Checking the Serpentine Belt

The serpentine belt is the belt that drives all the other accessories on the car. It transmits the power of the engine to the alternator, power-steering pump, water pump, the air condition compressor etc. Checking the belt from time to time (about every three months) is a very useful task. You have to notice when the belt is worn out, otherwise it can snap while driving causing serious problems. It won't instantly damage the engine itself but can cause overheating, lack of power supply or else, thus causing damage to the engine, battery etc.

Signs of a Worn out Belt

The first sign of a worn out belt is the noise it produces. There will appear a squeaky noise, first if the belt gets some moisture on it and later, as the belt wears down some more.
worn_out_serpetine_belt
Example of a old serpetine belt
The moment this starts happening change the belt. Some signs that also give away belt fatigue are:
  1.  the battery doesn't get enough power (due to the belt slipping on the alternator pulley). The first symptoms are lasy cranking, the headlights don't have their usual beam strength etc.
  2. the steering wheel is a bit harder, that's because of the slipping of the belt on the pump pulley
  3. casual overheating 
  4. the air condition isn't efficient as usual

 

Before any of these happen you can make a visual check of the belt. The belt and the pulleys will be located (on most cars) in an easy accessible place. Take a hold of the belt by your hand and turn it around. Since it's restrained, turn it as much as it goes.  Look on the smooth side of the belt for possible glazing, fraying or oil contamination. Check the other ribbed side for cracks or missing parts of the ribs. If you find any of  these, change the belt immediately. Any delay can cause you problems, especially while driving.

However, if it does happen while driving, you probably won't notice. But what you will see is the battery signal turning on and the temperature gage rising. Pull the car to the side immediately and replace the belt. If you have problems with serpetine belt somewhere in middle of nowhere be sure to find some Certified Towing Professionals.