You may know that your car or truck has an important component called a serpentine belt. This belt needs to be serviced every 50,000 to 10,000 miles. Typically, it needs to be replaced, but at other times it may only need to be adjusted. Given the wide range of miles for servicing, it is important to know the signs of when to replace a serpentine belt.
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What Is a Serpentine Belt?
First, it can be helpful to understand what the serpentine belt is. Your engine produces rotation motion that is sent to the wheels to move the vehicle. A serpentine belt uses some of that engine motion to power auxiliary components of the car such as the air conditioning, power steering pump, alternator and more. Its name is derived from its snake-like path around the engine and various components.
Signs Your Serpentine Belt Has Gone Bad
When your serpentine belt is starting to fail, it will slip on the pulley system. This will produce a few noticeable symptoms:
- Squealing Noise: The belt slipping will cause a noisy squealing. This is most noticeable as the engine starts up. It could indicate that the belt is damaged or that the serpentine belt tensioner needs to be adjusted. The tensioner may need new bearings. Always check the status of the tensioner when servicing the belt.
- Reduced Power to Auxiliary Systems: If your auxiliary systems seem to be underpowered, it could be the serpentine belt. The power steering and air conditioning are among the most noticeable effects. However, you may also find that your battery doesn’t charge or that your vehicle is running hot. If you experience multiple problems at once, the serpentine belt may be the problem.
- Damage: Make a visual inspection of your serpentine belt. If it is worn down, you may notice cracks, separation or other types of damage. This indicates that it is time for a new belt.
Fixing the Problem
Getting a replacement serpentine belt can be an expensive service from your mechanic. However, you may be able to save some money by doing it yourself. The key to performing a successful serpentine belt change is to have the right tools. You will need a torque wrench, belt tensioner tool and a few other basic tools.
The process is simple. All you need to do is loosen the tensioner, remove the current belt, place the new belt and then tighten it. However, you will need to be sure to pay close attention to the current placement of the serpentine belt. You will also need to use your torque wrench to carefully apply the right torque to the tensioner. Anyone can learn to do this, but it does require some patience and time.
Don’t waste money by always going to the mechanic when your car or truck needs servicing. With your favorite auto parts store and a little effort, you can learn to do a lot of work yourself. Get started today. Whether you want to jump right into changing your serpentine belt or start with an oil change, do your first DIY job today.