Working on your car or truck can be a lot of fun. It is also a great way to save some money on maintenance. It can even make your ownership experience more meaningful. Many vehicles need to have their serpentine belts replaced from time to time. While this may seem intimidating at first, it is a reasonably easy job to DIY.
What Is a Serpentine Belt?
Vehicles with internal combustion engines (most cars and trucks on the road) transfer power from the engine to other parts of the vehicle via the crankshaft. The powered wheels are connected via the drivetrain. However, they are not the only parts of the vehicle that need power. Your accessories also need some energy from the engine. For these, there are serpentine belts.
Not all vehicles have a serpentine belt. Some have multiple accessory belts connecting the engine to each accessory. However, many modern designs have one long belt that snakes between multiple accessories, hence the name serpentine. It connects to pulleys that connect to the various vehicle accessories. Thus, the power of the crankshaft spinning can be shared by different vehicle components.
Warning Signs of a Bad Serpentine Belt
There are a few ways to know if your serpentine belt needs to be replaced. Bear in mind that several of these can be issues with other auto parts. So, you will need to inspect the belt and do some troubleshooting to determine the exact issue.
- Engine Overheating: Your serpentine belt helps provide power to the radiator, which cools the engine. Therefore, if the belt is damaged, your engine may start getting very hot. If your engine starts to overheat, address the problem quickly.
- Steering, AC or Infotainment Not Working: If your electronics or power steering are not working, it may indicate a problem with the serpentine belt, especially if they all happen together.
- Squealing: The most obvious sign of a problem is the belt squealing. This is typically because of slippage or an alignment issue. It may be fixable without a replacement.
How To Replace a Serpentine Belt
If you think you have a bad belt, you may want to repair it yourself. The good news is that learning how to replace a serpentine belt is relatively easy. You’ll need a belt tensioning tool and a new belt.
- Before starting, note the placement and path of the belt. Consider taking a photo or making a diagram for later.
- Start by releasing the tensioner. This will allow you to unthread the serpentine belt easily.
- Install the new belt in the same place. Make sure it is threaded the same way. Additionally, serpentine belts may have an inside and an outside, so make sure that matches the original belt.
- Re-tension the belt by engaging the tensioner. Then, test it is working by running the engine.
Get Started Fixing Your Vehicle Today
Fixing your vehicle can be a fun and rewarding way to save some money. Jobs like replacing serpentine belts are easier than you may think. So, give it a try today with a few tools and auto parts from your favorite store.