track relative movement. Belts are looped over pulleys. In a two pulley system, the belt can either drive the pulleys in the same direction, or the belt may be crossed, so that the direction of the shafts is opposite. As a source of motion, a conveyor belt is one application where the belt is adapted to continually carry a load between two points.

Belts are the cheapest utility for power transmission between shafts that may not be parallel. Power transmission is achieved by specially designed belts and pulleys. The demands on a belt drive transmission system are large and this has led to many variations on the theme. They run smoothly and with little noise, and cushion motor and bearings against load changes, albeit with less strength than gears or chains. However, improvements in belt engineering allow use of belts in systems that only formerly allowed chains or gears.

Belt drive, moreover, is simple, inexpensive, and does not require parallel shafts. It helps protect the car from overload and jam, and damping it from noise and vibration. Load fluctuations are shock-absorbed (cushioned). They need no lubrication and minimal maintenance. They have high efficiency (90-98%, usually 95%), high tolerance for misalignment, and are inexpensive if the shafts are far apart. Clutch action is activated by releasing belt tension. Different speeds can be obtained by step or tapered pulleys.

However, the angular-velocity ratio is not constant or equal to that of the pulley diameters, due to slip and stretch. Heat accumulation is present, and speed is limited to approximately 7000 ft/min, and a power of only 500 hp (370 kW). Temperatures ranges from -31 to 185 F (85 C). Adjustment of center distance or addition of an idler pulley is crucial to compensate for wear and stretch.