Originally cars had many belts. Those belts wore out at different rates and if one broke while you were driving, it could cause catastrophic damage to the rest of the engine. Modern cars have a timing or serpentine belt that connects to various parts of your engine including the alternator, power steering pump, air conditioner and sometimes water pump. Some cars still have a few parts that run on separate belts but, for the most part, cars today have just the one belt.
How Do You Know it’s Time for a New Belt?
Because they’re made out of rubber, they don’t last forever. It’s easy for your mechanic can check to see if yours needs replacing. It’s good practice to check or have yours checked starting at about 50,000 miles. Some last as long as 150,000 miles but this is one preventative maintenance items that you’re better off doing sooner rather than after it breaks and you’re left stranded.
One sign yours has failed is if your power steering and air conditioner go out at the same time. If you hear squealing from your engine you should have yours checked, that can be a warning sign yours is ready to break. You don’t want to be caught with a broken serpentine belt or have it break while you’re driving.
What Does a Worn Belt Look Like?
As the rubber begins to age, it may become shiny in appearance. Another sign is fraying or cracks in the rubber. Most cars have a belt tensioner that keeps the belt stretched properly so although the belt was one size when originally installed with temperature changes, its tension changes and it’s stretched and released much like a rubber band. Eventually the changes in size and temperature cause the belt to fail.
Can I Replace it Myself?
This is one of those jobs best left to a mechanic unless you have a great deal of automotive knowledge. The belt must be installed around the various motors properly and at the right tension. If your car has a tensioner pulley, you’ll need to know how to set the tension, if not, you’ll need the tool to set it. The belt itself, on average, costs about $70 and installation takes a mechanic less than an hour on most cars.
If you’re looking for a mechanic to check and replace your timing belt, call Oldsmar Automotive at (727) 784-3501 and we can schedule your appointment. If you think yours is ready to go and want to stop by our shop, we’re conveniently located at 3166 Tampa Road in Oldsmar.