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How to inspect and maintain vehicle belts

May 08, 2020

Responsible vehicle ownership involves taking inventory of the automobile and ensuring it is working at peak capacity. Hundreds of parts work together to keep vehicles on the road, but quite often drivers do not look under the hood until something is amiss. 

Routine maintenance is widely acknowledged as a critical component of responsible vehicle ownership, but many motorists may not know how to care for their cars. Belts are one example of components that are integral to efficient, well-running vehicles. The automotive resource iDriveSafely.com indicates belts are some of the most crucial moving parts in the engine. Belts transmit power between shafts, and all belts, from serpentine belts to V-belts to timing belts, all serve important functions. 

Serpentine belt: Firestone® Complete Auto Care says a serpentine belt is a long, snaking, winding belt that keeps parts such as the water pump, alternator, power steering pump, and air conditioning running smoothly. Serpentine belts transport power to automotive accessories. A failing serpentine belt can cause enormous and expensive headaches, including overheating and loss of steering power.

V-belts: Also known as drive belts, these are usually found in older vehicles. Unlike serpentine belts, which run through various parts, V-belts run through one or two accessories. Older cars with many bells and whistles will have multiple V-belts, and should one break, it may not cause as much of an issue as if a serpentine belt were to falter.

Timing belt: Advance Auto Parts says most cars have interference engines in which the clearance between moving parts is so small they can end up bumping into each other if they’re not running on the same timing as one another. That is where the timing belt comes into play. It connects the crankshaft to the camshaft, helping them stay in sync. Failing to pay attention to a timing belt can result in an expensive engine repair.

Belts have finite service lives, and heat and wear and tear are usually their nemeses. It is important to look for fraying or cracking of belts. Even belts that look new may have worn out grooves that lose their grips on matching pulley grooves. Mechanics often use special gauges to check belts. 

Belts also may need to be replaced due to oil or grease contamination that can damage the rubber or synthetic rubber. It is important to check the owner’s manual and seek advice from a qualified mechanic about when belts should be serviced.


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