Useful Car Tips

What the Belts in Your Car Do

September 11, 2018
Your car is made up of many different parts. Most cars have well over 10,000 parts down to the smallest screw. If you want to maintain your car properly and keep it on the road for as long as possible, that’s a lot to keep up with. Thankfully, you don’t have know all 10,000. But, there are a few key components you should be familiar with and check regularly. One of those components are the belts in your vehicle.

Understanding the Belts in Your Car

Virtually all modern vehicles have at least one belt, if not two. You’ve probably seen one of the belts in your vehicle, but another important belt is often difficult, if not impossible, to see without some disassembly. Both belts are important and must be maintained properly if you want to keep your car on the road.

Serpentine Belt

If you’ve ever looked under the hood of your car, you’ve probably seen it. The serpentine belt, sometimes known as a drive belt, snakes around the front of your vehicle’s engine, connecting important components. Made of black, highly durable rubber, serpentine belts usually have a smooth side and a side that contains a series of ribs. The ribbed side allows the belt to connect with components and stay in place while moving. Serpentine belts power several important parts of your vehicle including:
  • The air conditioning compressor
  • Power steering pump
  • Alternator
  • Cooling fan
Depending on the make and model of your car, the serpentine may also power other items. Take a look under your hood and see what else your serpentine belt drives.

Timing Belt

Another belt that’s just as important—if not more so—is the timing belt. Most modern engines are of an overhead cam design and use a timing belt or chain to control some pretty important functions. Like the name implies, a timing belt controls the “timing” of your engine. This belt allows the crankshaft to turn the camshaft. The camshaft opens and closes the engine's valves which are synchronized with the pistons in the engine. If that sounds a bit complicated … that’s because it is a complex process. Engine timing is a delicate process that needs to function as designed or your vehicle will have problems.

How to Maintain the Belts in Your Car

Both the timing belt and serpentine belt need to be kept in good working order if you want your vehicle to run and operate properly. The serpentine belt is fairly easy to see and inspect and should be looked at regularly. Make a habit of checking this belt each time the oil is changed in your car. Check the edges for wear and look for cracks. Most serpentine belts should last about 30,000 to 50,000 miles. The timing belt can be a bit more difficult to check, but some vehicles do make the process easier than others. Check your owner’s manual or get in touch with a local dealer for the best way to check this belt. Timing belts typically need to be replaced every 50,000 to 60,000 miles.
Previous Article Next Article