The Serpentine Engine Belt

Gatorback Serpentine BeltGatorback Serpentine Belt
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People ask me all the time what brand serpentine engine belts I use on my own cars? When it comes to auto parts, they're mostly made in China these days. So I'll say it doesn't matter.

However, with engine belts, it does matter. When I was a kid I used Dayco. Now when I'm fixing noisy drive belt problems it's most often this brand I see when I first pop the hood.

I've learned over the years that the best quality rubber parts and the latest technological breakthroughs come from companies that make rubber as it's primary function. For this reason I like the Goodyear Gator-back or the Continental Elite belts.

However, on GM cars I like the Fleet Duty Delco belts. These are the same Delco parts with an additional layer of green silicone rubber compound. You find them on Police cars and Taxi cabs. This is just my personal preference. You can read reviews from others linked at the bottom of this page.

Preventing Surprise Breakdowns

Failures of the serpentine engine belt are still one of the leading causes of on the road breakdowns for motorists today. When you have one piece of continuous rubber spinning so many important accessories, if it breaks the trip is halted.

You won't get very far without the water pump. Modern engines are made from aluminum and they don't like to get hot. If you try to make it to the next town you can cause serious damage.

Now instead of a tow bill plus parts and labor on a serpentine belt you could be looking at major engine repairs. Bottom line - when the belt breaks the red lights on the dash come on and red means stop.

You may have noticed that on modern automobiles maintenance schedules have changed with the advancing technology. Longer intervals between service are the new normal. Things like spark plugs and coolant now go 100k miles before replacement or maintenance is needed. Unfortunately, this has not trickled down to the standard issue serpentine belt.

Inspection of your drive belts are just as important today as it was on vehicles 20 years ago. In fact, I might say it's even more important.

This is because on cars of the past there were multiple V belts driving multiple accessories. If you lost one belt, depending on which one, you could most likely continue to your next destination.

The serpentine belt drives all of the accessories and if this belt goes the first thing you'll notice is the power steering not working. Then the red charge indicator warning light comes on because the alternator stopped turning.

As I mentioned, more importantly, the water pump will stop unless it's driven by the timing belt. Within a mile or two the engine will start overheating in this scenario. This next video is a must-see for anyone who is thinking about replacing their own engine drive belt for the first time.

This three-minute clip shows you several different types of belt systems. Remember, when you're dealing with engine belt diagnosis or replacement, the engine must be off and the keys should be out of the ignition.

Drive Belts Information and Tools

I think this video did a good job of showing you what to expect when replacing serpentine drive belts. One thing they didn't touch on was the amount of spring force most belt tensioners have.

In the video, the mechanic was compressing the tensioner with a breaker bar. The tool has a long handle to over come the strength of the automatic spring  tension.

They make a special tool that's much better than a breaker bar. It's called a serpentine belt service tool. It's better, because it includes the attachments needed for specific models. In my opinion this is a must-have for do-it-yourself mechanics as well as professionals.

I own one made by the gear wrench people, and I use it often. In fact mechanics I work with ask to borrow it all the time. It makes replacing belts a lot easier and also a lot safer. Stop and give this auto repair page a bookmark or share it with a friend dealing with a chirping engine drive belt.

I have a lot more auto repair videos to share with you. They're all short and sweet with lots of good lessons to be learned. This next link takes you to more car repair videos.

Looking for belt diagrams and specific instructions on how to replace a belt on your vehicle? I have a video that details the procedure for finding repair manuals online.

The home page is up next and is a good place to go to learn about what else is covered on this automobile repair website. You can learn more about the mechanic that's decided to help people with auto repairs.