What Happens to a Car When the Serpentine Belt Breaks?

Your serpentine belt is used to power many components throughout your vehicle. Thanks to this simple belt, your engine can power your alternator, cooling system, power steering system, and other components. A damaged or broken serpentine belt can prevent these critical systems from operating. Prevent an overheated engine, electrical system failure, and other issues by learning the warning signs of a bad serpentine belt.

Warning Signs of a Bad Serpentine Belt

This belt is pulled tight and held in place with a tensioner and series of pulleys. Depending on your vehicle design, the serpentine belt could be easy to access or hidden in your engine compartment. Here are some key warning signs you need to watch out for before learning how to replace a serpentine belt:

  • Overheating engine
  • Loss of power steering
  • Loss of air conditioning
  • Squealing noises from your engine compartment
  • Physical wear on the belt

Your engine could overheat due to a water pump no longer working. This pump is powered by the serpentine belt and is used to keep coolant flowing through your radiator. Check for low coolant levels as you inspect your serpentine belt.

cracked Serpentine Belt

Power steering is another area that relies on a serpentine-belt-powered pump. Without it, the system won’t work properly. If you suddenly find it difficult to turn your steering wheel, it’s likely an issue with this system. Keeping cool also relies on this belt. There may be a leak in your refrigerant line, so check this as well if you find your air conditioner is suddenly not working.

Finally, you may notice issues with the belt itself. As the belt wears out, it can become visibly cracked and stretch out. A stretched serpentine belt may start to slip, which can cause squealing noises. Inspect your belt for cracks, rib separation, missing pieces, and other issues.

How Long Does It Take To Replace?

A serpentine is an affordable component that you can replace by yourself with the right tools and instructions. The most important step in replacing the belt is to carefully document the way the belt winds between pulleys. Take multiple photos of the belt, or find a photo of a properly installed belt in your make and model of vehicle.

In most cases, it should only take you an hour or less to replace your serpentine belt. This depends on the age of your vehicle, as older vehicles may not have automatic tensioners. Manual tensioners are more difficult to properly install, but automatic alternatives make the process relatively straightforward.

Start by inspecting the tensioner to see if it shows any signs of damage. If not, loosen it and carefully remove the old belt and any small pieces of the belt that may be leftover. Loop the new belt in the same pattern and tighten the tensioner.

Slowly rotate the pulleys and serpentine belt to make sure that it travels smoothly. Shop online or at a local trusted auto parts store to pick up a serpentine belt and other car parts for convenient DIY maintenance. Swap out this component on your own to avoid a costly trip to a local mechanic.

Jack Thompson

Jack Thompson, a world traveler and blogger with over a decade of experience in the travel industry. Jack has dedicated his career to following, checking, and recording interesting stuff from around the world, sharing his experiences and insights with his readers. His passion for travel began at a young age, and he went on to study journalism at the University of California, Berkeley. After graduation, Jack worked as a freelance writer and photographer, traveling the world and documenting his adventures. He went on to become a travel blogger, sharing his stories and insights with a growing audience of readers. Jack has written extensively on travel, culture, and lifestyle, and has been featured in publications such as Lonely Planet, National Geographic, and Travel + Leisure. He is also a sought-after speaker and lecturer, and has given talks at conferences and universities around the world. In his free time, Jack enjoys hiking, surfing, and exploring new destinations off the beaten path. He is passionate about helping others discover the joys of travel and is always on the lookout for new and interesting places to explore.
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