Many of your engine’s components, including the alternator, power steering pump, water pump, and air conditioning compressor, are all driven by a single, continuous belt known as the serpentine belt. In the event of a broken serpentine belt, your vehicle’s cooling systems would stop down, leading to overheating.
One sign that your belt may be frayed, split, or worn out is if you hear a screech or other unusual sounds coming from the engine area. Fraying, splitting, glazing (when the working edge of the belt turns shiny from age and wear), and other damage are all things our technicians look for while inspecting your serpentine belt. We have the ability to replace the serpentine belt if the old one needs to be discarded.
What Are The Symptoms Of A Bad Serpentine Belt?
Warning Lights on Dashboard
If your serpentine belt has been damaged or entirely broken off, the first thing you may notice is warning lights on the dashboard. If the alternator stops getting electricity from the serpentine belt, the battery light will come on to alert you.
Lights up completely and instantly when called for
If the belt breaks or slips off, this is what will happen.
After the alternator has ceased turning, the battery warning light will illuminate.
If the belt breaks in this way, it is likely due to severe material fatigue and long-term neglect.
If, on the other hand, the belt is otherwise fine but suddenly stopped staying on the pulleys, you should look for broken pulleys or a faulty tensioner.
Sometimes the pulleys break or wear out and sometimes the tensioners break and the serpentine belt becomes loose.
Weak Illumination from the Low-Battery Indicator
If your dashboard light is dim, it may be an indication of a badly sliding serpentine belt.
In this instance, the alternator’s voltage output is barely adequate (hens the warning light).
If you see this sign, it’s time to replace the belt because it’s definitely on its final leg.
The tensioner, in addition to the belt, should be checked for looseness. It’s possible that a faint squeaky sound will accompany all of this.
Loud Noise or Screech From Under the Hood, Particularly When You Accelerate
Squealing sounds could be coming from your serpentine belt if it is starting to go bad but has not yet snapped. This is especially true under conditions where the belt is being stressed, like when steering and the power steering pump are both put to use.
You may test this by turning on a bunch of electrical devices at once. You’ll be putting extra strain on the alternator if you do so, and if the squealing gets louder, you may have a problem with your belt.
Most modern vehicles have an automatic serpentine belt tensioner, however, some older vehicles may have a manual tensioner that requires adjustment before the belt stops screaming.
If the wheel doesn’t revolve as smoothly and easily as it should, the fault may lie with the serpentine belt.
The steering pump, which is operated by the serpentine belt, allows for power steering.
A worn belt prevents the pump from operating at full capacity because it cannot overcome the resistance of the pump.
The power steering will function, but imperfectly. You can still control the vehicle, but it won’t be as simple to do so as usual.
There will be an immediate loss of power steering if the belt breaks or slips off the pulley.
The wheel will be turned with great force (like in older cars where there was no power steering at all).
Gradual Loss of Car Battery Power
The alternator is another essential component that the serpentine belt powers.
It is responsible for supplying electricity to the vehicle. The belt’s health is crucial to the device’s ability to function and produce a reliable voltage.
The alternator will not generate enough electricity if the belt has worn out to the point that it slips over the pulley.
This is a classic sign of a broken serpentine belt, although it is notoriously difficult to spot. Usually, there won’t be any outward signs or noises. Even the battery indicator doesn’t light up, which is a major setback.
The alternator’s ability to generate electricity remains, but at a diminished rate.
You can put some miles on the automobile before you start noticing any wear and tear. As time passes, the battery will drain, resulting in lower lights and a less-than-optimal starting experience. The only way to know you have an issue is if it causes you actual distress.
The belt’s material fatigue is the primary cause of the issue, thus replacing it on time should solve it.
Cracked Serpentine Belt
The most telling sign of a failing serpentine belt is the appearance of cracks in the belt itself. In many cases, this is clearly seen just by looking at the belt. Even if the belt is not totally worn out, it is necessary to replace it if it has developed several cracks.
Air Condition Not Working
The air conditioner’s compressor is just another component driven by the serpentine belt. If the belt is in bad shape, the entire air conditioning system will not work right.
In the event of a failure, the air conditioning will be subpar (mainly in terms of cooling).
This is due to the compressor’s reduced efficiency.
However, if the belt breaks or comes entirely off the pulley, the compressor will cease running and the system would be rendered inoperable.
If the air conditioning is poor or doesn’t turn on at all when you turn it on, the problem may be the serpentine belt.
The water pump in many vehicle models is driven by a serpentine belt. Even though the water pump on many vehicles is driven by the timing belt or chain, many modern vehicles use the serpentine belt instead.
However, if the serpentine belt that powers your vehicle’s water pump breaks, the flow of coolant will be interrupted, and your engine will quickly overheat. If you notice that the engine’s temperature is rising, you should pull over immediately to prevent further damage, such as a blown head gasket.
The car Engine Stops Completely
An alternator is an integral part of every car engine, as it is responsible for constantly recharging the battery. Your automobile will stop working when the battery runs out of juice if you aren’t charging it.
A broken serpentine belt prevents power from being supplied to the vehicle’s electrical system, which means that the engine will eventually stop working if you continue driving. Whenever the battery warning light comes on in your automobile, it’s best to pull over and figure out what’s wrong.
What Are The Potential Causes Of A Bad Serpentine Belt?
If you’ve read this far, you’ve probably already made some educated guesses as to the causes of your serpentine belt issue.
Nonetheless, we’ll perform a quick review to help you zero in on the source of the issue.
So, Here It Is:
Damage caused by a lack of routine upkeep
If you haven’t changed the belt in a while, you haven’t done any maintenance.
By a wide margin, this is the leading cause of a broken serpentine belt.
When the belt’s material fatigues to a significant degree, it will slip, crack, and develop frayed edges.
If the issue is not fixed, it will break or come loose.
Serpentine belts are susceptible to damage from leaking oil or coolant. They might cause the belt to slip or become damaged if they were to get on it. This issue should be avoided otherwise thanks to regular maintenance.
Regular maintenance, and notably the use of quality replacement parts, will also resolve the problem of faulty or worn-out tensioners.
In conclusion, preventative maintenance and high-quality replacement parts are essential for the long-term health of your vehicle and yourself. Whether or not it has a serpentine belt.
You won’t have to worry about this issue ever again if you do this.
Misaligned or Broken Pulleys Are another Common Cause of Serpentine Belt Issues
Even though pulleys are often fabricated from metal or plastic that is extremely resilient, even these materials can wear down over time.
The serpentine belt’s durability will degrade over the course of billions of revolutions under tension.
Even if you replace the belt, a worn or broken pulley will rip and shred the new one.
Keep in mind that the belt is designed to be used on both sides; the smooth side can be worn away by a faulty pulley.
Misalignment occurs when components have been taken apart for maintenance or repair and then put back together incorrectly (all of the pulleys are not in line).
This results in the belt being twisted to one side rather than rotating in a straight path, which causes premature wear and eventual failure.
Broken Electronics (alternator, AC compressor, power steering pump, etc)
In the absence of correctly functioning devices, the serpentine belt will fail to function as intended.
For instance, if there is a problem with the alternator’s bearing, the rotor will not turn as it should, and neither will the pulley, resulting in wear on the belt.
Belt-driven devices are no different.
When the serpentine belt needs to be changed, a quick visual inspection of the pulleys is done by hand to make sure they are in good working order and prevent any issues.
They are spun to check for resistance and grinding noises; if there is none, the belt can be swapped out.
Changing the belt won’t help if there’s resistance, though, such as from a worn bearing. Tension and wear will cause it to deteriorate again quickly.
As quickly as possible, fix the broken gadget.
How Can I Prevent My Serpentine Belt From Failing?
Regularly inspect the belt for signs of wear and tear such as cracking, fraying, or glazing
Keep the belt tensioned properly according to the manufacturer’s specifications
Keep the pulleys and tensioner in good condition, as a damaged pulley can cause the belt to fail
Keep the belt clean and free of debris to prevent it from slipping or getting caught on something
Regularly check the alignment of the pulleys to ensure they are all in the correct position
Have the belt and related components inspected and replaced as needed during routine maintenance.
Location of the Serpentine Belt
The pulleys for the crankshaft, alternator, power steering pump and air conditioning compressor are all placed in the engine’s front, and the serpentine belt wraps around all of them (if equipped). It may be seen clearly from the driver’s seat and is typically situated around the engine’s base.
If your car has a plastic cover over the front of the engine, you may have trouble seeing the belt, but if you take the cover off, you should be able to see it. Sometimes the belt is situated on the side of the motor. Finding the serpentine belt requires consulting the vehicle’s owner’s handbook.
The Price of a New Serpentine Belt
Several factors affect how much it will cost to replace a serpentine belt, such as the type of belt required, the cost of labor at the repair shop, and the make and model of the vehicle.
The typical cost to replace a serpentine belt is between $50 and $150. The cost to replace the belt on a high-end or luxury car, however, can be much more.
If the pulleys or tensioner need to be replaced, or if any other associated parts need maintenance, additional fees may apply. Belt replacement can be as cheap as $50 and as expensive as $450, depending on the complexity of the job.
Before choosing a technician or repair shop to replace your serpentine belt, it’s smart to shop around and get multiple quotes.
Frequently Asked Questions:
If A Serpentine Belt Were To Become Worn, What Noise Would It Make?
When the engine is cold, a worn or defective serpentine belt will typically create a squeaky or screeching noise, though it is possible for the belt to make no noise at all. But if you hear a strange sound coming from the engine, you should check the serpentine belt first.
With A Broken Serpentine Belt, How Far Can I Drive?
If your serpentine belt is damaged in any way, do not use the vehicle. Usually, if your serpentine belt breaks while you’re driving, you’ll know it straight away. The engine may overheat, the battery warning light may come on, and the power steering may become inoperable. As soon as you can, get out of the car and call for a tow.
How Do I Know If My Serpentine Belt Is Slipping Or Breaking?
Signs that a serpentine belt may be slipping or breaking include squealing or chirping noise coming from the front of the engine, a visible loss of tension in the belt, worn or glazed appearance on the belt, and/or loss of power or function in the accessories such as the alternator, power steering, and air conditioning.
Can A Bad Serpentine Belt Cause Rough Idle?
Yes, a bad serpentine belt can cause rough idle. A serpentine belt is responsible for powering the accessories such as the alternator, which is responsible for charging the battery and maintaining the electrical system of the car. If the belt is slipping or breaking, the alternator may not function properly, resulting in a low charge on the battery and a rough idle. Other accessories like power steering and air conditioning compressors may also be affected.
Can Serpentine Belt Cause Engine Shaking?
Yes, a serpentine belt that is failing or has failed can cause engine shaking as it is responsible for powering the accessories such as the alternator, power steering pump, and air conditioning compressor. If the belt is loose or has failed, the accessories will not function properly, leading to the engine shaking.
Can A Bad Serpentine Belt Cause Random Misfire?
No, a bad serpentine belt typically would not cause a random misfire. A serpentine belt is responsible for powering the accessories on the front of the engine and if it fails, it may cause issues such as loss of power or function in the accessories, but it would not cause a random misfire. A random misfire is an indication of a problem in the engine’s ignition, fuel, or compression system.
Can A Bad Serpentine Belt Cause Bad Gas Mileage?
Yes, a bad serpentine belt can cause bad gas mileage as it powers the alternator which is responsible for charging the battery and running the electrical system in the vehicle if the belt is slipping or breaking it can cause the alternator to work harder which can decrease fuel efficiency.
Ibrar Ayyub is an experienced technical writer with a Master's degree in computer science from BZU Multan University. He has written for various industries, mainly on home automation and engineering. He has a clear and simple writing style and is skilled in using infographics and diagrams. He is a great researcher and is able to present information in a well-organized and logical manner.