Serpentine belts may not be as well known as other car parts, but that doesn’t diminish their importance. A serpentine belt is a belt that keeps the pullies for the alternator, air conditioner, and power steering pump going. In some vehicles, the serpentine belt is also a key part in keeping the water pump running smoothly.
What belts need to be replaced in a car?
The other good news is that—in most vehicles—the serpentine belt is the only major belt. In older cars, many belts were used to keep cars going. Most modern cars only use a serpentine belt (there are some cars that use another belt to run accessories); this is extremely convenient for car owners who commonly have to monitor only one belt.
How often does a serpentine belt need to be replaced?
Because of modern technology, serpentine belts usually have to be replaced at 160,000 miles. The amount of time between serpentine belt replacements vary among car owners based on mileage driving and climate. A mechanic or car owner should check the serpentine belt regularly when the miles start adding up (such as at oil changes).
What are the signs that a serpentine belt needs to be replaced?
There are three main ways to tell if a serpentine belt needs to be replaced:
- High pitched squeal. An audible squeal or chirp can signal it’s time for serpentine belt replacement. These car noises can usually be heard inside the car (and also from the outside). A squealing can also be a sign that other car parts need to be replaced; contact a mechanic to diagnose the problem and fix the source of the squeal.
- Excessive cracking. Over time, the brutal Wisconsin temperatures can wear down serpentine belts. The belts start to crack and chunks of belt can start to break away. If the serpentine belt is not replaced, the belt can slip and damage other car parts further.
- System failure. When a serpentine belt breaks, the transfer of power to other systems does not occur. This means that the alternator, air conditioner, and other key car systems stop working.
Who can replace a serpentine belt?
A serpentine belt replacement can be performed by a knowledgeable car owner or a mechanic. If the latter is the choice, ask the mechanic to check the serpentine belt on a regular basis. In most cases, replacing a serpentine belt is a fairly affordable car replacement.