Every vehicle on the road has a serpentine-like belt running through it suspended by various pulleys. It is essential for driving main vehicle components such as the alternator and air conditioning compressor. If you know where to look, you can even inspect the belt for yourself by looking at the front end of the engine where it is usually mounted externally. The accessory belt used to be constructed of neoprene, but since the late 1990’s they started to construct new belts with ethylene propylene diene monomer (EPDM belts as they are more commonly called). These EPDM belts are much more durable and long lasting, however like all things they do eventually wear out and need to be replaced.
The two main causes of belt failure are improper tension and misalignment. Things to look for when inspecting your belt:
· Cracks or wear similar to tire wear. With only 5% of belt material wear, belts can start slipping resulting in inevitable belt failure
· Fraying or stretching of the belt can lead to breaks in the belt which can cause your vehicle to come to a sudden halt
· Glazing (hardening of the rubber) from friction and heat can occur over time, resulting in more slipping
· Squealing noises coming from the engine or rattling noises from the pulleys
When should the belt be replaced?
If you notice any of the problems mentioned above you should bring your vehicle in to your nearest Big Brand Tire & Service location to have your belt replaced. Additionally, it is ideal to have your belt inspected periodically (you can even inspect it yourself if you know where to look). Your belt can last more than 100,000 miles, but you should consult your owner’s manual for details as it can differ between vehicle models.