If you’ve ever heard a squealing sound under your late model vehicle hood, chances are it was your serpentine belt. Your serpentine belt is a long belt that’s driven by your engine. It winds around several accessories that power important automotive systems in your late model vehicle. Let’s go over them.
What Does the Serpentine Belt Do?
First, the serpentine belt drives your air conditioning system. It spins the compressor that makes the cool air that takes the edge off the summer heat in Washington DC.
More importantly, the belt powers the alternator. The alternator creates electricity that’s used by your late model vehicle’s electrical systems and also charges your car battery. Without the alternator, the battery will go dead in a few miles.
The serpentine belt may also run the pumps for both the power steering (some are electric) and power brakes (some use vacuum boost).
And, on most late model vehicles, the serpentine belt powers the water pump. The water pump circulates coolant through the engine to keep it within optimal operating temperatures. On some cars, the water pump is powered by the timing belt instead of the serpentine belt.
What Are the Signs That You Need a Replacement?
When they understand what it does, most drivers realize that if it breaks, it affects a lot of systems. That’s why vehicle manufacturers outline recommended replacement guidelines in the owners manuals. If this important maintenance component is not included in your owners manual, come see us at Metro Motor.
At Metro Motor in Washington DC, your dedicated technician can perform a visual inspection of the belt to see if it has any cracks that signal the belt could fail soon. Any of the following conditions require replacement regardless of age or mileage:
- More than three or four cracks every inch
- Deep cracks that penetrate half the depth
- Missing pieces, frayed, or shiny glazed look
Don’t Overlook the Tensioner Pulley
There’s a special spring-loaded pulley attached to the engine called the tensioner pulley. Its job is to make sure there’s a constant tension on the serpentine belt so that it doesn’t slip. The spring can become worn and no longer provide the necessary pressure to keep the belt tight. At Metro Motor, we recommend that the tensioner be replaced as part of our serpentine belt service.
As mentioned, a squealing sound could alert you that the serpentine belt needs to be replaced. It may be loose if you hear a slow, slapping sound when idling your late model vehicle.
All in all, the serpentine belt’s is critical to the operation of your late model vehicle. Talk to your service advisor at Metro Motor. It’s not that expensive to replace – so it’s good to do so before it fails.
Vehicle care information made available by Metro Motor is presented as helpful advice for general maintenance and should not be construed as instructions for at-home vehicle service. Be sure to consult your owner’s manual and a licensed, professional mechanic for diagnostics and repair.