The Serpentine Belt One Belt To Rule Them All

AAA Auto Repair Article
By AAA Automotive
Please enter location as CITY, STATE or a POSTAL CODE.
Search For AAA Approved Auto Repair Facilities
Search For AAA Approved Auto Repair Facilities
The AAA Approved Auto Repair Facility Locator is a powerful search tool that gives you easy access to information on over 7,000 AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities across North America.
Nearest AAA Approved Auto Repair Facilities
Current Location:
This facility is AAA owned and operated.
This is a AAA Approved Auto Repair facility; however, it is not owned and operated by AAA.*
This facility offers priority battery health diagnostic services to AAA members and if necessary, install a new AAA battery with 72 month pro-rated warranty including 3-year free replacement at exclusive member pricing.
A NAPA AAA Approved Auto Repair Facility*
Takes Online Appointments
Provides AAA Discount
*The certification mark, as used by authorized persons, certifies that such persons have met the certifier's standards as to quality of customer service, facility appearance, staff qualifications and training, community reputation, scope of service and repairs and insurance.
Did you know a single drive belt powers most of your vehicle’s engine accessories? It’s called a serpentine belt because it follows a twisting path to wrap around all the accessory pulleys. Serpentine belts are wide and thin with multiple small V-shaped grooves on one side that fit into matching grooves on the pulleys. The backside of the belt is typically smooth and usually rolls against one or more flat-faced idler pulleys, although it may also be used to drive certain components on some cars.

(Image: AAA)
Engine accessories that are commonly powered by a serpentine belt can include the:

• Air conditioning compressor
• Alternator
• Water pump
• Power steering pump
• Air pump

Essentially, a serpentine belt is to your engine’s accessories what electricity is to your house. If the electricity goes out in your home, appliances stop working. If a serpentine belt goes bad, engine accessories stop working. This can result in something relatively benign, such as no air conditioning, or something much more serious such as a loss power steering or a lack of coolant circulation, which can lead to engine overheating and expensive damage.

How to Know When to Replace a Serpentine Belt

With older, neoprene rubber serpentine belts, it was easy to spot cracks and worn areas with a visual inspection. These days, manufacturers make serpentine belts of much sturdier ethylene propylene diene monomer rubber that rarely shows cracks. Damage and wear to EPDM rubber serpentine belts is only identifiable with a special tool or a smartphone app, both of which measure actual wear on the belt ribs.

While modern serpentine belts can run for over 100,000 miles without any visible wear, even as little as a five percent material loss leads to belt slippage and increased wear and tear. That’s why professional technicians recommend replacing serpentine belts every 50,0000 to 60,000 miles. If your vehicle uses an automatic belt tensioner, it’s a good idea to replace it at the same time to make sure the new belt stays in proper contact with the pulleys at all times.

When Your Belt Goes Bad

Serpentine belts are usually inspected during regular vehicle service appointments, but don’t let that stop you from asking a technician to check yours out. For a little extra peace of mind, consider signing up for AAA Roadside Assistance. If you should find yourself on the roadside with a failed serpentine belt, flat tire or other vehicle emergency, our skilled problem solvers are available 24/7 to provide help at your location.
Related Articles
See All (84)
True Cost of Electric Vehicles

True Cost of Electric Vehicles

Previous research from AAA has found that 40 million Americans have expressed interested in going electric for their next vehicle … yet the roads are still mostly filled with gas-powered cars....
Transporting a Christmas Tree

Transporting a Christmas Tree

If not properly secured, a tree can cause vehicle damage such as scratched paint, torn door seals or distorted window frames....
Auto Repairs That Scare

Auto Repairs That Scare

AAA’s automotive experts - David Bennett and Michael Calkins – tell scary stories about DIY car repairs you won’t believe! They also discuss ways to take the scare of getting your vehicle repaired....
How to Find a Trusted Repair Shop

How to Find a Trusted Repair Shop

Trying to pick a repair shop can be stressful. David Bennett – AAA’s automotive expert – and Dennis McLaughlin of Honest-1 Auto Care give tips on how to pick a shop that’s right for you! ...