What is a Serpentine Belt & When Does It Need To Replaced?

serpentine belt

Although people carry out regular maintenance on their vehicle, there is a specific part that they easily overlook, and that is the Serpentine Belt. if you overlook this component, it may become too late and could keep you stranded. 

A Serpentine Belt is a single continuous belt that is used to move peripheral devices in an engine. The belt wraps around several parts of the engine and performs the duty of transferring mechanical power to almost all the important parts. You need to take care of the belt and properly recognize when there is a problem and when it needs a replacement.

What is a Serpentine Belt?

A vehicle comes with many complicated parts, and a belt is one of them; this belt is not easy to comprehend except you’re a professional mechanic. However, we’ll break it down for you in this article. 

The serpentine belt assists to keep the essential parts of the vehicle operator and some of these parts include the air conditioning, water pump, alternator, and many others.

It is a long rubber belt that moves power to the different accessories of the engine. As long as your belt remains strong and you efficiently maintain it, they’re able to adequately power the vehicle’s vital parts. Because it connects the crucial parts to the engine, the serpentine belt is also a fan belt.

Signs of a Failing Serpentine Belt

When the belt begins to get older, you’ll notice the rubber parts begin to fall off, which will cause the belt to crack or slip. When you notice these problems occurring, it’s likely your vehicle is running on a contaminated serpentine belt.

Below are some signs that your serpentine belt is failing.

  • Squealing or chirping noises: these indicate a stretch on the belt or low belt tension.
  • Some parts of the serpentine are missing. You can also observe wear, cracks, or rib separation. Try to inspect the belt.
  • Air conditioning may stop working. or any other accessory the serpentine belt transfers power to begin to fail, then you might have a safety issue on your hand.
  • When the serpentine belt breaks off completely, you will notice a stall in your vehicle which could prove dangerous if you’re on the road.

When Should You Replace the Fan Belt?

The idea behind building the serpentine belt is to last for a very long time. Typically, the belt should carry the vehicle for up to 100,000 miles. However, it is important to replace the belt when carrying out maintenance to avoid it breaking while you’re on the road. 

After 4-6 years, you should replace your serpentine belt; however, weather conditions can change its longevity. One unique sign to replace the serpentine belt is the cracks on it. Extreme heat and aging are two significant causes of these cracks.

Repair & Replacement

Even the best serpentine belts fail. You can either prevent their damage or try to fix them when they go bad. Alternatively, you can replace them when they’re no longer repairable. So, when you notice chunks of the component falling off or a crack in the belt, then it might be important to call an experienced mechanic to carry out repairs or replacement of the belt. 

Replacing the serpentine belt is not a complex process and doesn’t usually cost a lot of money. You can have it replaced as part of the maintenance process, especially before the arrival of harsh winter conditions.

Basic Maintenance Tips of the Belt

Meanwhile, there are measures you can take to increase the longevity and lifespan of the serpentine belt in your car. These basic maintenance tips will help you to reduce the bulk of dollars you will expend in buying a new belt.

Let’s take a look:

  • Know the location of the belt

You should be familiar with the location of the belt. Although the location varies from vehicle to vehicle. Typically, you can check the front of the engine. Before checking, the engine should be off and cool.

  • Make sure the belt stays on the pulley

The belt should stay on the pulley. Any slip-off can cause your car not to work efficiently.  

  • Find out the lifespan of the belt

On average, a belt can last between 60,000 to 100,000 miles. This depends on how well you use and maintain it. Unless it has sustained damage, you can use your belt for as long as it can last. For instance, once you notice that a one-inch belt has three cracks, it’s time to replace the belt.

  • Inspect the condition of the belt 

Take your car to certified a mechanic or professional once you suspect any serious damage. Otherwise, you can check the condition of the belt. Once you change the oil, you should inspect the belt.

  • Check the belt tensioner

The tensioner regulates how much tension is on the belt. This will ensure no component loses power. 

Serpentine Belt vs Timing Belt

It is easy to mistake the belt for a timing belt; many people can’t tell the difference between the two. People, including mechanics, usually use these two terms interchangeably; but they are quite different. Both belts are vital parts of the internal engine and serve different purposes in the vehicle by helping other components work.

The purpose of the timing belt is to coordinate the movement of the camshaft and the crankshaft; it makes sure that the engine valves and the exhaust valves shut and open up at the same time with the piston to ensure the engine runs smoothly. 

The belt draws mechanical power right from the engine and spreads the power to different crucial aspects of the vehicle like the alternator, water pump, oil pump, and many others. It connects the crankshaft to these accessories. It also comes with a unique design different from the timing belt. The design of the timing belt comes with horizontal teeth to fit the crankshaft and camshaft’s cogwheel. The belt comes with several V-shaped channels that flow vertically beside the belt.

Final Thoughts

A serpentine belt can hold the engine together for several years and helps to keep important accessories of the engine system properly functioning. However, you should ensure adequate care and attention to the belt. If you notice any sign of its failing, make sure you visit a mechanic to replace it. This will help prevent the belt from sticking in a dangerous situation.