Follow These Tips to Ensure Proper Serpentine Belt Routing When Making Repairs

Your car’s serpentine belt is the thin black belt located on the side of the engine. It’s usually fairly accessible, as it snakes around components such as the alternator and water pump. The serpentine belt should be replaced according to your vehicle and belt manufacturer’s instructions. A cracked belt can fail, leaving you stranded within a few miles after failure. The serpentine belt lives up to its name. The serpentine belt routing is so serpentine?as winding as a serpent?it can be a challenge to get a replacement belt into the right place.

Check the Route of the Existing Serpentine Belt Before Removal

If the belt has not broken off already, pay close attention to how it’s routed before you remove it. Many cars have a map of the belt routing right on a plastic cover that protects the top of the belt. However, this diagram can fade greatly from the high heat of a car engine, or it can become incomprehensible because of oil and fluids spattered on it. A visual inspection is an important first step. Make notes if you need to.

Check Your Owner’s Manual

If looking under the hood doesn’t help, your owner’s manual is the next most logical place to look. Look under serpentine belt or drive belt to find the belt routing. It’s typically given in diagram from a level view, which is slightly different than what you actually see looking into the engine from above.

Get a Manual for Your Car

If you have lost or misplaced your owner’s manual, you can generally buy or freely access a detailed manual for your car that covers far more than just serpentine belt routing. For example, a Hayne’s Repair Manual is available online for many vehicles. From oil changes to tire pressure to complete engine rebuilds, a Hayne’s Manual is extremely helpful for home mechanics.You may also be able to access an owner’s manual from your vehicle manufacturer’s website. The diagrams and descriptions in either are intended to guide you through most every engine and vehicle repair you might undertake.

Don’t Guess about the Belt Routing

Cars don’t allow much room for guessing, nor are they very forgiving about trial and error. An improperly routed serpentine belt can snap, injuring you if the hood is still open, or stranding you if you are driving. An incorrectly routed belt may also damage important engine components, such as your air conditioning compressor, alternator, or power steering pump. This is not the time to choose instincts over instructions. Keep your owner’s guide or other repair manual handy and refer to it often.

Place Your New Belt with Care

Once you know where the serpentine belt goes, you can install a new one in minutes. If you removed the old belt, you, already know how to loosen the tensioner that holds the belt in place. If not, look for a wheel on the belt’s route with a square hole in the middle. This is where a socket wrench can be placed and rotated to release tension and allow you to stretch the belt through its route. Ensure that the belt is snug around each wheel on its route, not slipping off the side of any wheel. Then you can release the tensioner and allow the belt to go to its tightened position.

Your serpentine belt runs necessary components like power steering, cooling, electric, and air conditioning. A cracked or damaged belt should be replaced as soon as possible to avoid larger problems. Fortunately, moderately skilled home mechanics can do this repair for less than $20 and in just a few minutes. The most important step in the process is ensuring that the belt routing is correct.