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Serpentine Belt Problems

Debopriya Bose
A serpentine belt can truly be called an 'all-in-one' belt as it drives a number of accessories in modern-day cars. Hence, serpentine belt problems can relate to huge failures in the vehicle. Read on to know more.
A serpentine belt is an important part of all automobiles today. It replaced the numerous belts that drove different auto parts of the older models.
This belt is used in the alternator, power steering pump, A/C pump, and also the air pump. It gets its name from the fact that it rolls over a number of parts of the machine that it is used in. This belt, also known as the 'S-belt', was invented by Jim Vance, while he was employed with the Gates Rubber Company of Denver, US.


These belts are cheaper to be produced and easier to repair. They also provide packaging advantages at the front of the automobile engine. However, there are a couple of problems that affect the performance. With constant use, this belt experiences excessive wear and tear. Even heat and cold take their toll on this belt. This may cause the belt to break.
A broken or slipped S-belt may make you lose control of the car in case the power steering pump loses power while you try to drive the car. Another common problem is a loose belt. In this case, the car may make a screeching noise, and it may be difficult to drive the car as well.
Accessory load, quality and quantity of the accessories, and exposure to road debris also reduce the longevity of this belt. The signs of serpentine belt problems are cuts, cracks, or other forms of damage on either sides of the belt. If, during inspection, the belt appears to be glazed or has chunks missing, it is an indicator that it needs to be replaced.


It is usually advised to replace a serpentine belt once the car has covered 45,000 to 60,000 miles. However, in case any physical damage is seen in the belt, replace it immediately. Besides these general guidelines, there may be specific criteria according to the make of the vehicle for S-belt replacement. Following are the steps to remove the S-belt.

Remove the Tension

The first step towards S-belt removal is to remove the belt tensioners. Refer to the service manual for any tips specific to the make of the vehicle. Make sure that you are using the right tool and be aware of where the tool is positioned while using it. It is very important to be careful while relieving tension from the belt.
Belt tensioners are sprung very tightly, and any slip during the tension removal process can cause serious injury to the worker. It may also damage the surrounding area under the hood.

Remove the Belt

Now that the tension is released, the next step is to remove the belt. Try to remove the belt from the part that is most easily accessible. Try removing from the largest pulley that the belt winds around as it is with this pulley that the S-belt has the maximum area in contact with. Once this is done, one has to just pull the belt out of the engine bay.
However, in certain cases, some other parts of the engine, like the splash shield, need to be removed before the belt can be dislodged from its set of pulleys.
It is important to be alert about serpentine belt problems as a malfunctioning S-belt can affect a number of accessories of a car. During regular servicing of the vehicle, get this belt checked for any problems.
DisclaimerThe information provided here is solely for educating the reader and does not in any way attempt to replace the advice offered by an expert on the subject.