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An idler pulley is an important part of your car’s drive belt system, which means we should probably start at the beginning and cover drive belts.
Drive belts, which are also referred to as fan belts, transfer rotational force to many components inside your car. Most notably, the drive belts usually drive your car’s alternator, AC compressor, water pump, and power steering system. Some cars have multiple belts, to power different systems, while other cars have one belt (called a serpentine belt) that is responsible for all the components that rely on fan belts.
It’s a pretty simple system. Drive belts are, in fact, just belts, like the one you’re wearing, except less stylish.
The belts run around a series of pulleys. Each system that relies on the drive belts for rotational force has a pulley. As the belts spin around, they trigger the pulleys, and the force drives the system. The belt itself is turned by the crankshaft pulley. As the crankshaft spins, it moves the pulley, which puts the belt in action. Fairly simple, yeah?
Okay, let’s move on to the idler pulley. The idler pulley helps route the belt and maintain proper tension. It provides the right amount of tension to the drive belts, which not only keeps the belts running smoothly, but ensures that they don’t come into contact with other parts of the engine, where damage could occur.
Drive belt idler pulleys usually have a very long life, but they can wear out over time and use. And when that happens, the drive belts won’t be in the best situation.
There’s really just one primary symptom of an idler pulley that is in the process of failing, and that’s a chirping noise or whining noise coming from under your car’s hood. So, let’s rewind and bring you the first lesson of cars: Noises aren’t good. If you hear noises, other than the engine purring and whatever music you’re listening to, then something is likely wrong. If that noise is a chirping or whining noise, then it’s likely to be an idler pulley that is giving you issues. As the pulley wears down, the belts will be in contact with excessive amounts of metal, and it will sound like there are weird robot birds in your engine.
Once the idler pulley fully dies on you, the drive belt or drive belts will fall off. When that happens, you’ll have a whole series of things that can go wrong and symbolize a drive belt issue. You’ll need the car taken care of for the drive belt, at which point the mechanic will check on the idler pulley and see if it was the culprit. If your drive belt slips off, your check engine warning light will likely come on. And it doesn't stop there. You may also lose your power steering, which isn’t a fun feeling. Or, if you really want some excitement, the engine may begin to overheat, because the drive belts aren’t able to power the water pump anymore. Finally, an inoperable drive belt may result in the car having a dead battery, and not turning on. The alternator relies on the drive belts to get power, and it’s the alternator that charges the battery. So, a busted idler pulley can lead to quite a domino effect, by knocking off a drive belt, which shuts down the alternator, which kills the battery. Fun stuff.Get a Quote 1-Year | 12,000-Mile Warranty
Do you want a dead battery or an overheating engine?
Don’t answer those questions. They’re rhetorical, and you definitely don’t want those things. And that makes an idler pulley replacement very urgent.
1-Year | 12,000-Mile Warranty