A serpentine belt is an important part of your vehicle’s engine block, but do you know what a serpentine belt really is? The serpentine belt is a long rubber belt that transports power to the engine accessories—the alternator, power steering pump, air conditioning compressor, and (sometimes) the water pump. And if it breaks, you might end up stuck on the side of the road waiting for a tow truck.
If your serpentine belt is failing, you may notice performance issues with your vehicle. The vehicle may frequently overheat. Your air conditioning or power steering may fail to work or not work properly. You may notice your vehicle battery failing to recharge if the alternator is affected by a bad serpentine belt.
Several signs will present themselves when a serpentine belt is starting to wear out. Below are the 7 symptoms of a bad serpentine belt.
7 Symptoms of A Bad Serpentine Belt
The most common symptom of a bad serpentine belt is warning lights on your dashboard. You may also notice heavy steering or squealing noises from the belt. If you see a lot of cracks on the belt visually, it’s time to change it.
1. Warning Lights on dashboard
The first thing you may immediately experience when your serpentine belt is damaged or completely ripped off are warning lights on your dashboard. You will most likely notice the battery light because the serpentine belt is driving the alternator and when it stops the warning light will appear.
You may also notice other warning lights such as a power steering warning light or a hydraulic pressure warning light. If the belt is too loose to maintain grip on the alternator pulley, you may experience a similar symptom as a snapped belt.
2. Heavy steering
Because the serpentine belt is responsible for transmitting power to the power steering pump, your pump will not function properly with a bad serpentine belt. Power steering gives the driver the ability to gently steer their vehicle without having to use too much arm strength.
So, if you have a bad serpentine belt, it will be more difficult to turn the steering wheel to steer your vehicle.
However, most newer cars have an electric power steering pump, and in this case you won’t notice heavy steering from a snapped serpentine belt.
This problem can also be caused by low performance steering fluid. Check under the hood to make sure the power steering reservoir has the recommended fluid level.
3. Cracked serpentine belt
The serpentine belt is easily accessible in most cars. If you want to know if your belt is bad, it’s a good idea to physically inspect your serpentine belt from time to time. If you notice visible cracks, chunks missing, abrasions, rib separation, uneven rib wear, and damaged ribs. If you notice any of these, it’s time to replace your serpentine/drive belt.
4. Squealing sounds
If the front area of your vehicle makes squealing sounds, then your serpentine belt might be misaligned or slipping. Sometimes it might just take a realignment or proper tensioning of your serpentine belt to fix this problem.
Most newer car models have an automatic tensioner for the serpentine belt, but some older ones have a manual tensioner, which you might have to tension the belt to get it right and stop squealing.
5. Air condition not working
The serpentine belt also powers the AC pump, and if the belt snaps, you might notice that your car’s air condition stopped worked completely.
The AC pump often has its own smaller serpentine belt for just the AC pump in many car models, not in all of them, though. If you have a separate belt for the AC pump and it fails, everything else might work except the air condition.
6. Engine overheating
Since the serpentine belt helps provide power to cool the engine, a failing belt can cause your engine to overheat as the water pump will not turn. As soon as your engine starts overheating, have it inspected by a mechanic because it can lead to a breakdown and cause damage to your engine if it is left to keep overheating.
7. Car Engine Stops Completely
Your serpentine belt rotates the alternator that produces electricity to charge the car battery. If the serpentine belt breaks, the alternator will stop producing power and if you continue driving your battery will soon be dead in 5 to 30 minutes. Without electricity, the car’s fuel supply system cannot supply the right fuel to the engine for combustion, eventually, the engine stops completely.
Whenever you see your car battery light is on, you should definitely park your car and check what is wrong. But, in reality, do you have a bad serpentine belt, or Do You Have a Bad Car Battery or Alternator?