What Does a Serpentine Belt Do?
The serpentine belt looks like a long, snaking belt. The belt transports power to important devices under the hood which include: the power steering pump, the alternator, the air conditioning compressor, and the water pump.
While earlier vehicles had individual belts for the multiple components, one belt over multiple accessories proved to be more effective. Multiple belts wear down at different rates, which compromises the vehicle’s overall performance. A single belt eliminates the issue of multiple wear rates and simplifies the process. Because one belt drives power to multiple components, it is important to routinely check to make sure that the serpentine remains in good condition.
Why is a Serpentine Belt Important?
The serpentine belt controls multiple components and functions under the hood of a vehicle. Over time, the belt naturally endures some wear and tear. If the serpentine belt slips or breaks, then the vehicle will lose the air conditioning, part of the engine’s cooling system, the power steering, and the electric power and battery charging functions provided by the alternator. One belt drives power to multiple components. So, if the belt slips or breaks, then the vehicle loses multiple functions at once and will not run.
When Should I Replace My Serpentine Belt?
Automobile manufaturers build serpentine belts to last 60,000 to 90,000 miles before replacement. Anyone can diagnose a worn serpentine belt that needs replacement if he or she knows where to look. The serpentine belt undergoes the greatest amount of stress at the point where the belt is wrapped around a pulley, so anyone inspecting the condition of the belt should check near the pulleys first. While examining near a pulley, one should inspect for cracks and tears in the belt. A serpentine belt with cracks, tears, or appears shiny/ glazed should be
replaced. Rips and tears show physical wear on a belt while contaminants such as fluid create a faster overall wear rate. The more wear on the belt, the greater the liklihood of the serpentine belt breaking.
Symptoms of a Failing Serpentine Belt
- The Check Engine Light Comes On: The check engine light turns on for multiple reasons, and a failing serpentine belt could set off a sensor that flips the check engine light on. With incredible diagnositc tools, a certified auto technician can quickly diagnose what turned the light on and take the necessary steps to resolve the problem.
- A Loss in Performance: Because the serpentine belt drives multiple components under the hood, the overall performance of the vehicle may decline. Some of the possible symptoms include failed power steering, a battery that suddenly drains, an engine that will not start, or headlights that dim while driving. A vehicle experiencing any of these symptoms should be inspected by an auto technicians as soon as possible.
- A Chirping or Squealing Noise: No one ever wants to hear a strange noise coming from his or her vehicle. However, a driver should be able to recognize the noises for potential trouble. A chirping or squealing noise from under the hood may indicate that the serpentine belt may slip soon. Contaminants leaking on the serpentine belt can lead to the belt slipping, and the amount of tension in the belt can also cause the belt to create a chirping/ squealing noise.
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