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5 Signs of a Bad Drive Belt

A man holding a drive belt
The engine in your car powers your transmission and drive systems, which enables your car to get from point A to point B. Your engine also generates power for a host of other components, including your battery and cooling system. These components receive mechanical energy from your engine by means of the drive belt. 

Also known as the serpentine belt, the drive belt is heavy-duty and made to withstand years of use. Yet the punishing conditions beneath your hood eventually catch up with the drive belt, and the belt can lose its tension or even break. This article examines five warning signs that your drive belt may be nearing the end of its lifespan.

1. Unusual Squealing Noises

Unusual squeaks and squeals from beneath your hood make up some of the earliest and most common signs of a failing drive belt. A drive belt consists largely of heavy duty rubber, which tends to stretch out as time goes on. Eventually, the belt becomes worn enough that it no longer maintains the appropriate tension.

Squealing noises happen as the belt slips across the grooves and rotors where it should be catching. Aging belts may also develop shiny patches that make it slicker than usual. Such glazing exacerbates the traction problems of the worn belt. Once a belt gets to this point, it must be replaced to restore proper functionality.

2. Loss of Power Steering

Once upon a time, it took serious upper body strength to turn a car, since the driver was responsible for supplying virtually all of the power needed to physically move the wheels. Today, however, generally all cars come equipped with power steering, which uses hydraulic power to make steering as easy as possible to control your car.

When your power steering ceases to function the way it should, you may notice that your steering wheel has become much harder to manipulate. A number of issues can knock out a power steering system, including low power steering fluid, a bad pump, or a faulty steering rack. The issue may also stem from a bad belt, which drives the pump used to run the power steering.

3. No AC

A bad drive belt may also manifest as issues with your car's comfort control system, since the belt also supplies power to your air conditioner compressor. A failing belt means your compressor won't receive the necessary level of power. As a result, you may notice that your AC struggles to keep your car cool, no matter how high you crank it.

4. Engine Overheating

The compressor doesn't just supply coolant to your air conditioner; it also provides the cooling power necessary to keep engine temperatures within safe thresholds. As a belt wears down, and the compressor struggles to do its job, your engine becomes more susceptible to overheating.

5. Cracking and Edge Wear

The final sign of an aging drive belt involves the belt itself. Even casual car owners can monitor the health of their drive belt by taking an occasional peek beneath the hood. A belt nearing the end of its lifespan will show considerable cracking on its grooved side. Likewise, the outer edge of the belt may become worn and frayed.

Over time, a belt also loses material as the result of friction, causing it to become progressively thinner. At a certain point, the belt may begin to split lengthwise. Large pieces of the rubber may also shear off along the length of the belt.

The drive belt has a huge role to play in the proper functioning of an automobile. To learn more about how to keep your drive belt in the best possible working order, please contact our automotive pros at Vans Auto Service LLC. 

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