Ever had a pair of jeans that are too big? When you wear those jeans, you use a belt to hold them in place. That belt you wear with your outfit is not much different than the belt for your car. The belt on your car is used to drive (spin) many different components. Just like the belt you wear has holes to keep it at the proper tension, a car has a tensioner to keep it in place and tight. Older cars had adjustable belts, but the newer vehicles use a hydraulic or spring-loaded tensioner.
Reasons you may consider replacing your belt
- It has begun to stretch and is not holding tension
- Age: it is old, dry, cracked and/or brittle
- It is making noise
- It has chunks missing, cuts or any other visual sign of wear
- It has had a fluid leak onto it
Types of belts on your car
- Serpentine belt (vehicle has only 1 belt that drives everything)
- Air conditioning belt
- Power steering belt
- Water pump belt
- Alternator belt
- Timing belt
Some vehicles have only one belt that drives all belt driven components such as the power steering pump, alternator, air conditioning compressor, water pump, etc. Other vehicles may have several belts that drive two or three components. These are called exterior drive belts. They should be replaced based on age or miles driven, whichever comes first. We recommend the exterior belts to be replaced every 7 years or 100,000 miles, but weather conditions and other factors can shorten their lifespan. For example, if a vehicle has an oil leak that is dripping on the belt it needs to be replaced. Any fluid leaking onto a belt ruins the strength of that belt. If a belt must be removed to replace a component it is a good idea to replace the belt at the same time to save on labor costs.
The other type of belt is the timing belt. Timing belts are located behind the timing cover and not visible in a normal vehicle inspection. They are replaced based on age and/or mileage like your exterior belts. The major difference is that they are not visible. This means they can be wearing badly, becoming loose or any other issue and no one will know. If a timing belt slips off, snaps or in any way stop spinning the engine the vehicle can have a catastrophic failure. We recommend replacing timing belts slightly earlier than the manufacturer recommended mileage to help ensure this does not happen.
The purpose of a belt is to drive (spin or rotate to create power) a component of the vehicle. Each belt drives a different component(s), but the main purpose of them is the same. If a belt stops spinning due to any reason (tension breaks, pulley breaks, etc.) the vehicle can lose power, overheat, or cause much worse problems. If you see a belt not attached do NOT drive the vehicle. This is a case you want to have the vehicle towed to avoid incurring any unnecessary expenses.