Don’t you hate it when you hear that squeal from under the hood? It usually means there is a problem with the serpentine belt. The serpentine belt powers a lot of engine accessories. It runs the alternator-which charges the battery, the water pump-which cools the engine, the air conditioning and the power steering pump. All pretty important parts. It is called a serpentine belt because it snakes around a bunch of engine components.
Serpentine belts are especially tough. They can last for years and go for tens of thousands of miles. But, with time they wear out. If your belt breaks while you are driving, everything will come to a halt within minutes. You have to stop the car or it will overheat, potentially causing major engine damage. And it probably won’t be at a convenient time or place. You might even need to get your car towed to a service center. That is why manufacturers recommend a belt replacement on schedule. You really should get it done on schedule because a belt failure will definitely take you off the road.
If you hear a squeal when accelerating or a slow, slapping sound at idle, you should have your serpentine belt looked at. Your service technician will visually inspect your belt to see if it needs to be changed sooner than scheduled. If the belt has more than three or four cracks an inch, has deep cracks that penetrate half the depth of the belt, is frayed, is missing pieces or has a shiny glazed look, it needs to be replaced regardless of age or mileage.
Serpentine belt replacement is relatively inexpensive, especially compared with the cost and inconvenience of being stranded or getting a disabled vehicle to a service center for repairs. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.