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A drive belt is responsible for several key engine functions. A faulty drive belt could severely affect your car’s performance, so it shouldn’t be ignored.
Since a bad belt or a worn belt can manifest itself in many ways, here are the most common signs of belt failure:
Drive belts actuate almost every engine component, including the alternator, power steering pump, water pump, and AC compressor.
These devices demand a lot of torque from the belt to turn. So if you turn the steering or switch on your air conditioner and hear squealing, the chances are that your noisy belt has worn out.
Moreover, your car’s drive belt can sometimes slip off the pulleys or run too loose. A loose belt can also result in a squealing or chirping belt noise from under the hood.
Low belt tension, a worn tensioner pulley, or extensive belt wear likely lead to a loose belt or noisy belt. Plus, coolant and transmission fluid leaks can cause belt slippage, leading to more belt noise.
Your car’s drive belt (also called the alternator belt) powers the alternator. The alternator charges your battery and powers the electrical units while the car is in use.
Without an alternator belt, your car’s battery won’t charge, eventually running out of juice. You won’t be able to turn your car on with a dead battery.
A water pump is a key part of your car’s cooling system. And since drive belts deliver the power necessary for a water pump to work, a faulty belt will hinder its functioning.
If the water pump fails, your engine doesn’t have a secure way of staying at a safe temperature. This is why a drive belt failure can lead to an overheated engine.
A drive belt runs the power steering pump in most cars. So if your drive belt snaps, the power steering pump stops working completely. As a result, you’ll lose your power steering.
With your power steering assist gone, your steering wheel will suddenly get heavier, sometimes dangerously so.
Drive belts often have a fixed lifespan. Over time, an old belt will grow rigid or start fraying. These are visible signs of wear, meaning it’s time for a replacement.
It’s important to do a visual inspection under your hood during an oil change and check your drive belts. If an old belt breaks due to tension, you could be facing serious safety hazards.
Most drive belts will last anywhere from 60,000 to 100,000 miles. However, some drive belts can last significantly longer than this, depending on your driving habits and other conditions.
It’s best to check your owner’s manual for the recommended time frame for a belt replacement. Once you have this information handy, keep an eye on your vehicle’s mileage and ensure you stick to the replacement window for preventative maintenance.
If a drive belt breaks, multiple systems will lose their power. You’ll then experience one or more of the symptoms listed above, triggering a warning light in most cars.
Warning lights come on to let you know when your car has an issue, so you can fix that issue before it becomes more serious. Examples of a warning light include the battery light, brake lights, etc.
A typical drive belt costs anywhere between $25 to $75. In addition, labor charges are estimated to be between $75 and $120.
So in total, you can expect to pay anywhere from $100- $200 for a drive belt replacement.
However, this range doesn’t include taxes and fees. It also doesn’t factor in your specific vehicle or unique location. You may sometimes need additional car maintenance, the cost of which may vary.
Your car may not turn on if it loses its drive belt. And if it does turn on, the faulty belt may cause the engine to overheat.
In catastrophic situations, a broken belt can damage any other engine component.
That’s why a drive belt replacement is urgent, and a broken belt calls for an immediate auto repair for your vehicle.
Let’s get to know drive belts a little bit more:
A drive belt (also known as a fan belt) is responsible for powering many key components in your car. These include your car’s AC compressor, alternator, power steering, and water pump.
Here’s how it works:
These components are equipped with pulleys, and the drive belt wraps around these pulleys and the crankshaft pulley.
Once you start the engine, the crankshaft goes into action. The crankshaft pulley turns and sets the drive belt in motion. The spinning drive belt transfers power from the engine’s crankshaft to the accessory pulleys.
This process then delivers power to each of your car systems.
Earlier cars used individual belts for different components, but now the multiple belts are replaced by a single belt.
Drive belts could be:
A V-belt acts as an accessory belt that runs off a crank and pulley, traveling between one or two engine accessories. This accessory belt is shorter, meaning it’s less likely to slip than a single belt like a serpentine belt.
The belt may be guided by an idler pulley or a belt tensioner. The belt tensioner may be manual, but most modern cars are equipped with an automatic belt tensioner.
An idler pulley presses against the back of the fan belt and ensures it passes over more than three pulleys with a large enough wrap angle to avoid slipping.
Serpentine belts are rather durable and usually last a longer time than V-belts do.
You can, but you shouldn’t.
Drive belts must be under proper belt tension to work properly. A broken serpentine belt or v-belt or a broken tensioner can be difficult to work with.
That’s why performing a v-belt or a serpentine belt replacement on your own can be tricky even with the right tools and technical know-how.
Drive belt manufacturers today sell a wide range of industrial belts. As a result, a serpentine belt, v-belt, timing belt, etc., are easily accessible. But repairing a bad serpentine belt or v-belt is a mammoth DIY car care project. And you’d need a lot more than just the belt.
Tools you’d need to replace a bad serpentine belt or v-belt and fix the tension include:
If you aren’t sure how to replace a worn serpentine belt or v-belt yourself, it’s best to call an ASE-certified mechanic to perform the auto repair or go to a car repair shop.
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