Your engine has a number of mechanical accessories atta […]
Your engine has a number of mechanical accessories attached to it, such as an alternator, water pump, power steering pump and an air conditioner compressor. A drive belt is the part that drives all these accessories. The belt itself is driven by a pulley attached to the engine crankshaft. Most cars have one or two drive belts. When a car has only one drive belt, it might be called a serpentine belt.
A drive belt is made of a durable rubber-based material. In most cars, a drive belt is replaced between 40,000 and 70,000 miles, however, we have seen cases where a drive belt lasted over 100 miles. What makes the belt wear sooner? Water, road dirt, excessive heat and oil leaks can cause the belt to deteriorate prematurely. For example, if the protective shield underneath the engine is broken, the belt will wear out sooner. Oil leaks can also damage the drive belt. Eventually, a worn drive belt will break.
If the drive belt breaks, your car won’t be driveable. This is because the engine will overheat if the water pump is not running. Also, if your car has a hydraulic power steering, you will lose the steering assist, as the power steering pump will be disabled. In addition, the alternator will stop supplying electric power that is needed to recharge the battery and run the vehicle electric systems.
When should the serpentine belt be replaced? Most car manufacturers don’t specify the exact mileage, but recommend to have the belt inspected during your regular maintenance visits. How can you tell if the serpentine belt needs replacement?
Typically, your mechanic will look for cuts, cracks, missing chunks and other signs of wear, usually it’s fairly easy to see. The belt may also need to be replaced if it makes chirping or squeaking noises or if it’s stretched. It is also a good idea to replace an old drive belt when an alternator or any other component driven by the drive belt is replaced, or when you prepare your car for a long road trip.
To work properly, a drive belt must be under proper tension. Most newer cars have an automatic spring-loaded or hydraulic belt tensioner that doesn’t need to be adjusted. In older cars, the belt tension had to be adjusted manually in regular intervals. One of the symptoms of a loose drive belt is a loud squealing or screeching noise that lasts for a few seconds after the engine is started. Often, Rubber Drive Belts are replaced as a kit with the new tensioner and other hardware.