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The 411 On Serpentine Belts

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For most people, a vehicle is an imperative part of their daily life. From driving to and from home and work to using their vehicle for their actual job, it is easy to see the vehicle's importance. Unfortunately, improper maintenance will affect the vehicle's operation, appeal, and value. Completing oil changes and tire rotations are obvious parts of maintenance, but focusing on the serpentine belt is also necessary.

The serpentine belt is one of the most crucial parts of your vehicle even though you may not understand its purpose. This guide will help you understand the serpentine belt and the signs that it needs to be replaced.

Understanding the Serpentine Belt

The serpentine belt provides the main connection between the engine and the main drive pulley. Without this long, continuous belt, your vehicle's alternator, power steering, air conditioning, and even water pump will not function properly. This can affect the vehicle's performance and basic operation.

Most people are surprised to learn their vehicle has this one belt, since older vehicles were manufactured with multiple belts that function together to operate their car, truck, or SUV.

Signs of Distress

Because the belt does go through a great deal of abuse, it will wear down over time. Preventing this distress is not possible, since it occurs naturally when you operate the vehicle. However, learning the signs of distress will help you decide when it is time to replace your serpentine belt. If you are noticing the following, it is most likely time for a new belt:

  • Squealing or chirping sounds caused by tension and slipping of the belt
  • Visible damage to the belt, such as cracks, tears, or shredding areas
  • Decreased effectiveness of air conditioning
  • Power steering difficulty
  • Stalled vehicle, complete break down

If your vehicle is displaying the above signs, do not panic. Schedule a consultation with your mechanic to inspect the serpentine belt and other areas to determine if a replacement is needed.

It is also important to note that many manufacturers recommend replacing the serpentine belt at specific mileage intervals. On average, most older serpentine belts have a lifespan of up to 50,000 miles.  Belts that are made up of a more durable EPDM material can last a great deal longer, which can be up to 100,000 miles with proper maintenance.

Even though it is such an essential part of your vehicle's function, most people do not really understand the reason behind the serpentine belt. Proper understanding and your auto technician's assistance will help you understand and replace your serpentine belt if and when it is necessary. Contact a shop, like Action  Transmission, for more help.