The drive belt is one of the critical parts of your car. It is found under the hood and has the primary role of delivering power to multiple engine parts.
The challenging thing about the drive belt is that you never really know when it's going to fail. You can never be sure when you need to replace it unless you visually inspect it from time to time, and who does that? In a worst-case scenario, the belt might snap while you're driving, and you'll suddenly find your car completely immobilised.
That might sound scary, but don't worry about it! In this article, we're going to go through everything you need to know about drive belts. By staying informed, you become better equipped at sensing troubles before they turn into full-scale problems. So, let's get started!
What is a drive belt? What does it do?
First of all, let's understand what a drive belt is. Sometimes known as a 'fan belt', your drive belt runs on the outside of the engine. When the engine is running, it'll turn the drive belt, which in turn powers other accessories, including the air conditioning, power steering, and more!
The drive belt is used alongside an idler, tensioner, and other pulleys. Together, they form the drive belt system.
Depending on the design of the belt, it might also be called a 'serpentine belt'. That's because of how the belt runs between different accessories in a snake-like fashion.
How long does a drive belt last?
Like many other auto parts and accessories, the total distance travelled by your car determines the lifespan of a drive belt. Typically, a new belt can last for as long as 80,000 kilometres (50,000 miles). Of course, you can always buy a higher-grade drive belt made of better materials which can last for 150,000 kilometres or more!
A more durable type of belt is made of EPDM (ethylene diene monomer), a synthetic rubber material. Of course, with higher durability comes a heftier price tag. Remember, even a basic drive belt will last you quite a while!
How do I know if my drive belt needs to be replaced?
As mentioned before, it's kind of tough to know precisely when you need to replace a drive belt. That's because the warning signs aren't so clear, and unfortunately, there's no 'check drive belt' light on your instrument panel to help you out.
Thankfully, there are a few signs that tell you there might be something wrong with your drive belt. They include:
- Squealing noises – if you ever notice a squealing noise coming from your engine bay, that's probably your drive belt. The belt usually squeals because it's misaligned, or because it has somehow slipped from its usual position. If you ever notice this noise, the first thing you should do is visually inspect the belt up close. If you can't do it yourself, take it to your trusted mechanic and have them look at it. They may advise you to replace the drive belt, just to be on the safe side.
- Air conditioning or power steering systems not working – remember that the drive belt's primary function is to power your car's other systems and accessories. That includes your AC unit and your power steering. If any of these systems stop working correctly, take your vehicle to the mechanic immediately. Sure, it could be that the individual system itself could be malfunctioning. But there's also a possibility that those systems aren't receiving any power because the drive belt isn't working correctly.
- Overheating engine – an overheating engine can be caused by any number of things. However, one of the systems powered by the drive belt is the cooling system for your car. If the belt fails and that system doesn't work, your engine won't cool down the way it should, leading to overheating.
- Visible damage on the belt, like cracks and wear – of course, the best way to find out if there's a problem with your drive belt is to inspect it with your own two eyes. When you look at the belt up close, you may notice damage on it like cracks or other forms of wear. Upon closer inspection, you may see abrasions or missing chunks. Pay closer attention to the ribs of the belt. You may find them to be worn out unevenly, damaged, or separated.
If you notice any of these problems, go to your mechanic’s garage to have the drive belt inspected or changed immediately. Make no mistake: if that belt breaks, your entire car will be immobilised. The drive belt replacement cost will be negligible compared to what you'll spend if that belt breaks while you're on the road!
How much does it cost to replace a drive belt in Australia?
Drive belt replacement cost differs according to the type of vehicle you drive. Some cars will only need one belt, while others may have up to four in total. For that reason, a standard drive belt replacement in Australia could cost anywhere starting from $159 up to $1,500.
Why the big difference? For one, it's the type of belt material that you choose. Next, the price is also influenced by your car engine's design and the effort required to replace your drive belt.
Simply put, a simple replacement will cost you less, but a complicated one that takes more of your mechanic's time and effort will cost you much more.
Whether it's about your drive belt or any other car part, you should keep yourself educated and informed about your vehicle. Follow Carpart.com.au for more helpful blog articles like this one so you can become a well-informed car owner and make the best choices for your prized vehicle! And if you’re replacing any part and require some spare parts, do your search online, and better yet, use Carpart’s free Auto Part Finder.
By Ray Hasbollah