If you’ve ever experienced an annoying squealing sound coming from under your car’s hood, you probably know by now that it was more than likely your serpentine belt.
What is a serpentine belt and exactly what does it do? Serpentine belts, also known as drive belts, replaced a combination of smaller belts, known as V-belts, in the 1970s when cars got more complicated, with more bells and whistles. Shaped like a snake when in place around several different pulleys — thus, its name — a serpentine belt provides power for the air conditioning, alternator, power steering, and sometimes the cooling system water pump, according to Autoblog.com.
A serpentine belt can last from 50,000 to 100,000 miles, depending on when it was manufactured. If you own your vehicle long enough, will eventually wear out, but it will usually let you know when it’s time by that incessant squealing. If you hear it, a quick check under the hood will reveal if the squealing is, indeed the serpentine belt, because it will be cracked or shredded — a result of wear and tear.
It’s advisable to have a trusted mechanic replace a worn serpentine belt due to the complex arrangement of the belt around the pulleys. It’s also a good idea to have it checked periodically, because if it breaks, your car will stop moving, which can be extremely dangerous, depending on where you are when it happens. Additionally, the parts that it powers can sustain damage when the belt breaks.
You can avoid a breakdown through prevention by inspecting your serpentine belt every year or by having your mechanic check it during an oil change.
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