The serpentine belt is one of the main components that help keep a vehicle on the road. If your serpentine belt comes loose or breaks, it could leave you stranded on the side of the road. That’s why it is important to keep this vehicle component in shape.
Specifically, the serpentine belt is a long belt, a loop, that winds and snakes around pulleys under your car’s hood. It keeps the power steering pump, alternator, and air conditioner running properly. When your alternator stops working, your vehicle stops working.
Replacing the Serpentine Belt
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Serpentine belts don’t usually need to be changed very often, not if you take care of your vehicle. Older models that have seen better days and not had the belt replaced could need a replacement sooner than you realize though. On average, the serpentine belt will usually last up to 100,000 miles.
You may find issues with the tension on a serpentine belt, even before it needs to be changed. Tensioning them is done manually in many vehicles, but some are made to be self-tensioning.
Because a broken belt will cause your vehicle to stop running, it’s important to keep an eye on the serpentine belt whenever you’re doing regular maintenance under the hood. If you notice fraying, a significant amount of wear, or cracking on the belt, it may be time to get it looked at.
Symptoms of a Bad Serpentine Belt
Aside from the prior mentioned wearing, fraying, and cracking, there are some other signs and symptoms you can look, or listen, for when it comes to your serpentine belt and whether or not it’s time for a new one. Here are some of them.
1. The Look
Aside from the previously mentioned visual issues with the serpentine belt, if your belt looks shiny or is missing chunks that look like they’ve been peeled off, your belt is old, and it could start slipping if it hasn’t already.
2. Making Noises
If you’ve heard a chirping noise from under the hood or a lot of squealing sounds, it’s probably your serpentine belt. When it’s loose, it starts to make a lot of annoying noises. It could mean that the tension is off or it could mean that your serpentine belt is worn out. Looking at it, you may see that it looks old. Take it to the mechanic, and they will be able to tell you if it needs tightening or replacement if you are unable to tell.
3. Check Engine Light Is On
If your check engine light comes on it could be anything. However, if it accompanies some of the other issues listed here, then it’s probably your serpentine belt. If you don’t have a scanner to get the maintenance code on your own, take your vehicle in to get checked. Never ignore the check engine light.
4. Other Issues with Your Vehicle
Sometimes other problems with your car could be signs of a bad serpentine belt. If your battery drains suddenly or your engine stops working, it could be your serpentine belt. If your power steering is going out, it might not be fluid; it could be the belt. If you don’t get it fixed when it starts to go bad, it can affect a lot of things in your vehicle, from the air conditioning to the alternator.
Benefits of a New Serpentine Belt
Replacing a worn out serpentine belt can save you a lot of time and hassle. The longer you wait, the more damage you risk to your vehicle, and the more money you’ll have to spend to get that damage repaired.
Once you get a replacement belt (which you can change on your own with the right tools), you may notice a few things. Your air conditioner works better, your steering may work better, and your car will be making far less annoying sounds that have you worried you’ll be left stranded on the road at any time.
Please note that some vehicles require the engine to be dropped to replace the serpentine belt. In this case, you’re better off having a mechanic do the work for you unless you’re a licensed mechanic yourself.
About the Belt Tensioner
- Helps keep drive belt at correct tension to help maintain proper function
- GM-recommended replacement part for your GM vehicle's original factory component
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If your belt only needs a good tightening, you will need a belt tensioner to do the job. Many newer vehicles have self-tensioning devices, which help them hold a specific amount of tension to keep the belt working properly.
If you change the serpentine belt on your own and you have a vehicle without self-tensioning, you will need a belt tensioner tool to get the right tension on the belt. If it’s not set right, you risk slippage.
Get Your Serpentine Belt Checked
Regular vehicle maintenance will help keep your car on the road. Get your belt inspected annually, at a minimum. You can also have it checked anytime you take your car or truck in for an oil change. The mechanic can let you know what kind of shape the belt is in so you can get it replaced when the time comes, instead of ending up stranded on the side of the road.