When Should A Drive Belt Be Replaced?
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:
1. Squealing From Power Steering, Air Conditioning, Or The Hood
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.
2. Dead Battery
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.
3. Engine Overheats
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.
4. Loss Of Power Steering
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.
5. Visibly Worn Belt
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.
6. Mileage Indicators
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.
Note: The lifespan of a new belt also depends on the material it’s made of. An older Neoprene rubber belt generally lasts about 50,000 miles, whereas a new belt made from Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer rubber (EPDM belts) can last 100,000 miles.
7. Warning Lights Come On
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.