CAR BELTS AND HOSES
WHAT THEY DO, AND HOW TO TELL IF THEY NEED REPLACING
CAR REPAIR THE AMERICAN WAY
HIGH QUALITY, AFFORDABLE AND HONEST
Your car’s belts and hoses are essential to the cooling, air conditioning and charging systems, and the engine. Did you know that sooner or later your car’s engine accessory drive belts, timing belts, and coolant hoses will dry out and crack?
Over time, serpentine belts and radiator hoses require replacement, because they lose their ability to properly expand and contract. In the case of timing belts, teeth that keep the belt in place and functioning properly can snap off or the timing belt may become frayed and loose. One sudden malfunction of these relatively inexpensive but very important parts can have costly consequences.
Belt or Hose Failures
A belt or hose failure can cause an overheated engine, loss of power steering, and loss of the electrical charging system. If a hose leaks coolant or the belt turning the water pump snaps, the cooling system is inoperable. If the engine overheats, it can suffer serious internal damage that requires expensive repairs and can ruin a summer vacation. Overheating can occur anytime, but usually happens in the summer. Underhood temperatures are much higher, and heat can trigger or accelerate deterioration of rubber compounds.
Types of Belts:
There are two types: accessory drive belts and timing belts. While some accessories in your car are electrically powered by the charging system, others use the engine itself as their power source. The power for these accessories is delivered by a system of pulleys and belts. Examples of these accessories are:
- Water Pump for engine cooling
- Air Conditioning Compressor
Many late model cars use a single serpentine belt in place of individual belts to drive these accessories. Serpentine belts, also known as drive belts, provide power to the air conditioning compressor, power steering pump, cooling fan, air injection pump, and more. Whether serpentine, V-belt or fan belt (the belts on the outside of the engine), they all transmit power from the front of the engine to accessories that need to be driven, such as the air conditioning, the charging system and fans.
All About The Timing Belt
The timing belt is a notched rubber belt that allows the crankshaft to turn the camshaft. A timing belt is sometimes called a Gilmer belt or a camshaft drive belt. The camshaft opens and closes the valves in synchronized movement with the engine’s pistons. Timing belts drive internal engine parts, mostly camshafts, balance shafts and intermediate shafts. These have regular replacement intervals, which are listed in your owner’s manual. Routine inspections will tell you when it’s time to replace accessory drive belts.
If your timing belt breaks, your engine will stop working and typically will cause major engine damage. That’s why it’s important to have your timing belt regularly inspected. If the belt is loose or has slipped the valves could open at the wrong time and be struck by your engine’s pistons. Warning sounds include a slapping noise coming from your engine. This indicates a slipped belt. If a belt is squealing, it is slipping just like a tire and rapidly wearing down the belt rubber due to unnecessary friction.
Here are tips for inspecting belts:
- Look for cracks, fraying, or splits on the top cover.
- Look for signs of glazing on the belt's sides. Glazed or slick belts can slip, overheat or crack.
- Twist a serpentine belt to look for separating layers, cracks, or missing chunks of the grooves on the underside.
Typically, timing belts should be replaced every 60,000 to 86,000 kilometers (or 50,000 to 60,000 thousand miles). Replacement belts should be identical in length, width, and number of grooves to the factory belt.
Serpentine belts are usually kept tight with an automatic tensioner. Signs of a belt-tension problem include a high-pitched whine or chirping sound and vibration noises. Without proper tension, belts will slip and generate heat or fail to turn the accessories. Like the timing belt, we recommend having your serpentine belt inspected every time you have your oil changed or between 57,000 and 87,000 kilometers (or 36,000 to 50,000 miles).
Hoses and steel lines transfer coolant, brake fluid and fuel throughout the vehicle. Over time, these parts may crack, rust or leak. So, protect yourself by following the factory maintenance schedule.
The hoses that convey your car’s fluids are made of two rubber layers with a layer of fabric in between. Typical hoses include:
- Radiator and Heater Hoses – These hoses convey coolant to the engine and heater core.
- Fuel Hose – As the name implies, this hose transports gasoline from the tank to the engine.
- Power Steering Hose – It connects the power steering pump to the steering gear.
Hoses are the cooling system's weakest structural component. They are made of flexible rubber compounds to absorb vibrations between the engine and radiator, or, in the case of heater hoses, the engine and body's firewall. Designed to hold coolant under high pressure, hoses are also subjected to fluctuating extremes of heat and cold, dirt, oils and sludge. Atmospheric ozone also attacks rubber compounds.
How To Tell If Hoses Are Wearing:
For hoses, it is difficult to actually see the wear from the outside but you can check by squeezing them. Do this to check to see if they're hardened, if you can feel a bubble or if they're too mushy. You're also looking for blisters on the outside or any cuts that might mean small leaks.
The most damaging cause of hose failure—electrochemical degradation (ECD)—isn't easy to detect. According to engineers for the Gates Corporation, a parts maker, ECD attacks hoses from the inside, causing tiny cracks. Acids and contaminants in the coolant can then weaken the yarn material that reinforces the hose. Eventually, pinholes can develop or the weakened hose may rupture from heat, pressure, or constant flexing.
Exposure to heat, vibration and contamination makes belts and hoses wear out faster than any other components in your car. Don’t take these routine replacement intervals for granted because they can break down and leave you stranded. When in doubt, check with a qualified technician about any cooling problems, and always consult your owner's manual for routine maintenance procedures.
Regular inspections, coupled with timely automotive belt and hose replacement in accordance with your vehicle manufacturer's automotive maintenance schedule, will help protect against roadside breakdowns and expensive repairs.
Whatever the situation, we will identify the problem and let you know our findings before we start any repair work.