Serpentine Belt Replacement – A Full Cost Breakdown

There are many moving parts inside your vehicle. Each of them plays its role in making the car run optimally. However, some parts do most of the heavy lifting. And the serpentine belt is one of them. Does that mean the serpentine belt replacement cost will be heavy on your wallet?

How Much Does A Replacement Serpentine Belt Cost?

To get a serpentine belt replacement unit, you will need to spend around $50. And in terms of labor costs, you can expect to pay about $150.

So, the total replacement cost could range anywhere from $170 to $200.

How Much Does It Cost to Replacement Serpentine Belts?

Serpentine belt Replacement

With parts and labor, you will spend between $170 and $200 to replace the serpentine belts. The main thing that varies the belt replacement cost is the model of the vehicle. For example, if you have a particularly complex belt tensioner system, the mechanic will need to put in more effort and time to set the new belt in place.

Another thing that determines the bill is the cost of the new belt. To illustrate, if you have a performance or luxury car, you will need to pay a relatively high amount of money to fix the bad serpentine belt.

Serpentine Belt Costs By Vehicle

Let’s give you a better idea about the cost that you need to spend to get a new serpentine belt. Here are the average cost estimates for the five most popular vehicles:

  • Kia Soul: $26 to $39 for the serpentine belt and $52 to $130 for labor
  • Mazda 3: $30 to $67 for the serpentine belt and $57 to $132 for labor
  • Honda CRV: $26 to $52 for the serpentine belt and $45 to $111 for labor
  • BMW xX: $33 to $62 for the serpentine belt and $59 to $152 for labor
  • Nissan Altima: $35 to $59 for the serpentine belt and $37 to $100 for labor

When Should You Opt for a Serpentine Belt Replacement?

Serpentine belt

You should not think of replacement when you have a properly functioning serpentine belt. Serpentine belts that are worn down should be taken seriously. And in this case, it is extremely important to be on the lookout for the symptoms of a bad serpentine belt. The most common symptoms are:

Issues with the Air Conditioning Appears

Otherwise known as a power steering belt, fan belt, or alternator belt, a serpentine belt delivers power to the air conditioning compressor. So, when your air conditioner stops working, or there are problems with the air conditioning unit, you need to check the power steering belt.

However, other reasons can contribute to the air conditioning unit issues. So, when there is a problem with the air conditioner, you can not settle on the idea that you have a broken belt. Instead, get the vehicle checked up by a mechanic to be sure whether it is due to the power steering belt.

The Vehicle Starts to Make Squealing Sounds

A bad drive belt can make the vehicle make a squealing noise. Engine squealing usually occurs when the belt drivers are slipping. The squealing noise could also be due to the belts not being aligned properly. How can you tell if it is a symptom of a bad alternator belt?

The noise becomes much more noticeable on cold engine starts. But if the condition of the old belt is not that severe, you can fix this issue without getting a drive belt replacement. All you need to do is tighten the belt and ensure it has the right alignment. However, a worn serpentine belt should be replaced.

Steering Losses Power

When the belt tensioner system or the serpentine belt is in bad condition, the steering mechanism will lose power while driving. It is one of the scariest symptoms of a bad steering belt. How so? Unlike the other signs, this issue can make you lose control over the vehicle.

Although, it is undoubtedly possible to operate vehicles without the power steering. But at lower engine speed, things can get out of hand, and you might crash. In most cases, this problem will be due to a bad serpentine belt. However, it can be due to other parts as well. For example, a lack of fluid can initiate the issue.

Engine Overheats

In some vehicles, the belt drives the water pump. And when the belt fails, the water pump will not work optimally. That eventually will make the engine reach extremely high temperatures. And if you keep on pushing your engine in such extreme temperatures, there will be damage inside the engine.

Therefore, we always recommend getting your vehicle checked up by a mechanic when there is any issue with the engine. Whether the engine is overheating due to the serpentine belt or for other parts of the water pump, the mechanic will be able to get to the bottom and fix things up.

The Battery Dies

Apart from issues with the cooling system, the vehicle can suddenly lose power when there is an issue with the serpentine belt. The thing is, the alternator will not be able to charge the battery when the serpentine belt has been damaged. And without the charge of the alternator, your vehicle will eventually stop running.

Basically, when the alternator stops charging the battery, vehicles eventually die out of the power drained by the headlights, radio, and spark plugs.

Pulleys Start to Whine

There will be a whining noise from the engine compartment or engine bay when the belt is near the end of its lifespan. Yes, you can solve this issue by fixing the tension of the serpentine belt. 

But in most cases, it would be better to replace the serpentine belt. Otherwise, the bearing of the accessory pulleys can cause premature failure of the components. And it is always better to get the belt replaced at the right time instead of replacing a whole load of components.

Belt Breaks or Cracks

It is always a good idea to inspect all the parts of your vehicle once a week. And during the checkup, you can catch the most important symptom of a bad serpentine belt or cracks.

If you have looked at a new serpentine belt before, you might already know that there are no breaks in the grooves. The ribbed side makes contact with the accessory pulleys, alternator, and all the other engine accessories. So, when there are cracks or visible damage on the belt, it means you should opt for a serpentine belt replacement.

How to Replace Serpentine Belt?

No, you do not have to rely on a mechanic to replace the serpentine belt. You can do it yourself! And you can save a good chunk of money from the replacement cost. The process is pretty easy. Take a look:

  1. Check the Position of the Belt

Before you remove the serpentine belt, you need to note down the original position of the belt. The thing about these belts is that they snake in and out of a large number of pulleys and components. 

And it is pretty crucial to make the replacement belt lay on top of the components and pulleys in the correct order. Otherwise, the new belts will start slipping right after you finish the process.

So, take some pictures of the belt and ensure that you capture the belt’s position properly. It would also be a good idea to check the owner’s manual. See if there is any information about the positioning of the belt. That info from the owner’s manual can surely come in handy, along with the pictures.

  1. Work with the Tensioner and Remove the Belt

You will first need to release the tensioner to get the serpentine belt out of the slot. The tensioner basically keeps the belt in place. And most vehicles will offer you two different ways to release the tension.

The first way would be to insert a 1/2-inch breaker bar in the 1/2-inch square cast present in the tensioner arm. You can also use a belt tensioner tool if it is available. 

On the other hand, the second way involves you using a socket on the pulley. Use it to release the tensioner.

Afterward, carefully unrouted the belt by ensuring you do not damage any of the peripherals or pulleys around the tensioner.

  1. Check the Amount of Damage

After taking the serpentine belt out, you have to inspect it for damages. In some cases, the belt can wear down for misalignment. And for the new belt, you would not want the same to happen. But how can you be sure whether the damages are for misalignment?

If there power steering has worn down due to misalignment, there will be signs of disintegration on the edges. The separated ribs will have some signs as well. Take the help of a straightedge to align the pulleys properly.

Along with that, now it would be a good idea to check for oil leaks. In case you did not know, oil can increase the wear of serpentine belts.

Additionally, check the condition of the idler pulleys and tensioner pulleys. Give them a spin and see if they are making any sounds. If they are in good condition, they will spin freely and not make any noise.

  1. Install the Serpentine Belt Replacement

Remember the snapshots that you took in step 1? Those will come in handy in this step. Get the new serpentine belt and make it thread into position. Then, crank the tensioner and slip the belt over the pulleys of the tensioner. Make sure that the alignment is correct and is centered accordingly.

After you have put the belt in place, start the engine and let it idle for about a minute. If everything looks good, you will be ready to take the vehicle out or a spin.

Frequently Asked Questions

How often do you need to replace the serpentine belt?

Serpentine belts are generally good for about 100 thousand miles. However, replacement intervals for the serpentine belts depend on the car model. Older vehicles can require earlier replacement. On the other hand, specific vehicle models can make the serpentine stay in great condition for a prolonged time.

What happens when I drive with a broken serpentine belt?

The vehicle will be able to run with a broken serpentine belt. However, it will not run long. You will be able to drive the vehicle for 20 to 90 minutes. After that, the engine will overheat, and the vehicle will shut down.

Is it safe to drive a vehicle with a bad serpentine belt?

You should not drive the vehicle when the serpentine belt is broken or requires replacement.

Final Words

To recapitulate, the typical serpentine belt replacement cost stands at a point between $170 and $200. Labor cost takes a good chunk of it. But as you can see, it is easy to replace the serpentine belt. So, instead of relying on a mechanic, just get a replacement belt for around $50 and do the replacement yourself.

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