Basics: Belt inspection

If you get a horrible banshee-esque shriek from under your hood when you start your car on a cold morning, you may need a new belt! Sometimes you can get away with just tightening the belt a bit, but most modern cars have a non-adjustable spring loaded belt tensioner. When this tensioner wears out, it must be replaced. If you check out last week’s post about the Windstar, you can find a couple tips about the belt tensioner.

Here are a couple examples of things to look for when inspecting your belt.

In the photo below, you can see a great example of a glazed belt. Glazing can happen over time with normal wear, or, in this case, a misaligned alternator.

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Here, you can see an example of a belt with excessive cracking. The general rule of thumb is if the cracks are closer than about 1/8″. Also, if any chunks are missing, the belt should be replaced.

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If you ignore the above, you could end up with a mess like this!

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Make sure you can you pay attention to how the belt comes off if you decide to change it. Most vehicles have a label somewhere under the hood that looks something like this to help with installation. Now go check your belt!

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