What is a Serpentine Belt?

A serpentine belt is another type of belt inside the engine. This belt is a V-ribbed belt that is ribbed along one side. It’s much thinner than a drive belt in appearance. Because of this, it bends easier and is much more flexible which allows it move and wrap around smaller accessories inside the engine. Specifically, the ribbed side of the belt will come into contact with the grooves that are on the accessory drive pulleys and the flat side comes in contact with a tensioner roller.

The serpentine belt derives its name from its appearance and the way it is able to weave itself in and out of various accessories and pulleys with ease. A serpentine belt lasts longer than traditional drive belts and is much easier to remove and install. This belt also transmits power between the steering pump, alternator, water pump and air conditioner compressor.

What is a Drive Belt?

A drive belt is the part inside of your engine that drives all of the accessories that are installed in the engine including the power steering pump, the alternator, the air conditioner compressor and the water pump. The drive belt is made of extremely strong, durable rubber or rubber materials. Many newer cars may have one or two drive belts, depending on the size and function of the car.

How are They Different?

What’s the easiest way to tell a timing belt apart from a V belt or Serpentine belt? A timing belt will have rubber teeth which are molded in and will use a strong fiberglass cordline. Although the teeth are rubber, it’s made of a high temperature neoprene or a HSN- Highly Saturated Nitrile. Most engine’s out there today are what they call an ” interference engine” meaning once the timing belt breaks there’s a high likely hood that the internal components will collide and cause major damage since it’s the timing belt that keeps it all in sync. Moral of the story: make sure your changing your timing belt on time at its manufacturers suggested change interval ( or sooner ). Most manufacturers will recommend that this is a good time to replace your rollers and tensioners too.

When to Replace Your Belts

A drive belt is made of very durable rubber material. Usually, drive belts are made from an oil-resistant rubber such as neoprene or other artificial rubber materials. However, it will still suffer from wear with use over a period of time. Generally, a drive belt will last for 45,000 – 75,000 miles or a period of three to five years. A worn belt will usually cause noises, squeaking, squealing or chirping-sounds, which is the warning to have it looked at. Once the belt breaks, the engine will not function properly. The car will not be able to be driven. If the engine is allowed to run without a working drive belt, it could overheat because the water pump will not be able to circulate antifreeze through the radiator. Your battery light could come on because the alternator has also been interrupted. And, if your car has power steering, the steering pump will not be functioning making steering very stiff and sometimes impossible.

To avoid surprises, it is always advisable to have your drive belt checked when you have your car serviced. The mechanic will look for signs of wear, such as cracking, splits, any damaged or frayed edges, or other signs of wear. If any of these signs are noticeable, replacing the belt is necessary immediately.

How Much They Cost

Replacing either the drive belt or the serpentine belt can be somewhat annoying but it is not very expensive to replace, thankfully. Replacing the belt will usually cost between $80 and $315, depending on your car and on the mechanic. There are a number of things that can cause a drive belt to wear out prematurely including a missing under shield or stretching from oil or coolant leaks. This is a standard part of automotive maintenance.

How to Replace Them

If you are a skilled do-it-yourselfer, replacing the belt yourself may be an option. Purchasing the belt isn’t difficult; going into any major auto parts store, you can simply tell them the kind of car you drive and they will match you with the exact part. When you are ready to replace the belt, make sure to carefully read directions from beginning to end before you begin. There are many dependable sites to refer to for step-by-step instructions, including this video below.