Your serpentine belt is a vital part of your automobile. It is responsible for keeping many components running smoothly and efficiently. Some of these components include your alternator, power steering pump, AC, and – for some setups – the water pump relies on it as well. Keeping the belt in working order will ensure you are not left stranded because of it breaking. This article will give you some common symptoms that point to the need for a serpentine belt replacement and how to do it yourself.
How Does a Serpentine Belt Work?
The serpentine belt is a long ribbed belt that snakes its way around several components that help run with the engine. These engine accessories rely on the tension provided by the belt. When a belt gets worn, you risk the possibility of it breaking and in turn, you lose drive torque and everything from the steering pump to the alternator stops working. It may even cause damage to surrounding parts.
A while ago, cars used multiple belts that each corresponded to a different component. Though if one snapped you would only lose one item, they tended to have diminished performance because they belts would wear at different rates. With the use of a single belt, this eliminated any performance inconsistency since all components run together. Single serpentine belts have also been designed to last much longer. They typically can see 60,000 to 100, 000 miles before needing to be changed out.
How to Tell When You Need a Serpentine Belt Replacement
As a serpentine belt ages, it may show some typical signs that point to the need for a serpentine belt replacement. Here are some things to look for when you are pondering a serpentine belt replacement:
- Visual Inspection: When you take a look at a belt that is in need of replacement, you will likely see fraying or cracking. You may also see glazing or shiny spots or even areas where the rubber is missing.
- Driveability: You may experience components slipping because of a worn belt.
- There may be fluid contamination.
- Look for any misalignment.
- Listen for the tell-tale squealing that comes from under the hood. This in addition to any visual indications can give you a sure way to know it is the belt that needs replacing. If you do not see any visual wear, it may be a pulley that is misaligned, your tensioner pulley has seized, or idler pulley.
How to Replace a Serpentine Belt
A serpentine belt replacement is a fairly simple task and most novices can do it successfully. It is also a very low-cost repair. For this repair you will need: a new belt, breaker bar, socket set, torque wrench, and some simple hand tools. You can even pick up a serpentine belt removal too at a local parts store.
- Be sure to be safe and use safety glasses.
- Find the serpentine belt routing diagram. It is usually located in the engine compartment or under the hood, printed on a label or tag. You can also take a picture of the routing with your phone (if it is still in place and hasn’t broken) for reference, look in your owner’s manual, or do an online search.
- Find the belt tensioner. Use a 3/8 inch (most common size – yours might be different) extension and ratchet to relieve the tension by loosening the belt.
- Unthread the belt from around the pulleys. Remove any components that may be in your way.
- Do a visual inspection of the belt for damage. Cracks that cross the ribbing is a sure sign a new belt is needed. Frayed, melted, or exposed material along edges can be an indication that the tensioner, pulleys, or idlers need attention too. If that is the case, make sure your pulleys are square.
- Look for fluid or oily area on the belt. This can mean you have a leak that also needs attention. Engine oil on a serpentine belt will cause it to degrade much faster.
- Use a wire brush to clean up your pulleys. Especially the ribbed ones.
- Hold the tensioner slack with one hand and use your other hand to rethread the belt.
- Torque the tensioner to the specified tightness with a torque wrench.
- Replace any components you may have removed.
- Idle your vehicle for a few minutes so that you can watch the belt to make sure it is properly aligned.
Examples of Serpentine Belt Parts
Dayco Polyrib 5060658
Dayco does not believe that a serpentine belt is one size fits all. Their products go through rigorous testing both in the lab and on the road. This belt and its unique profile has been developed to conform to high mileage, worn, or misaligned drives. Reviewers looking to get back peak performance in their worn drives and eliminate that horrible squeal, have great things to say about this belt.
- 6 rib;
- 65.75 inches;
- 0.828 inch width;
- Made with EPDM resistant compound and Aramid noise resistant fibers.
Weiand 6700Pro-Street Supercharger
Continuing to deliver the best since 1930, people look to Weiand for the highest quality aftermarket parts. Reviewers can see the quality in even their belts and rave about its durability, even under stressful driving conditions.
- 47 inches in length;
- 6 rib;
- W/ 6 in. drive pulley;
- S/B 142 Blower.
Continental Elite Poly-V Belts 4050640
Goodyear continental have made their niche in the industry and have become a household name. They know what they are doing with rubber and this part is no exception. The quality is outstanding and reviewers say they can finally drive with the quietest belt ever.
- 5 rib;
- 64 inch length;
- Quiet channel technology;
- Made with EPDM rubber compounds and polyester tension member;
- Unique “helicog” profile.
Though it may seem to be an insignificant part to pay attention to, you serpentine belt has a very important job that helps drive many engine accessories and keeps you going on the road. Neglecting it as it ages or gives you that tell-tale squeal can mean disaster for you when it snaps and strands you. Luckily, it is a very easy thing to replace and also very inexpensive.
What are your experiences with a serpentine belt replacement? Please leave any comments or tips in the comment box for others attempting to replace theirs.