Replacing a Drive Belt— Is It Easy to DIY?


May 06th, 2022

Replacing a Drive Belt— Is It Easy to DIY?

Your car engine does more than just turn its wheels and move you forward. Part of the engine’s output powers crucial car components using a drive belt. As expected, that belt is under continuous tension and wear, so you’ll want to know what to do when it needs a replacement.

Yes, replacing a drive belt is easy enough to DIY at home. A few hand tools will do, so you won’t need any professional mechanic tools. The entire process will take you 15 minutes and cost a lot less than the $100-$250 you’d pay a workshop to do it for you.

Replacing a drive belt might seem intimidating at first, but don’t let that scare you. This guide will walk you through each step of the process to show you how easy it is to do as a DIY job in your garage.

Can I Replace a Drive Belt Myself?

Yes, you can replace the drive belt in your car all by yourself. The entire process should only take about 15 minutes from start to finish.

Replacing a drive belt is a straightforward process with few or no complicated steps. You don’t need any special tools to do it, because you can get the job done with a few standard hand tools you likely own already.

However, you should know that drive belt replacement isn’t the simplest DIY task to do in your garage. You’ll want to do your homework to understand all the parts involved (including reading this article to the end) and also practice caution as you work.

Don’t worry, though. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll handle a drive belt change like a pro.

How Much Does It Cost to Replace a Drive Belt?

You’ll pay at least $100 to $250 as drive belt replacement cost in Australia, inclusive of materials and labour charges.

However, some car models require more sophisticated drive belts that cost more, so it’s to your advantage to know your car and its parts.

Understandably, some car owners prefer to handle the entire drive belt replacement themselves, especially if they’re more DIY-inclined. 

Performing the replacement yourself would definitely help you spend a lot less to get the job done for two primary reasons:

  • Doing it yourself means you’ll save on labour charges
  • You can shop around for the best deals on replacement drive belt

Doing it yourself and driving to a workshop to replace your drive belt both have their benefits. So, it’s best to compare the trade-offs before deciding what to do.

How Do You Replace a Drive Belt?

Let’s suppose you decide to perform a drive belt replacement by yourself. In that case, here’s what that process will look like for you:

Step 1: Remove the Existing Belt

The first step of the process begins with getting the existing drive belt out from under the hood. For most cars, that means locating the adjustment fastener and loosening it.

Depending on your car’s design, you’ll likely find the fastener on a pulley wheel or the alternator’s mounting.

Some cars might rely on an automatic spring tension system instead. If that’s the case for your vehicle, you’ll just have to pull the tensioning device back before removing the belt.

Let's suppose you're replacing your drive belt because it broke off entirely. In that case, you'll still want to repeat the steps above. However, very carefully search for any broken belt pieces and remove them.

Step 2: Check the Drive and Its Pulleys

While you have the belt off, it’s also an excellent idea to inspect your drive and its pulleys. Your goal here is to check these parts for signs of wear like cracks or sideways movement on the bearings, both of which are bad signs.

Besides that, you can also try to turn the pulley wheels by hand to make sure nothing is keeping them stuck.

Step 3: Get the Correct Replacement Belt

This step can occur before the drive belt replacement begins or right in the middle of it. You can purchase the correct replacement even before you pop the hood if you already know your car's drive belt.

But if you don’t know what belt to buy, you can check the manual or wait until you’ve removed the existing one. Then, you can order an identical replacement or take it to your preferred automotive store to show the seller what you’re looking for.

As you can see, there’s more than one way to go about it. Just make sure you get the correct replacement, and the rest of the process will go smoothly.

Step 4: Put the New Belt in

Next, install the belt by wrapping it around the drive and its pulleys. Ensure that the belt is aligned correctly with the pulley and its grooves.

The alignment is one of the most crucial parts of this entire process. Any misalignment could cause the belt to slip off later when you test the belt.

Step 5: Adjust the Belt Tension

At this stage, the new belt you installed isn’t under any tension. Unfortunately, that means it’s of no use because it can’t transfer any energy or turn any parts it needs to.

So, increase the belt tension by turning the fastener you loosened in Step 1. Again, if your car has an automatic spring tensioning system, all you have to do is adjust the belt tension that way.

Remember: Always keep your car manual nearby as a quick reference. There are plenty of answers in there if you get confused along the way.

Step 6: Test the Belt

Once you’re confident that the belt is on and under the correct amount of tension, it’s time to test the belt. You can do this by starting the engine and observing the belt you just installed.

After a minute or two, stop the engine and check that the belt maintains the same tension levels as before.

When Should a Drive Belt Be Replaced?

A high-quality drive belt will last you anywhere from 100,000 to 160,000 kilometres. That's a lot of mileage, meaning a car can use the same belt throughout its lifespan (in most cases).

Signs that a Drive Belt Needs Replacing

You’ll need a drive belt replacement if the drive belt breaks for any reason, or if you notice these symptoms: 

  1. Loud squeaking: A loud squeaking noise coming from your engine bay is normal when you start a car on a cold morning. But if the noise persists even after you’ve warmed up the car, that means the drive belt is wearing out and needs replacing.
  2. Power steering issues: The power steering system receives power from the drive belt that’s turned by the engine. If the belt isn’t working optimally, your power steering might be one of the symptoms you notice.
  3. Engine overheating: A problematic drive belt can also lead to your engine overheating. That happens due to the radiator fan not being turned correctly by the belt.
  4. Air conditioning failing: Lastly, another common symptom of a failing drive belt is a failing air conditioner. In the Aussie heat, you’ll easily notice this symptom.

Are you looking for drive belt replacement gear or a workshop that can do it for you? Check out CarpartAU for all your needs. 

By Ray Hasbollah