If you are still delaying your driving belt replacement, you should think twice before you crank your engine. I’m telling you this because these belts can break. And possibly cause a catastrophic engine failure in the process. You probably already know this. And you are interested to know, how much does drive belt replacement cost?
Well, let’s put it like this. It doesn’t come cheap. The change of the driving belt, also known as the serpentine belt. This belt requires some special expertise in order to get done quickly and professionally.
I’m saying this because the tensioner needs to be adjusted properly for this to work, and then the belt needs to be placed in the right way. And only experienced mechanics know how to do this job. Because of this, it may come to a steep price.
In this article, we are going to learn about the driving belt. What is the purpose of the driving belt? On how many miles should be replaced. Most importantly what are the symptoms of a bad timing belt. And if you do not know the miles on the vehicle when these things were addressed. You need to learn how to differentiate an old bad drive belt, from one that was changed recently.
And finally, we are going to take a look at the drive belt replacement cost. Where you can change this belt for the cheapest price. To be honest, not everyone wants to pay a lot of money to mechanics. So, stay along and follow, if you want to learn more.
What Is A Drive Belt?
The drive belt, also known as a serpentine or accessory belt, is the main belt that is doing all the hard work and makes your engine run perfectly. If you have a front-wheel-drive car. You will notice the belt on the left side of the engine bay. If you are running on a rear-wheel-drive car. The drive belt should be right in front of you. Right in between the engine and the cooling radiator fan.
You can also easily identify these belts by their distinctive ridges that run through the length of the belt. These ridges are helping the belt to maintain its grip and stay in place.
This belt is running all the engine accessories. You will be surprised if I tell you that the air conditioner you are running in your car, runs with the help of the engine. The engine spins the driving belt. Then the belt spins the compressor and delivers cool air to your cabin.
It also runs other accessories. Such as the alternator. The alternator needs the serpentine belt to spin, in order for it to produce power to the car. This energy then helps charge up the battery and you are able to crank your engine every morning.
For example, if you run a supercharger. The serpentine belt run the power to the supercharger. Based on the size of the pulley that is installed on the supercharger, it delivers the proper number of rotations.
If the pulley is big, it delivers less power. If the supercharger pulley is smaller. It will deliver more air to the supercharger and also more power from the engine output. But more about that later. And first, let’s learn the differences between a drive belt and a timing belt. And also we will find out more about the drive belt replacement cost.
Drive Belt Is Not A Timing Belt
Many people that are not experienced in cars, will easily confuse these two types of belts. But we will make this clear and describe what are the differences between the two.
The drive belt, as we said before, is meant to run the accessories. These accessories include the alternator, pulleys, superchargers, air conditioning compressors. These accessories need the turning motion of the engine in order to function.
The timing belt on the other hand is different. This belt ensures that the crankshaft and camshaft work in perfect harmony and the engine delivers power to the wheels. If this belt breaks it’s going to cause catastrophic engine damage. It will bend your valves because they are going to hit the pistons.
This happens because the timing of the engine is messed up. The crank and the camshaft are not synchronized anymore. Changing your belt on time will prevent this from happening, and you will probably never experience this issue.
If you are running a noninterference engine. An engine in which the camshaft is not overhead, but it is in the block. An example of this type of engine are the old pushrod V8 engines. In these engines, the camshaft is in the center of the block. So, if the chain or belt snaps, it wouldn’t damage the engine.
In the modern V8, inline 4 or inline 6. The camshafts are located on the top of the engine. In case of the belt snapping, it is going to ruin your engine in an instant.
Engines that use timing chains do not face this issue. Because the chains are made to last forever. And even if they lose the tension. It may just cause an unpleasant sound. This sound is a sign that your chain is time to be retired and replaced. Timing chains usually last around 150k miles.
What If My Belt Squeak?
Driving belts may squeak if there is some loose tension on them. This may be caused by an old driving belt that needs replacing. But it can be also caused by pulleys that need to be replaced or tightened up.
The main reason for this issue is the crankshaft pulley. This pulley, especially if you are running an LS engine. Knows to go bad and needs a replacement. If it’s bad you can notice that it is wobbling around and has a lot of play.
When you address this issue. It is also a smart idea to go through all of the other accessories. Namely, the water pump, air-conditioning pulley, drive belt tensioner pulley. Change all of these when you are doing your driving belt. It is a smart idea to do this job, because you may need to make another trip to the mechanic’s shop. And search online for drive belt replacement cost. So, if you don’t want to do the same thing twice. Do everything that needs doing at once.
Replacing all of these things at once will save you a lot of cash in the long run. Especially, if you want to keep the car, or sell it for a profit. People will instantly see these issues and go away. So, don’t wait and fix these issues with the squeaking belt.
What Is Going To Happen If The Driving Belt Snaps?
If the belt snaps, it means that your car will not be drivable. You will need to go to a mechanic’s shop for the belt to be replaced. Since the driving belt is powering many accessories, you may lose the power steering capability. As the belt breaks, there will be no power to the power steering pump.
Another issue that may appear. The battery is going to stop charging since your belt wouldn’t power the alternator anymore. The alternator needs something to spin it around. In order to make power for all of your auxiliaries, radio, lighting, etc. If the alternator doesn’t work. Your battery will go empty and then everything will shut down.
Another issue is the water pump. The pump is pumping water throughout the block to deliver proper cooling for the engine. If the water pump doesn’t move, the engine will overheat and it may warp your head or crack the block. This can ruin your engine and you will need to get a new one. You probably don’t want to go on that route.
These problems may skyrocket your spending on driving belt replacement costs. In the end, you may pay ten times more than you would originally have to. In my opinion, when you see that the belt starts to crack, you should not delay the change. Everything that’s delayed will be more costly in the end.
Symptoms Of A Broken Drive Belt
There are many symptoms that will appear when the timing belt is bad. You should not just ignore these symptoms and wait to get fixed on their own. This is something that needs to be addressed as soon as possible. Your engine performance will be compromised if you leave it like this, and this may cost you a lot in the long run.
But, it’s fortunate that you can easily tell if the belt is going bad. There are some signs that are a clear giveaway of the issue. You do not need to do any research, because we have done everything for you. Now, we are going to discuss more about these symptoms that occur when the drive belt is going bad. You need to know these symptoms before you search for drive belt replacement costs.
No Power Steering
One of the first symptoms that appear when the drive belt is bad is loss of power steering. If the belt snaps you will instantly notice that your wheel isn’t turning easily. The steering wheel will need a lot of force to be applied on it, in order to turn.
If this happens to you, you need to stop right away and call roadside assistance. If you are a few miles from home then it should be ok to take your car to your home. But be careful and don’t put a lot of pressure on the gas pedal. This is important because you don’t want your engine to overheat.
Another reason why you may lose power steering is the power steering pump. These pumps are notorious to go bad on some cars. They need to be changed, in order for you to get proper power steering.
No Air Conditioning
If your belt snaps, you will lose your air conditioning. Because one of the accessories that run on the drive belt is the air condition compressor. These compressors are also notorious for going bad and need to be replaced. Because of this you should not jump to conclusions and think the belt has snapped.
Also, there is some of the air condition piping that may have a hole. The freon that is inside the pipes may just escape and you will be left with no freon. This means that your air condition will not engage when you press the button. So, it is important to stop on the side of the road and check if everything is ok with the belts.
Another symptom of a bad drive belt is the squealing sound that the belt is making. If the belt squeals when you apply the gas, it means that there is low tension on it. This may be caused by cracking or a loose pulley. Or maybe both. If the tensioner is loose. The simple solution will be to torque the tensioner more and that will increase the pressure. Stopping the squealing noise in the process.
Another thing that causes this, is bad pulleys. If they have a lot of play in them, then they are probably bad and need replacement.
Cracks On The Belt
If you perform a close inspection on the belt and you notice that cracks are starting to appear. Or the belt is hard to the touch. It means that the belt is pretty much gone.
You need to replace it as soon as possible. Checking under the hood more often is always a good idea to prevent these types of failures. So, perform a regular inspection on these parts if you want your car to serve you for a long time.
Another reason for a broken drive belt is a dead battery. If your battery dies off all of a sudden this may be one of the culprits. But you shouldn’t jump too quickly to conclusions. The alternator that is powering the battery is also notorious for going bad.
Inspect under the hood and if you see that the belt is ok, but the battery is always empty, maybe it’s the alternator. Alternators come cheap and they are easy to replace, with just a few bolts.
Also, the reason for a dead battery may be, just a dead battery. Batteries these days last for around 3-5 years. Then they need a proper replacement with a new one.
If your engine overheats all of a sudden. This may mean that the belt has snapped. Because the water pump will lose power and the water will stop moving around the engine.
When you notice that the engine overheats. It’s important to stop your vehicle. Look under the hood and wait for it to cool off. Check the belts. If the belt isn’t snapped, it means that maybe your water pump or thermostat went bad and needs to be changed.
All of these accessories that are mounted on the belt are prone to failures. Water pumps, alternators, air conditioning compressors, pulleys and power steering pumps. Don’t jump to conclusion that the belt has snapped. If the belt has snapped you will see failure on all of these parts at once. Because there isn’t any power to them to keeps them running.
In this case, you may conclude the belt went bad. Also, take your phone camera and inspect the belts and their overall health. You are going to spot a worn-out or snapped belt in an instance.
If you make the conclusion that the belt has snapped or has cracks on it. Then you may look for drive belt replacement costs. This is something that we are going to discuss in the next chapter and we will learn more about the prices for these parts.
Driving Belt Replacement Cost
Driving belt replacement cost is not as high as many people think. For a part that is changed every 100,000 thousand miles, spending 50 dollars on a new belt, and 75-120 on labor isn’t much.
It is always important to get quality parts that will serve you for a long time. Don’t go for the cheap options. Get good OEM ones. These will not fail prematurely and will guarantee that your engine health will be good for a long time.
If you decide to change all the other pulleys, and water pumps in the process. This will cost you maybe $150-200 more. But in my opinion, it is worth it. These parts are not changed very often, and if you do all these parts. You can be sure that your visits to the mechanic shop will be less regular. Saving a lot of money in the long run.
DIY Fix Driving Belt
You are not a car guy if you don’t search for a DIY fix for your car problems. We, the car guys, always love to fix our problems by ourselves. And also save a lot of cash in the process. The drive belt can be easily done by hand with no professional experience at all. You just need proper tooling and space to work. You will also need new parts. Belt and new pulleys. With this DIY approach, the drive belt replacement cost will also be a lot less expensive.
But take note that this job may be time-consuming if you also need to replace your pulleys. Especially the crankshaft pulley that may be a headache to remove. And if that specific pulley is bad, then it’s best to take it to a mechanic.
If you have decided to do the job by yourself. The first thing for you to do is to release the pressure on the tensioner, and this will cause the belt to get loose in order for you to remove it. Then you will need a proper tool to remove the pulley on the crankshaft. You can get these tools in your local AutoZone or O’Reily’s. This tool is needed because you cannot remove the pressure of the crankshaft pulley without it. This tool will pop the pulley out easily.
How To Change The Belt
First, in order to get to the pulley, you need to remove the tension on the belt and release the belt tensioner. Then remove the cooling fan and radiator. Because you will need a lot of space, in order to install this tool and remove the pulley.
After you have done this job, it is a good idea to change all the other pulleys. For this job, you will need only a torque wrench. After the pulleys pop out, replace them with new pulleys and then place the new belt in the right order. If you do not do this, it wouldn’t work.
It is useful to take pictures before you do this job. In order to get it all right when you mount the new belt. After you mount the belt then get the pulley tensioner and apply the pressure again. This is needed in order for the belt to sit tight and properly.
After you do this job, install the radiator and the cooling fans. Fill your car with new coolant and you are ready to go. Just a little note to mention is that when you do all of this work. it is useful also to change the water pump. The water pumps are expendable parts and need a change after 100,000 miles or so.
Can I Sell A Car With Bad Driving Belt?
One of the problems with selling a car that has this issue with a bad belt is that it is quite noticeable and not everyone would like to buy a vehicle that has this issue.
Many of the accessories would not work properly. Even if they work the engine would not work properly either. The belt would squeal, and that is an instant turn-off from a protentional buyer.
The best thing to do is to replace all of the pulleys and the belts, in order for your car to look alright and presentable to the potential buyer.
Even if someone decides to buy the car from you with a broken belt and bad pulleys. He will give you a lower offer than you previously expected to get. So, keep that in mind.
When selling a car, always fix the issues that come with it, and make it look presentable and original.
We may conclude that the drive belt replacement cost isn’t expensive. Since it is a part that is not changed regularly. These parts last for a long time and when it is time to change. It is a good idea to change them with a good OEM part. This part will last even more than the factory one.