The serpentine belt in your vehicle can cause a bundle of problems if it becomes worn or fails. Here's some information about what serpentine belts do, how to tell if they're failing, and how long a serpentine belt should last.
Serpentine Belts Keep Things Spinning
Manufacturers used to install individual belts for a variety of under-the-hood components. Today, one drive belt, called the serpentine belt, powers the majority of belt-driven parts in vehicles.
The serpentine belt wraps around the accessory pulleys of the components it powers. The serpentine belt may spin over idler pulleys which keep the serpentine belt in its snake-like configuration and help guide the belt as it moves.
The following auto accessories are powered by a serpentine belt:
- Power steering pump
- Air conditioning compressor
- Water pump
- Air pump
Most serpentine belts are grooved on the facing side and smooth on the back side. The grooved side normally powers the pulleys, but the back side can power pulleys on some vehicles.
Bad Serpentine Belts Give Off Signs
A wise vehicle owner will take a look at their serpentine belt every so often to check for signs of wear. Look for fraying, notches, missing chunks, too much slack on the belt, and misalignment on the pulleys.
Other visual signs of serpentine belt issues include:
- Rib separation
- Uneven wear on ribs or belt
- Malformation or melting
A squealing or noisy belt is one of the most common symptoms of a slipping or worn serpentine belt. Squealing can be more pronounced when you're climbing a hill and running your heater or air conditioning at the same time.
Squealing can also occur after you drive over deep puddles or have an undercarriage car wash. In this case, the screeching should stop once the belt dries.
A broken serpentine belt may make a flopping or flapping sound under the hood if it's frayed or completely breaks away. You may hear tiny frequent ticks under the hood when you accelerate as broken bits of the serpentine belt fly into other components.
Bad Serpentine Belts Cause Vehicle Performance Issues
If your serpentine belt is failing, you may notice performance issues with your vehicle. The vehicle may frequently overheat. Your air conditioning or power steering may fail to work or not work properly. You may notice your vehicle battery failing to recharge if the alternator is affected by a bad serpentine belt.
Additional signs of a possibly bad serpentine belt include:
- Flickering lights on start up
- Failure to start
- Dimmed headlights
- Continuously illuminated amperage light
Your car may frequently stall while driving if the serpentine belt isn't doing its job. If the belt breaks as you're driving, eventually the battery will die, and the belt could do other damage as it flops around under the hood.
Serpentine Belts Last for Many Miles
Modern serpentine belts are designed to last around 100,000 driving miles. However, experts suggest that you schedule replacement of the serpentine belt every 50,000 to 60,000 miles to be on the safe side. If your serpentine belt is installed with a self-tensioning device, ask your mechanic to replace the tensioner when they replace your serpentine belt.
Have your mechanic inspect your serpentine belt each time you get an oil change if you aren't confident in your own abilities to spot problems. The extra drive-belt checks can keep you from ending up stranded on the side of the road.
If you're experiencing any of the above serpentine belt symptoms with your vehicle in the Detroit, Michigan area, contact Redford Auto Repair right away. We have convenient auto repair facilities in the Greater Detroit area including shops in Redford, Taylor, Westland, Southfield, and Garden City.