Serpentine Belt Installation

Hearing that dreaded squeal underneath your hood is never a good thing. You may be tempted to take your car to the shop, or maybe you can’t even drive it. You can fix the car yourself if it is a serpentine belt problem. You can determine this by looking at the belt carefully for frays or other damage. Serpentine belt installation can be done in several easy steps. You will be happy that you saved money and could take care of the problem yourself.



Study the Belt Route

You want to be sure that you know where the replacement serpentine belt is going to go before you attempt serpentine belt installation. There are different pulleys and parts in an engine, so it can be hard to know where the belt is supposed to go. If the belt is no longer attached, there is generally a placard near the engine that shows the correct route of the belt. If you cannot find one, look in your owner’s manual. You can always sketch out the route of the belt if you can see its entire path.


Use a Ratchet to Release the Tensioner

On most car models, there is a 3/8-inch square hole in the arm of the tensioner. You can use a ratchet to loosen the belt from the tensioner and remove the belt from the pulleys.


Inspect the Belt

Look the serpentine belt over closely for any damage or wear. If you find fiberglass or belt edges that are disappearing, you probably have a problem with your pulleys, tensioners, or idlers. If the belt is cracked, that just means that the belt is at the end of its safe use.


Look at the Pulleys for Damage

If you have a bent bracket accessory mount for your pulley, you can normally bend it back into place. You can also use shim washers to fix a bent steel bracket. It is important to fix a crooked pulley because any new serpentine belt installation will be for nothing if the problem isn’t corrected. If your pulley looks fine, you can move on.


Inspect the Tensioner

The tensioner’s pulley should move freely and smoothly. If there is friction in the pivot, there may be a problem with your tensioner. If the tensioner is damaged, your belt will not run smoothly. You should delay replacing the belt until you can replace the tensioner.


Buy the Correct Belt

Not all belts are made the same. Some belts are made for particular car models and years. If you can’t tell which kind you will need by looking at the old belt, go to an automotive supply store and ask for some help. They can tell you which belt you will need based on the type of vehicle you have.


Clean up the Engine

If the engine is very oily, especially around where the belt is positioned, this could be a problem. Before serpentine belt installation, clean up the oil and fix any leaks that you may find. A belt that is covered in oil will not work correctly and could easily slip off. Check the pulleys for dirt and debris that could interfere with the belt’s movement.


Install the Belt

Hold the tensioner slack while you thread the belt onto the pulleys. Double-check your diagram or manual to make sure you are following the correct route.


Start the Engine

Once the belt is on and the tensioner is back into its correct place, start the engine. Let the engine idle for a few minutes, listen for any strange noises, and then shut the car off.


Check the Belt

Lastly, check the belt to make sure it is still properly in place. If the belt has been installed properly, the mark that is cast onto the tensioner will settle between the high and low marks if the belt is the correct part for the vehicle and it has been installed properly.

Serpentine belt installation does not need to be difficult or complicated. Following these simple instructions can help you get back on the road in no time. Getting to know how to repair your own vehicle can be cost and time effective. You will feel proud of yourself and know that you can replace the belt on any of your vehicles if you ever need to.