Don’t Ignore Your Serpentine Belt! Here’s What You Need to Know to Avoid Engine Issues

Dear Mike,

I recently noticed that my car’s serpentine belt has started making some weird noises. I’m not quite sure what a serpentine belt is, but I’m guessing it’s an important component of the car’s engine. Could you shed some light on what a serpentine belt is and when should one replace it? I’m a bit worried that a worn-out serpentine belt could lead to some serious engine issues.

Thanks for your advice,

Dear Edmund,

First off, thank you for taking the time to write in. It’s great that you’re taking notice of your serpentine belt and the weird noises it’s making. Your car’s serpentine belt is indeed a vital component of your engine and it’s great that you’re paying attention to it.

The serpentine belt’s main job is to transport power to your engine accessories like the alternator, power steering pump, and air conditioning compressor. It’s like the backbone of your engine! Without this belt, all of these accessories would stop working and you’d be left stranded on the side of the road, searching for a tow truck like a lost puppy.

Now, as you mentioned, it’s true that a lot of people think, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”. But when it comes to your serpentine belt, it’s better to err on the side of caution. Waiting until it breaks is like waiting until your house is on fire to install smoke alarms. It’s better to replace the belt before it breaks to prevent further repairs and save money down the road.

Your serpentine belt is made to last and under ideal circumstances, it should last between 100,000-150,000 km before needing to be addressed. However, it’s important to replace it as part of your scheduled maintenance to avoid any issues on the road. The older style serpentine belts are made of rubber and will start cracking over time, while newer neoprene belts will not show signs of cracking but will wear down over time and cause a squealing or chirping sound.

In addition to weird noises, there are other symptoms of a bad serpentine belt to watch out for. If you notice signs of wear such as cracking, glazing or fraying, or if you experience a squealing or chirping sound, then it’s definitely time to replace your belt. You may also experience performance loss such as power steering failure, sudden car battery drain, or even engine stalling. Finally, if your check engine light comes on or you hear any unusual noises, it’s important to get a professional opinion.

Luckily for you, most professional service providers and dealers include a belt inspection with the standard oil change service on most vehicles. So, you might want to consider getting an oil change soon and have the mechanics take a look at your serpentine belt while they’re at it. It’s always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your engine.

In summary, Edmund, your serpentine belt is definitely an important component of your engine and it’s great that you’re paying attention to it. It’s recommended to replace the belt as part of your scheduled maintenance, even if it looks okay, to avoid any issues on the road. And if you notice any weird noises or other symptoms, it’s definitely time to get it checked out by a professional.

Thanks for your question and happy driving!

Mike Urban
Founder of Urban Automotive & Automotive Advice Writer.