Looking to save some cash on labor? Replacing an Accessory Drive Belt can save you almost $150 on parts and labor! It should be noted, that this repair is rather advanced. If this is your first DIY maintenance project it may be in your best interest to contact a professional. Don't forget to Check out Tasca Parts's extensive collection of genuine OEM Parts and Serpentine Belts!
Duration: 2-5 Hours
How Often: Every 50,000 to 70,000 Miles
Tools Necessary For Install:
- 3/8 Inch Drive Ratchet
- Replacement Belt
- Protective Eyewear
The accessory drive belt, commonly called the serpentine belt, helps transfer power from the vehicle’s crank pulley to the other accessories that are mounted on the engine. Older vehicle models were often fitted with neoprene belts that made it difficult to detect defective belts. This practice led to the introduction of the ethylene propylene diene monomer (EPDM) belts In the late 1990s that made it easier to detect as well as replace damaged belts.
If the serpentine belt of your vehicle is damaged or worn, then it can fail to transfer the required power, which in turn can lead to the power steering, alternator, and also the air conditioner not functioning properly. It is good practice to change the belt every 50,000 to 70,000 miles.
Before you proceed with replacing the serpentine belt, it is important to follow all required safety precautions. Refer to the car’s owner’s manual for specific safety instructions.
Disconnecting the car’s battery
Open the hood of the car. You will also have to release the safety latch at the front of your car. If you face any difficulty, refer to the car’s owner's manual for instructions.
Once you've opened the hood of your vehicle, use a wrench to disconnect the negative terminal of the battery. Slide the cable off the battery and carefully place it to the side of the battery. You need not disconnect the positive terminal of the battery.
Locating the serpentine belt
The location of the serpentine belt depends on your car’s make and model. In most cases, you can find it at the front of the engine. If you are unable to locate the serpentine belt, refer to your car’s owner’s manual to identify its location.
In some instances, there could be engine covers around it; you must be prepared to remove them if required. The engine covers are held in place using plastic clips. Therefore, you must be careful to not break them when removing the covers.
Looking at the belt for signs of damage and wear
Inspect the belt for any damage or wear. Some of the signs of wear could include:
- Abrasion/misalignment: Any tears on the belt can cause misalignment as a result the belt will not work properly. A misaligned, slipping belt produces unusual noise or vibrations So it is always important to be mindful of any odd noises coming from your vehicle.
- Cracking: In older types of belts, the cracks were easily noticeable. In new EPDM belts, the cracks are harder to identify because they are built to withstand cracks. In these belts, you must lookout for a lack of rubber – Similar to how a tire wears over time. Loss of rubber causes the belt to bottom out, which quickens belt wear causing it to slip. This can adversely damage other car parts as well.
- Glazing: Since the belt keeps bending and flexing against a pulley, this generates a lot of heat that can harden the rubber. If the belt gets loose, the increased friction makes it hotter. This can cause glazing, subsequently making the belt slip more.
- Pilling: As the belt gets older, it loses material that can accumulate in the belt grooves. This leads to a lack of tension, misalignment, and worn out pulleys.
You must replace the belt if you notice any of the above-mentioned signs. Also, if you find the belt rubbing against something, ensure you identify and fix whatever it was rubbing against to prevent damage to your new belt. There is nothing more aggravating than replacing a belt only to find you need another replacement in 5000 miles.
Relieving the tension on the belt
First, you must relive the tension placed on the belt. The tension placed on the serpentine belt will either be by using a movable bracket or an auto tensioner pulley. The auto-tensioner pulley uses an internal spring that keeps applying steady pressure to the belt. If in doubt, refer to your car’s owner’s manual on what type of tensioner your vehicle employs.
Auto tensioners either have a hole or a bolt to relieve tension. You can use a wrench in the hole or use a socket on the tensioner bolt. Carefully, twist it away from the belt to slowly relieve the tension.
In the case of an alternator bracket, you must loosen the two bolts passing through the bracket. When the bolts are loosened, the tension on the belt will move the alternator towards the engine subsequently helping relieve the pressure.
Pulling the belt off from the pulleys
Once you have relieved the tension, pull the belt from the pulley. Then, remove the belt from around the remaining pulleys as well. If the belt is damaged, ensure you remove any parts of it that may otherwise be sticking around it.
Installing the new belt
Before you begin installing the new belt, compare it with the old belt. Ensure the new belt has the same width and the same number of ribs going across it as the old one. In addition, confirm that the new belt does not show any signs of damage.
If you notice any discrepancies in the width or if the new belt looks damaged, do not use the new belt. Reach out to your auto service center in case of any issues.
Now, run the new belt through the pulleys in precisely the same way as the old one. Refer to the car’s owner’s manual for the belt diagram.
The new belt must be long enough to run around all the pulleys. After routing, if you find the belt loose, it is either because you have used the wrong belt, or your belt has been routed incorrectly.
Then loosen the auto-tensioner pulley using the wrench and pull the belt over it. After placing it, release the pressure so that the belt is held in place by the tensioner. If you find it difficult to route the belt over the tensioner, ask someone for help.
If the vehicle does not have an auto-tensioner, you can insert a pry bar between the engine and the alternator. Run the belt over the alternator pulley and use the bar to wrest the alternator away from the engine to increase the tension on the belt. Finally, tighten the bolts as you apply tension.
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he Advice, How-to guides, and maintenance information featured on tascaParts.com is presented as helpful resources for general maintenance and automotive repairs. The presented guides on this site should be used at your own risk. Tascaparts.com assumes no responsibility for any physical injury that may occur to you or your vehicle while working on your vehicle. The information on this site is accurate and true to the best of Tascapart’s Knowledge, however, it is entirely possible that there may be omitted information or errors. Be sure to consult your owner’s manual or a licensed professional mechanic for vehicle-specific repair information. You may also refer to your owner’s manual for specific diagnostic, repair, and tool information for your particular vehicle.