Belts have come quite a long way with technological advancements. The days of cars with three or four rubber v-belts are long gone. Just about every car on the road is equipped with a serpentine micro-v drive belt. It is referred to as a serpentine belt because one long belt wraps around a series of pulleys to run all of the accessories on your car. This traditionally includes the crankshaft powering the power steering pump, air conditioning compressor, water pump, alternator, and air pump. The belt drive system uses idler pulleys for positioning and a spring-loaded automatic tensioner to keep everything tight.
Some signs of a belt issue are squealing, chirping, and screeching noises. A loud screeching noise on a cold start-up may be a belt and or tensioner issue. Chirping noises at idle from the belt may be caused by a weak tensioner, pulley misalignment, or a worn drive belt. Squealing during tight turns may be caused by a loose belt or weak tensioner.
Another sign of a failing belt is cracking and glazing. Although due to the great improvements in material technology a worn and noisy belt may still appear to be in good condition while it is worn past its servicable limit. To truly test the belt your mechanic will measure the depth of the micro v grooves for wear.
Another benefit of the material improvement is that the belts will routinely last 50,000 to 75,000 miles and sometimes even more!! It is best to replace the spring-loaded automatic tensioner along with the belt.
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