How to Know When to Replace Your Serpentine Belt
Differing from the multi-belt system of the past, a serpentine belt is one, continuous belt that drives multiple components in the car. The name originates from the way this belt winds itself around and between things much like a “serpent” would. Serpentine belt replacement decisions are different than old v-belts.
The first serpentine belt didn’t make its appearance in a car until 1979. The older styles were made of Neoprene and could easily be inspected for wear. Usually at around 50,000 miles of use, cracks and missing chunks along belt edges would show up. Along with belt noise, these visual warning signs meant the belt was significantly worn and due to be replaced.
Today’s serpentine belts are made of a superior product called EPDM (Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer) and require no real maintenance, they still don’t last forever. According to the Car Care Council, out of the over 240 million cars on the road today, one in 5 need a new serpentine belt.
Along with the vastly improved performance of EPDM belts came the need to inspect for wear in a different way. Serpentine belts now show wear more like the way a tire wears by showing a decrease in tread depth. The rib material wears down over time and results in a loss of ability to grip, which is key to its function.
The wear puts a strain on the components in your car, like the air conditioning and power steering systems. When the belt slips, the conditioned air may not be as cold. Slippage can cause your power steering to not work as well in slow speed sharp turns.
Technicians now inspect serpentine belts by measuring how much rib material has worn away to suggest that the belt is nearing the end of its life. With the superior performance of the EPDM belts, it may not be until 100,000 to 150,000 miles before the belt will show enough wear on inspection to indicate a need for replacement.
By factoring in mileage, operating conditions, and the information you can provide about how accessory components are working, a technician is able to make a reasonable recommendation about whether replacement is necessary.
Tune Tech Downtown can inspect your belt. Call us at (208) 336-5315.
P.S. Here is some information about timing belts you may find helpful.