5 Parts Powered by the Serpentine Belt

The serpentine belt, commonly referred to as the drive belt, is a continuous rubber belt that is snaked (hence the name!) through a series of pulleys and powers a variety of peripheral parts vital to proper vehicle operation. Devices powered by the serpentine belt include:

  • Power Steering Pump: Allows you to easily steer your vehicle with minimal effort.  Without this, plan on skipping arm day at the gym because you’ll get a full upper body workout just from parking your car.
  • Water Pump: Prevents engine overheating by cycling cool water from the radiator through the motor which heats the water and back to the radiator where the water is re-cooled before the next cycle.
  • Cooling Fan: Helps maintain a constant temperature in the engine.  Located between the radiator and the engine, it is especially useful when the car is stopped or moving at a slow speed limiting the amount of cool air blowing in through the grille.
  • Air Conditioner: Cools the interior of the vehicle creating a safe comfortable environment for passengers during hot weather.
  • Alternator: Converts mechanical energy into electrical energy used to recharge the car’s battery.

So as part of a regular scheduled maintenance program, your drive belt, or serpentine belt should be inspected and replaced by a qualified mechanic, or automotive technician.

While the serpentine belt is designed to be long-lasting, it is susceptible to regular wear and tear from heat and friction inside the engine.  The average lifespan is roughly 75,000 miles though the belt can become dry and cracked as early as 60,000 miles.  It can be especially susceptible to breaking and cracking during the hot summer months which is why it is vital to have your serpentine belt maintained to ensure it is in good condition and is maintaining the proper tension.

If you begin to experience issues with your power steering or air conditioning, notice a squealing noise coming from the engine, or experience engine overheating, it can be a sign of a failing serpentine belt.  You may also hear some noises when you start your vehicle or while the engine is running.  The engine contains many pulleys and components that have bearings in them, which start to "growl" when they begin to fail.  If not discovered, it can lead to failure including losing the belt and leaving you stranded.  If you are experiencing any of these issues with your vehicle, we recommend immediately bringing it in for diagnostic service.

At Wilton Auto and Tire Center, we recommend having your serpentine belt, or drive belt, inspected and replaced by a qualified mechanic or automotive technician as part of your regularly scheduled maintenance program to save yourself from any future inconveniences.

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Written by Wilton Auto and Tire Center