Belt and Hose Replacement - Check or Replace

Checked With Your Routine Vehicle Maintenance

A serpentine belt is a single, continuous belt used to drive multiple peripheral devices in an automotive engine, such as an alternator, power steering pump, water pump, A/C compressor, air pump, etc. The belt may also be guided by an idler pulley and/or a belt tensioner. The serpentine belt was invented by Jim Vance while working for the Gates Rubber Company and first used by Ford Motor Company for the 1979 Mustang.

It is more efficient than the older multiple belt system. By using a single, wider belt instead of multiple, thinner belts, the belt may be put under increased tension without stretching. Higher tension reduces slip, which increases belt life and mechanical efficiency. Reduced slip can allow the use of lower-ratio pulleys; this reduces the load on the engine, increasing fuel economy and available power. Additionally,
Belt and Hose Replacement
it is easier for the driver to know when the belt has broken, since this will generally cause the steering resistance to suddenly increase on vehicles equipped with hydraulic power steering (if the vehicle's power steering system isn't linked elsewhere). With multiple belt systems, if a single belt breaks, such as the alternator belt, the driver may not realize that there is a problem before the engine becomes damaged.

A serpentine belt also is much easier to maintain and replace, since there is no need to remove multiple belts in order to replace one of them.

The drawback of this single belt is that if the belt breaks, the vehicle loses all of its peripheral devices. Some vehicles use two serpentine belts for their system, such as the Manual Transaxle equipped Ford Taurus SHO, 95–99 DOHC Nissan Maxima and many BMWs.

Timing Belt - Think of the synthetic rubber timing belt, which is reinforced with fiber cords, as the drum major of car maintenance -- meaning it keeps everything in the engine in sync. When the engine is on, it's in constant timed motion thanks to the belt, the connection between the crankshaft and camshaft.

So why is this important? The crankshaft converts linear energy from the pistons, which move up and down, into rotational energy that eventually turns the wheels. The camshaft opens and closes the engine's valves to allow air and gas in and out of the engine. The timing belt links the two in harmony. Without it, the pistons and valves would collide.

Obviously, this is bad news for vehicle maintenance as this internal collision can cause destruction fair amount of engine damage. Therefore, it's important to stay ahead of your belt's lifespan -- traditionally replacing it every four years or 60,000 miles (96,561 kilometers) or, in newer vehicles, every 100,000 miles (160,934 kilometers). Be sure to check your vehicle's maintenance manual to see what your car or truck's manufacturer suggests.

So we've all accepted the timing belt's importance, but that doesn't mean you have to spend your days worrying that your belt will force you to pay a large maintenance bill. Instead, keep that timing belt in check by watching its wear and arming yourself with the knowledge to replace it.

Parts: It is important to have items such as belts and hoses regularly inspected and replaced with the right parts when needed. Genuine GM replacement parts, for example, are manufactured to the same specifications of the company's vehicles. A broken belt or ruptured hose can cause costly engine damage and travel delays.

"Regular vehicle maintenance and inspections can help improve a vehicle's fuel efficiency, achieve peak performance and even help avoid major repairs down the road," said Peter Lord, executive director, GM Service Operations.

Lord also emphasizes the importance of technician training when it comes to getting superior maintenance.

For instance, according to federal statistics and Automotive Service Excellence (ASE), only about half of the 820,000 auto service technicians in the U.S. are certified by ASE, an industry-recognized leader in technician certification.

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