Belts for our pants have changed a lot over the years and so have the belts in our vehicles.
Vehicles used to have several drive belts and they connected a pulley on your engine to accessories such as water pumps, alternators and air conditioners.
Then automakers started going to a serpentine belt, which wraps around all of the accessories and drives them all at the same time. Serpentine belts last a lot longer than the older types, but when they break you usually get stranded right where you are.
Because it is so important to have the serpentine belt in good shape, it should be checked at every oil change. Some minor cracks are normal, but if a belt has a lot of severe cracks in it, it is time to replace it.
If the belt has been damaged and has rubber chucks knocked out of it, it needs to be replaced as well. Not replacing a belt will eventually lead to a break down.
It’s important to note that on newer vehicles, the serpentine belts do not crack like the older ones used to do, so it is hard to see if they are worn out. It takes a special measuring gauge to see if the belt is worn out and needs to be replaced.
There also are other parts that are part of the serpentine belt system that wear out over time. Things like a tensioner keep the belt tight and have a bearing inside of them.
Sometimes you will hear them making a screeching noise when the engine is running and that usually means that the bearing is worn out and the tensioner needs to be replaced. Even though the serpentine belt might still be in good shape, if the tensioner breaks, you’re stranded.
Sometimes people get confused about the difference between a timing belt and a serpentine belt. A timing belt is hidden behind a cover on the engine and connects the lower half of the engine to the upper half. You can’t see it when you open the hood.
The serpentine belt is the one that you see when you pop open the hood and look down into the engine compartment. Keep them both in good shape and you will reduce your chances of getting stranded out on the road.