Let’s talk about serpentine belts, specifically: what they do and how frequently they need to be changed?
Do all cars have serpentine belts? No. Most modern vehicles do have serpentine belts, but older models can have v-belts. The serpentine belt is a single, continuous belt that operates multiple devices in an engine including the alternator, air conditioner, water pump, and power steering pump. In engines that have v-belts, individual belts operate these components and the automobile can have up to four different belts.
The advantage of a serpentine belt is its efficiency. Having a single belt increases fuel economy and available power. The disadvantage of a serpentine belt is if it breaks several critical functions of the engine are lost and the engine will conk out leaving you stranded.
How often do you need to change a serpentine belt?
It depends. Serpentine belts are tough so they can handle a lot of wear before they completely fail. Typically, a belt will last around 60,000 to 100,000 miles. That is why a good rule of thumb is to have your belt inspected at 60,000 mile and replaced at 90,000 miles before the belt fails. Be sure to check your manual for manufacturers’ recommendations when it comes to belt replacement. We recommend you have it inspected every time you get your oil changed, but at the least you should have someone take a look at it every year.
By inspecting the belt it’s possible to discover other issues that might be going on with the automobile. Oils and other fluids that get on the belt can cause it to slip and not work properly, and can indicate a possible bigger issue. Uneven wearing on the belt can indicate an issue with a pulley or the tension on the belt.
At NAPA AutoCare we also include a serpentine belt inspection as part of our multi-point inspection when having it serviced, because it’s better to be safe than stranded.