Power-steering-belt

Power Steering Belt – Adjustment, Symptoms, Replacement Cost

Paul Hadley

This article was recently reviewed by car expert Paul Hadley to ensure it is as accurate and helpful as possible.

Power steering technology is one of the foundational components of new automobiles, and one reliant on the power steering belt. This modern vehicle’s component makes vehicle navigation easier, unlike the older models of automobiles that lack this feature.

The technology warrants that a belt is connected to the engine to drive a hydraulic pump which makes the system work. This belt is known as the power steering belt or serpentine belt. It is a relatively simple component, however, it’s important to keep it in good condition.

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If your power steering belt is damaged, it may result in the malfunctioning of the power steering pump, which makes it challenging to steer your vehicle. This is why you need to be able to tell when it’s time to replace your power steering belt.

This article will talk about the symptoms of a bad power steering belt, how to replace your power steering belt, the cost of replacement, and other information you may need to know about your vehicle’s power steering belt.

What Is A Power Steering Belt

The power steering belt is a belt that is used to transfer power from the engine to the power steering pump. It is a critical component of the power steering system, which helps make it easier to turn the steering wheel of a vehicle. The serpentine belt is typically made of rubber and is driven by the crankshaft of the engine.

Power Steering Pump

The power steering pump is a hydraulic pump that helps the driver steer the vehicle by giving the steering mechanism more force.

For more insight into what the power steering pump is, check out our guide on what an electric power steering pump is. Additionally, we’ve looked into the symptoms of a bad power steering pump. As well as, the power steering pump replacement cost.

Functions Of The Power Steering Belt

The power steering belt is often powered by the crankshaft pulley and is usually located in front of your vehicle’s engine. Here are some of the functions of your vehicle’s serpentine belt.

  • It functions as a driver for navigating the power steering liquid pump, which transmits power steering fluid throughout your vehicle’s steering system.
  • The alternator that delivers electrical energy will cease functioning once the steering belt is damaged.
  • Enables the easy spinning of the steering wheel.
  • Boosts the mechanical efficiency of your car engine.
  • Utilizes one source of energy to leverage many components.
  • Steer your vehicle’s engine accessories.

Without your vehicle’s serpentine belt, the whole automobile system will stop functioning, and every potential way to operate it will prove abortive.

Also, speaking of the power steering fluid, we have an abundance of resources that might prove insightful. Previously, we discussed the power steering fluid leak, in addition to whether can you use power steering fluid as brake fluid, as well as whether can you use transmission fluid for power steering fluid.

How The Power Steering Belt Works

When your car engine is in operation, the power steering pump is run by the serpentine belt; this helps produce the hydraulic tension that is required to help with steering.

If the belt becomes worn out, it can result in difficulties with the power steering system, including a loss of steering assist or a creaking sound when rolling the steering wheel. So, it’s important to check the power steering belt often and replace it if it shows any signs of wear.

Serpentine Belt

The serpentine belt is a single, long-winding rubber belt that is utilized to steer numerous accessory devices like air and water pumps, alternators, air conditioning compressors, power steering pumps, etc. in an automotive engine.

It keeps these tools operating smoothly and efficiently. Also, it transmits energy from the engine’s central pulley to the power steering pump. A serpentine belt can either be a V-belt, a drive belt, or a power steering belt.

It is a critical device in your automobile, and once it damages or cracks, you might get stuck on the side of the highway waiting for a towing van. Hence, you need to replace the serpentine belt before it cracks to avoid more repairs and unnecessary expenses down the road.

Serpentine Belt vs Timing Belt

The serpentine belt and the timing belt are two different kinds of belts. While the serpentine belt has many V-shaped trenches that emerge vertically along the belt, the timing belt has horizontal teeth designed to match the camshaft and the crankshaft. Both also perform varied functions in your automobile.

The timing belt is found within your vehicle’s engine. It maintains the camshaft and the crankshaft in synchrony, ensuring that the valves of the exhaust and engine intake open and close in conjunction with the pistons. This makes your engine operate with ease.

For more insight, do check out our many timing belt-related articles. That includes what happens when your timing belt broke while driving. Or, whether can a timing belt last 200 000 miles or more. Not to mention, the symptoms of a bad timing belt. And, the replacement cost of a new timing belt (with some pointers on when to change the timing belt).

The serpentine belt links the engine crankshaft on the exterior of the engine to all the engine attachments. It transmits energy to the engine attachments and ensures they function efficiently. The serpentine belt is found in front of your car’s engine.

Bad Serpentine Belt Symptoms

Several common symptoms are associated with a bad serpentine belt. This is what causes issues such as a bad power steering system in your 2012 Ford Fusion. Some of these symptoms include:

#1 – Creaking Engine Sounds

A torn serpentine belt can become tough and crisp and will begin to make creaking sounds that are loud from under your vehicle’s hood. The noise becomes more noticeable as soon as your engine starts or whenever the belt is carrying weight.

#2 – Debris On The Belt

When you notice grease, pebbles, or other kinds of debris on the belt, it is an indication that your belt may not be in a favorable condition and may require replacement. You can just try out some DIY methods by wiping the oily or messy parts of the belt gently and inspecting it to see if the residue has resulted in any damage.

#3 – Driving Or Turning Difficulty

Check how easily and consistently your car can turn to see if your serpentine belt is starting to wear out. If you notice that driving or turning is sometimes hard or shaky, especially at corners that require a lot of swerving, it could be a sign that your serpentine belt or power steering belt is starting to slip.

#4 – Accessory Devices Problems

If your serpentine belt starts to weaken, it affects other accessory devices in your vehicle, like the water pump, AC system, and alternator. When these vehicle accessories are affected, it can result in overheating, battery charging issues, and climate control malfunctions.

#5 – Check Engine Light Flicker

If your check engine light starts to illuminate, it may be a sign that something is going wrong with your power steering belt.

#6 – Noticeable Tears On The Belt

If you detect any obvious signs of wear, like tears or damaged trenches, then it’s an indication that your serpentine belt has developed a fault.

#7 – Warning Lights On Your Dashboard

Warning flashes on your dashboard are an early sign you may notice if your power steering belt is worn or damaged. This is because the power steering belt is what powers the alternator, and if it stops working, the warning light appears.

Hydraulic pressure warning flash or power steering warning flash are some of the warning lights you may notice if your serpentine belt is damaged.

#8 – Air Conditioner Stops Working

The power steering belt also powers the air conditioning pump, and if the belt cracks, you will start to see that your vehicle’s air conditioner will cease functioning totally. The air conditioning pump often has its own smaller power steering belt for only the air conditioning pump in several vehicle categories (not all car models, though).

So if you have a different belt for the air conditioning pump that goes wrong, every other component might function except the AC system.

Bad Power Steering Belt

If you fail to take the signs of a bad power steering belt in your car engine seriously and replace it rapidly, it can result in more damage to your automobile. For example, it can cause an unexpected failure of power assist for the steering system, leading to difficulty turning the steering wheel.

A damaged power steering belt might also prevent the water pump from dispensing coolant via the air conditioning system. This leads to overheating in the engine.

Serpentine Belt vs Drive Belt

The serpentine belt and the drive belt are easily mistaken for each other & are frequently utilized interchangeably. However, both are different belts. The serpentine belt is lanky, slim, and interwoven. The serpentine belt’s curly nature gave it the name “serpentine belt.”

The drive belt, on the other hand, is comparable to the serpentine belt because it fulfills similar duties like regulating the air and water pumps, the AC compressor, and the power steering pump. However, there are a few exceptions to what the drive belt can do (thus, affecting the drive belt replacement cost).

While the serpentine belt can transfer power between the alternator, AC compressor, power steering pump, and water pump, the drive belt merely regulates them. Also, the serpentine belt is known to last for a long time, which is why it is used in almost all types of cars.

With the flexible material it is manufactured of, you can easily take it out and have it reinstated with a new one. The drive belt, on the other hand, is made of a thicker and harder substance than the serpentine belt.

When To Replace Your Power Steering Belt

Power-steering-belt

There are two main indicators to watch out for to detect if you have a cracked serpentine belt: noise coming from the engine and uneven steering. The squeaking or creaking of the engine whenever you start your vehicle or turn the wheel, may suggest it’s time for you to change your serpentine belt.

And if your vehicle’s steering becomes slightly trembly or hard, this could be a warning sign that your power steering belt is gone bad.

Power Steering Belt Replacement

Replacing your power steering belt can be a bit complicated; however, with the correct tools and a little knowledge, you can easily accomplish the job.

Here are some of the tools you will need for your serpentine belt replacement.

  • Flashlight (optional)
  • Pliers
  • Wrench or socket set.
  • Ratchet twist.
  • Hydraulic lift.
  • Tall flat-edge screwdriver.
  • Suitable permeating lubricant.
  • Suitable replacement power steering belt.
  • Belt tensioner tool.
  • Formal-sized flat-edge screwdriver.
  • Protection tools like glasses and gloves.
  • Replacement pulley if necessary.

When it’s time to replace your power steering belt, your mechanic will swap out the old, broken, or cracked serpentine belt for a new one. It is crucial to replace your serpentine belt if it’s cracked to prevent it from slipping and causing clunky, shaky steering.

How To Replace The Power Steering Belt

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to replace your power steering belt.

  • Step #1: Get the exact belt for your automobile by examining the part number on the old belt. This can help you find the right type of belt for your vehicle. Taking the old belt along with you when you go to purchase a new belt can also be helpful.
  • Step #2: Find the belt tensioner and the power steering pump. It is often located at the front of your car’s engine, close to the water pump and alternator. Confirm your car is stationary, apply the emergency brake, and turn off your engine.
  • Step #3: Reduce the tension on the belt using a belt tensioner tool. This will enable you to extract the belt from the pulleys.
  • Step #4: Take out the old belt from the pulleys by gently sliding it off. Note the routing of the belt before removing it.
  • Step #5: Gauge the length of the old belt and trim the new belt to the same exact length as the old belt. This is if the new belt is not pre-cut.
  • Step #6: Route the new belt around the pulleys and ensure it has the same routing as the old belt.
  • Step #7: With the belt tensioner device, apply pressure to the new belt and clasp it in position while you regulate the belt pressure. Ensure the belt is properly fitted and doesn’t feel loose.
  • Step #8: Turn on your car’s engine and verify that the power steering pump is functioning properly. Listen for any creaking or odd sounds coming from the engine. Also, check that the belt is operating true on the pulleys.
  • Step #9: You can switch off your engine and close the hood if you notice everything is operating properly.

How Often You Should Change Your Power Steering Belt

It is crucial to point out that the steps shown above are general procedures for replacing your serpentine belt. The specific procedures for replacing your serpentine belt might be different depending on your vehicle’s category and make. If you don’t know how to replace the serpentine belt on your car, take it to a professional mechanic.

If you want to know the actual manufacturer’s suggestions to understand how frequently you should change your power steering belt then study your owner’s handbook. However, the majority of automobiles propose a serpentine belt or power steering belt replacement every 50,000 – 100,000 miles.

Serpentine Belt Replacement Cost

Serpentine-belt

Here, I will show you how much it will cost you for a replacement serpentine belt when you DIY and how much it will cost when you visit the mechanic.

The typical cost of replacing your power steering belt should be between $60 – $130. However, this price is dependent on if you visit your vehicle repairer or you DIY. Also, note that this replacement cost does not include the labor fees, or your specific vehicle make & category.

If you decide to DIY, the cost might be around $60 for the purchase of the serpentine belt. However, if you decide to visit a mechanic, then the price might be between $110 – $130. You can reduce the price of changing your power steering belt in half when you DIY it.

Your actual cost of replacement depends on the kind of automobile you own. However, the cost of labor is often where the major expenses lie. Remember that almost every engine serpentine belt is varied, you should ensure that you have sufficient information before requesting a new belt.

If you’re unsure of anything, always check your owner’s handbook. Also, it is advised that you examine all tensioners & pulleys while changing your serpentine belt. Then, to confirm they are active and in satisfactory condition. This is because they might make your new belt cease to function very shortly again.

Last Words On Power Steering Belt

In conclusion, we have discussed in detail your vehicle’s serpentine belt. I hope you found the reading worthwhile and enlightening. If you want to enjoy a smooth ride and remain safe on the highway, then you need a good serpentine belt. A damaged belt will make driving tougher for you.

We’ve also shared the difference between a serpentine belt and a timing belt. They are different. Hopefully, you’ve also learned what to do if your serpentine belt is bad. You want to ensure everything is fine to keep enjoying a smooth ride.

FAQs On Power Steering Belt

Here are some frequently asked questions about the power steering belt…

What Is A Serpentine Belt

A serpentine belt is a single, long rubber belt that sits in front of your car’s engine and moves many of the engine’s extra parts, such as the alternator, air conditioner compressor, power steering pump, and so on. The serpentine belt may further be directed by a belt tensioner and or a slug pulley.

How Much Does It Cost To Replace A Serpentine Belt

The typical cost of replacing your power steering belt should be between $60 and $130. However, the cost depends on whether you go to a mechanic or do it yourself. Also, note that this replacement cost does not include tariffs or your specific vehicle make and category.

What Does A Serpentine Belt Do

A serpentine belt delivers power to multiple essential components in your automobile such as the AC, power steering pump, alternator, air & water pump, etc.

How To Replace Serpentine Belt

Unlock the pulley and power steering locks and remove pressure from the power steering pump. Pull out the damaged serpentine belt and put your new serpentine belt on the pulleys. Fasten the power steering pump, the pulley, and the power steering locks. Examine the pulley alignment and ensure it’s well positioned. Finally, drive your engine and test your power steering system.

How To Change The Power Steering Pump

Remove your car battery and the engine lid from the power steering liquid storage. Find the power steering pump, and withdraw the serpentine belt from the power steering pump. Dehydrate the fluid from the pump by detaching the wires. Disconnect the mounting locks from the frame and detach the power steering pump. Replace the new pump and gently bolt it to the support frame. Reinstate the feed and rescue wires to the pump. Attach the serpentine belt, ensuring it’s rigid. Replenish your new pump with an adequate amount of power steering liquid. Reinstall the engine and allow it to operate for a few minutes.

When To Replace Serpentine Belt

The simplest way to know when to replace the serpentine belt is if you start to hear some creaking noises when you turn on the engine or while driving.

What Happens To A Car When The Serpentine Belt Breaks

The alternator ceases to produce electrical energy once the serpentine belt cracks. When that occurs, your vehicle’s headlights will blur, the battery will die, and the radio will stop functioning. Your battery warning lamp will switch on because your battery has stopped charging.

Is Serpentine Belt The Same As Timing Belt

No. The serpentine belt contains many V-shaped trenches, which occur vertically on the belt. While the timing belt has horizontal teeth that are carved to match the camshaft and the crankshaft.

Can You Drive Without Power Steering

Driving without power steering may not damage your vehicle immediately. If your power steering ceases to function, you can still navigate the steering wheel to the side of the road, at least. However, driving for over 5 minutes without power steering will wear out the gaskets and stamps on the steering pump and also result in a premature tear on the pump.

How Tight Should A Serpentine Belt Be

The serpentine belt needs to be at a suitable tightness so that when you squeeze on it and move it back and forth, it bends just by half an inch or so.

What Causes A Serpentine Belt To Break

Extreme wear inflicted by heat and tension will result in a serpentine belt breaking or cracking over time. Hence, the need for frequent checks to ensure it does not occur.

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