5 Tips for Replacing Accessory Drive Belt System Components

Designed to power many of the engine's peripherals, the accessory drive belt system is a critical engine component. Without it, a vehicle cannot run.

5 Tips for Replacing Accessory Drive Belt System Components

The system consists of the drive belt, tensioner, and drive belt pulleys. Like most engine parts, it requires routine maintenance and eventual replacement. In order for a car owner to change the accessory drive belt system, he or she must first recognize the signs that it needs replacement and then gather the proper tools and parts for a safe installation.

1. Recognize the Signs of Impending Belt Failure

Modern accessory belt systems usually last between 60,000 and 100,000 miles, and the drive belt pulleys and tensioner usually require replacement around the same time. The drive belt, often a serpentine or V belt, requires examination at every service to spot the early indicators of belt damage. Signs such as cracking, tearing, pilling, and glazing are indicators that the belt requires replacement.

Replacing the drive belt tensioner at the same time reduces the risk of the belt failing prematurely because a worn out belt tensioner cannot sustain the appropriate tension and often results in premature wear on the belt. In addition, it affects the performance of the drive components.

2. Use the Proper Parts

Most manufacturers recommend using OEM parts, but plenty of aftermarket parts are available, and most of those parts work just as effectively while costing a lot less. It is important to always match the make, model, and year of the vehicle to the part when buying replacement parts. Parts change over the years in size and structure, and a prior year's parts may not fit a later model.

Before attempting to install the new parts, a user should directly compare the old and the new side by side and also by placing them on top of each other to verify they are the same size. If an owner uses the wrong drive belt parts, it could cause damage to the engine.

3. Gather the Proper Tools

Special tools are necessary to replace an accessory drive belt system. A user needs a torque wrench and a serpentine belt tool, which is a 3/8-inch extension that fits a socket on the end. An engine hoist or jack is necessary for replacing the entire system.

It keeps the engine propped up and prevents it from dropping through the bottom of the vehicle. When replacing the single belt, the hoist is not necessary. Substituting tools can result in damage to the parts or even to the engine. The tools are readily available and generally inexpensive.

4. Put Safety First

When working inside a vehicle's engine, human safety is imperative. It is a good idea to have a first aid kit nearby, but the best advice is to follow the proper safety guidelines. A vehicle's engine should never be running during installation, and it also needs to thoroughly cool before touching anything to avoid burns. A disconnected battery prevents anyone from inadvertently turning on the vehicle with hands and fingers inside, and it also removes the power source used by certain components. The fan, which could engage with the ignition off, also requires disconnection.

Users should exercise extreme caution when releasing the tensioner and the drive belt because they can snap under pressure. Most modern vehicles use a spring-loaded tensioner that requires delicate handling.

5. Follow Proper Replacement Instructions

Following instructions is particularly important when it comes to replacing parts in an engine. Most vehicle manuals provide instructions for replacing the belt. Those instructions are valid, and failure to follow them could result in damage to the parts or the engine and injury to the person performing the installation.

When replacing the belt, it is important to route it correctly. Inside the engine, a diagram displays how to route the belt through the tensioner and pulley system. An installer should follow that route exactly, or the entire accessory drive belt system does not work properly, if it works at all.

How to Buy Accessory Drive Belt System Components on Cgon

Accessory drive belt system components are readily available on CGon. Start your search by typing the exact part you are looking for, such as "serpentine belt," into the search engine found on any Cgon page. Be sure to pay attention to the new or used condition of the part and verify it is the exact part number you need for your vehicle by comparing it with manufacturer part numbers. Ask the seller any necessary questions. In addition to reviewing these tips to prepare for the installation, be sure to do thorough research before attempting the actual replacement.