Tips to Bear in Mind When Purchasing a Serpentine Belt
The performance of your engine accessories—the water pump, alternator, and fan—is directly affected by the condition of the serpentine belt. Yes, even a 5% loss of belt materials or a slight damage on it can have an effect on the operation of these accessories. This is why it’s important to regularly check your belt even if it doesn’t require any maintenance.
A bad belt can give you drivability problems. And once it snaps, it can leave you and your passengers stranded in the middle of nowhere. So as soon as you notice signs of a bad belt, don’t think twice in replacing it. When looking for replacement, here are some tips:
Make sure to get the right replacement.
When purchasing online, be extra careful in making your choice because you won’t be able to scrutinize the product personally. To be sure you’ll get the right replacement, check out the unit’s part number and make sure it is designed to replace your old belt’s part number.
This also particularly helpful if you’re purchasing a serpentine belt only. By getting an exact replacement for your stock, you can be sure that it’s compatible with the tensioner, pulley, engine, and all the accessories that should be driven by the belt.
Besides the part number, you should also pay particular attention to the number of grooves, ribs, as well as the width of the belt and make sure the specs of the replacement unit match all the specs of the stock.
Buy new gaskets, gasket adhesive, and other things you may need for the installation.
To save time and money from making multiple purchases, it will be wise to include gaskets, adhesive, as well as all the hardware you may need when installing the belt along with your serpentine belt purchase. If the tensioner has defects, you should replace it as well. You can even consider getting a kit to be sure that all the components are compatible with one another.
Purchase a belt that’s one size smaller than your old serpentine belt.
It isn’t a good idea to install a belt that’s either too big or too small. If you can’t find your manual and there’s no way for you to know the exact length of the belt, measure it’s length with a string and get a belt that’s one size smaller than the measurement you’ve obtained. If you’ve measured 80 inches, get a 79-½-inch replacement belt. This is because the belt has tension while the string doesn’t.
How to Visually Inspect the Serpentine Belt
Unlike the v-belt that requires periodic adjustment, serpentine belts need no maintenance at all. But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be checked regularly. At every oil change, it’s a good idea to inspect the condition of the serpentine belt. By doing so, you can catch a bad belt right before it snaps or fix any damage that may shorten the belt’s service life.
Here are the steps on how to do visual inspection on your serpentine belt:
Difficulty level: Easy
Step 1: Consult your owner’s manual to find the belt’s location and to be familiar with its specs. Take note of how the belt looks like and what components are powered by it. Prop the hood up and look for the belt. You may need a flashlight if your work area isn’t well-lit for you to clearly see the condition of the belt.
Step 2: Look for oil on the serpentine belt. The belt’s back or smooth side is what drives the vehicle’s water pump. When this side of the belt gets soaked or glazed with oil, it will definitely slip and fail to keep the engine cool. Also, when there’s oil in the serpentine belt, there could be some kind of a leak somewhere. You have to do some more troubleshooting to find out where the oil is coming from and have it fixed.
Step 3: Check for tears or abrasions. If there’s any, that’s an indication that the belt is rubbing against a pulley flange or a bolt as it runs. The tears will get more serious as the belt gets older. If this is the case with your ride, smoothen out the pulley flange or bend the component that rubs with the belt to get it out of the belt’s way.
Step 4: Search for bumps or pinholes as these are signs that debris and dirt have found their way into the area between the belt and the pulleys. To inspect for missing chunks of the belt’s ribs, you can turn it around and crank the engine to reveal other sections of the belt for inspection. If there are a few, widely spaced chunks, there’s no need for you to worry. But if they are many and are close to each other, that calls for a replacement.
Step 5: Don’t ignore cracks. While hairline cracks are normal, they shouldn’t be deep enough to get into the backing or the flat side of the serpentine belt. If the crack is deep, then you must have your belt replaced. Also, if the cracks are 3mm apart, these are indications that your serpentine belt has already seen better days.