Fan belts – also known as serpentine belt or accessory drive belts – take the engine’s rotation and use it to power the: engine water pump, fan, power steering pump, air conditioning compressor, alternator, supercharger and others.
A fan belt can cost $40 to $140 depending on the vehicle and the length of the belt, but the cost of the labour to replace the belt is usually more. Your mechanic may recommend other repairs during belt replacement that can save you labour on a future repair. It is an opportune time to check and replace any worn pulleys and tensioners that would otherwise require belt removal to replace at a later date. Replacing tensioners along with belts also helps ensure the belt has a proper, unworn surface to mate to. Conversely, while replace any belt driven accessory, it is a good idea to replace the belt with new, rather than reinstall and old, worn belt.
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The belts themselves generally come in two varieties; The “V” belt, so named because it’s cross-section resembles the letter “V” and the serpentine belt, which is so named because it snakes between pulleys, driving accessories off both sides of the belt.
In service, belts must be checked for proper tension, cracks, fraying, stretch, contamination and glazing. The most common sign of wear the driver may notice is belt noise. It may initially be only first start in the morning, but will progress to intermittent noise while driving, until constantly noisy whenever the engine is running.
If any of these signs are present, belt replacement is recommended. When belts are worn, they are at risk of breaking. Subsequent loss of systems such as power steering or cooling systems could put the vehicle and its occupants at risk.