Of the moving car parts on your vehicle, the serpentine belt has a reputation as one of the sturdiest. It may only need to be replaced once or twice over the life of your vehicle because it can last between 50,000 to 100,000 miles. You can check to see whether the belt needs replacing by inspecting it for visible wear on the ribbed portion of the belt itself. There may be parts of the ribs that are missing, and the ribs may be cracked. They are supposed to be of a uniform shape and completely intact.
There are a couple of other signs indicating a possible problem with your serpentine belt. A very serious sign is your engine overheating. You may also notice that other systems in your car seem to be breaking down. Damage to the belt can cause it to lose its grip on the components. When this happens, it creates friction. As a result, you may hear a squealing sound that seems to be coming from the front of the vehicle. If you notice signs such as these, a visual inspection can indicate whether damage to the serpentine belt is the culprit or if something else may be behind them.
What Is A Serpentine Belt?
The serpentine belt is a long, winding rubber belt in your engine. It gets its name from the way it snakes around from the crankshaft to the accessory pulleys. The ribbed side of the belt makes contact with these pulleys. The ribs cause the belt to grip the pulleys, and the movement of the belt, originating from the crankshaft, causes them to turn.
The purpose of the serpentine belt is to transfer power to other systems within the vehicle. Some of these are components necessary to the vehicle’s operation, such as the water pump in the cooling system or the alternator. However, because these systems are so critical, they do not always receive power via the serpentine belt, or if they do, there is a second belt used as a backup.
The serpentine belt also transfers power to systems used to make driving easier and more comfortable, such as the air conditioner and the power steering pump. While important, these systems are not necessary to make the vehicle go. In either case, the systems that rely on the serpentine belt for power may start malfunctioning if it is damaged.
How Long Does It Take to Replace?
If you are confident that you know how to replace a serpentine belt, you can do it yourself. Depending on your ability level, it may take as little as 15 minutes. However, if you are less skilled than you anticipated, the task may take longer.
You can also take your vehicle to a mechanic to have the serpentine belt replaced. Since a trained professional is working on it, the actual replacement shouldn’t take any longer than you could do yourself. However, if the shop is busy, it may take a while before the mechanics can get to it.
If you suspect a problem with your serpentine belt, you should inspect it as soon as possible or have a mechanic do so. If a worn belt is not replaced, it could damage the components to which it is connected or break altogether. You can find replacement parts from reputable dealers.