The serpentine belt is the primary belt of an internal combustion engine. It is easy to locate the serpentine belt as soon as you open the front hood. The belt is long and features several ridges that help it grip onto the pulleys.
Sometimes the serpentine belt is referred to as an accessory belt because it supplies mechanical power to so many other vital accessories of the vehicle. It powers the water pump, alternator, air conditioner compressor, power steering pump, and water pump. You can see why the belt is so long because it quickly reaches all these different components.
If the serpentine belt becomes too worn out or damaged, you will notice functionality problems for some or all of the relevant accessories connected to it. Your vehicle will become inoperable until you replace the serpentine belt with a new one.
The total replacement cost of a serpentine belt is between $90 and $200 on average. This price range includes the cost of parts and labor.
The parts cost alone is around $25 to $75. If you have auto mechanic experience, you can save a lot of money if you perform the replacement job yourself. But if you have to pay for a professional auto mechanic to do the job, their labor fees could be between $65 and $125.
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The Top 5 Symptoms
Below are the top 5 symptoms of a bad serpentine belt.
1) Air Conditioner Problems
The air conditioner is one of the systems connected to the serpentine belt. If the belt slips off track or loses its ridges, the air conditioner won’t function properly. Either the air conditioner won’t turn on at all, or warm air will come out of the vents.
If you live in a hot environment, you cannot exist in your vehicle without a functional air conditioner. It may not impact the vehicle’s drivability, but it will affect your comfort as a driver behind the steering wheel.
2) Power Steering Problems
The power steering system is what allows you to turn your steering wheel without much strength or effort. The serpentine belt provides power to the power steering pump, which allows the system to function. When the belt doesn’t work, the power steering won’t work either.
As a result, you’ll be required to use a lot more strength when you turn the steering wheel left or right.
3) Squealing Noises
A worn-out serpentine belt will become misaligned and start slipping off the pulleys. Once that happens, you will hear squealing noises as your engine runs. You might even see smoke come from the engine.
Sometimes all you need to do is tighten the serpentine belt if it has become loose. But this is only a temporary solution to the problem. If the belt continues to loosen, it is a sign that it must be replaced.
4) Overheated Engine
An overheated engine is the worst symptom because it could potentially cause permanent damage to the engine. It will usually happen once the serpentine belt finally breaks or snaps off completely. If you attempt to drive under this condition, your engine will overheat fast. You can see this if you check the temperature gauge on the dashboard.
5) Electrical Issues
The battery and the alternator are the two sources of power for the electrical accessories of a vehicle. The serpentine belt supplies mechanical energy to the alternator, which then gets converted into electrical power.
A bad serpentine belt could result in major electrical issues. If the alternator does not have a strong electrical charge, it cannot charge the battery or supply power to the headlights, radio, or spark plugs. You’ll see flickering lights and starter motor issues.