What Is a Serpentine Belt and When Does It Need to be Replaced?

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Your vehicle is made up of several different complex parts, like the serpentine belt, that are difficult to understand unless you’re a mechanic. But don’t worry, Sun Auto Service is here to tell you everything you need to know about your car’s serpentine belt, which keeps various systems of your car functioning properly, including:

    • Power steering
    • Air conditioning
    • Water pump
    • Alternator

A strong and well-maintained serpentine belt powers these crucial automotive components.

How Long Does a Serpentine Belt Last?

Thanks to improvements in rubber technology, serpentine belts last much longer than they did back in the day. Most serpentine belts generally last between 50,000 and 100,000 miles. Eventually, your car’s serpentine belt will wear down from continuous exposure to heat and friction and will need to be replaced.

What Are the Signs of a Failing Serpentine Belt?

As a serpentine belt gets older and wears down, the rubber parts may peel off, causing the belt to crack, fray, or slip. When these things occur, it may become misaligned or contaminated with fluid. There are various symptoms that may indicate your car’s serpentine belt is wearing down, including:

    • Squealing or chirping noises: When the serpentine belt starts slipping, it may begin to chirp or squeal. This sound indicates that there is belt stretch, low belt tension, or the pulley and belt are not working together correctly. If you notice these sounds, you should schedule an inspection at your local Sun Auto Service location before more malfunctions occur.
    • Cracks and wear: You may notice physical signs of failure, including missing chunks, cracks, damaged ribs, uneven wear, or rib separation. Regular inspections by a Sun Auto Service technician will also catch these symptoms.
    • Air conditioning or power steering failure: If the serpentine belt fails or breaks, you may notice your air conditioning not working properly. Additionally, your car’s power steering system, alternator, or water pump may fail, resulting in a serious safety issue.
    • Car breaking down: When the serpentine belt completely breaks, your vehicle will stall, which can be extremely dangerous and inconvenient. Preventative maintenance with ASE-certified mechanics is a great way to ensure your belt doesn’t suddenly break while you’re driving.

Your check engine light and other gauges will warn you when there’s a problem with your belt. Never ignore the warning signs of serpentine belt failure.

What Is the Advantage of Having the Belt Replaced?

If you drive with a worn-out belt, you’re risking the failure of your engine’s accessories. When the belt slips or breaks, your car’s functions, such as the alternator and power steering pump, will likely stop working. A failing belt may also damage the parts it powers. Dealing with a broken belt or hose is bad enough, but if your engine becomes damaged, it’s even worse. By getting your belt regularly replaced, you can reduce the risk of your car breaking down. This allows you to enjoy your car and drive worry-free.

What Else Should Be Maintained and Replaced?

Most serpentine belts in modern vehicles have tensioning devices. Serpentine belts can only perform optimally with the correct tension. Belt tensioners apply the perfect amount of tension to keep the serpentine belt running with the proper resistance and speed for optimum functionality. Other issues with your drivetrain may require replacing or interfere with your belt’s performance. When you get your serpentine belt replaced, you should also have your belt tensioner and pulleys looked at.

Do Cars Have Any Other Belts?

While most cars today only have a serpentine belt to control various systems, some vehicles have other belts. For example, select older rides may have a series of V belts in place of the serpentine belt. Some cars also have a timing belt to drive water pumps and oil pumps to the engine and other important parts.

Can Sun Auto Service Replace My Serpentine Belt?

Yes, Sun Auto Service has a team of ASE-certified technicians who install quality and durable serpentine belts to keep your vehicle running at its best. Our serpentine belts are constructed of the best rubber compounds for heavy-duty protection. Contact or stop by any of our locations to schedule an inspection or get a quote for serpentine belt replacement and additional tips on what you can do to keep your vehicle running as strong and as long as possible.