9 Bad Serpentine Belt Symptoms and Replacement Cost

Your engine has several accessory devices that allow the internal combustion engines to work properly. Your power steering pump, air conditioning, water pump, alternator are some of the important accessories in your engine. A serpentine belt is the backbone of your engine and provides the necessary power to all the engine accessories. Therefore, you must know the symptoms to check if your serpentine belt is bad, and how much to get it replaced?

What is a serpentine belt?

what is a serpentine belt

A serpentine belt, also known as the accessory belt is one of the main engine belts, easily visible when you open the bonnet of your car. You can easily identify a serpentine belt by observing distinct ridges on its one side body. These ridges provide the necessary grip to move across the accessory pulleys with a specified tension.

What does a serpentine belt do?

A serpentine belt carries the power to the important components of the vehicle. It is long just like a snake and retains a smooth and effective power to your alternator, air conditioning, power steering, and water pump in your vehicle.

Top 7 Bad Serpentine Belt Symptoms

A bad serpentine belt is something very sensitive to deal with, you just cannot ignore it and wait for the severe shocking results. It is something that actually controls the entire functionality of your engine and compromising it means you are waiting for your complete engine collapse. Therefore, a damaged, cracked, worn, or snapped serpentine belt should be taken very seriously and you must schedule an instant appointment with your mechanic.

There are quite many symptoms that can give you a hint about the bad serpentine belt. The following are seven most well-known and symptoms for a faulty belt:

1. Air-Conditioner Stop Working

Bad serpentine belt symptoms & replacement cost


If you are air conditioner has stopped working, it can be associated with a lot of problems. Since the serpentine belt is one of the driving forces for your air-conditioner, a bad serpentine belt can contribute to the breakdown of the AC system. Therefore, if your air conditioner is not blowing cool air, this might be due to a cracked serpentine belt.

2. Power-Steering Stop Working

Bad serpentine belt symptoms & replacement cost

The serpentine belt also helps the power steering system to work appropriately. Power steering is a facility that allows the driver to smoothly steer the car without applying too much arm force. If you are feeling a harder steering wheel and you have to apply pretty much force, this might be due to a bad serpentine belt. However, the power-steering issues may also arise due to a deficiency of power-steering fluid. So if you are facing a harder power steering problem, you should first check for the power steering fluid level followed by serpentine belt inspection.

3. Squealing or Chirpy Sounds

squealing or chirpy sounds

When your car starts making a squealing sound, this can be due to a slipping belt and/or belt and Pulley combination not working appropriately or stretched or worn belt and low tension belt. There can be multiple reasons for belt slipping such as antifreeze for oil leakage. If you are constantly hearing such sounds, you must get your vehicle inspected as soon as possible before any further breakdowns.

4. Visible Cracks on the Belt

visible cracks on the serpentine belt

The serpentine belt is is it acceptable in your car. Therefore, the best method is to observe the belt yourself before taking a visit for a thorough inspection of your vehicle. You can find the serpentine belt just by opening the bonnet of your car. In case you find visible cracks or damages on the surface of the belt, this simply means that your belt is slipping away and needs a soon replacement.

5. Dead Battery

Bad serpentine belt symptoms & replacement cost

If you feel losing power while you are driving along the highway, you should check if the serpentine belt is still attached and moving nicely along the pulleys. A bad serpentine belt usually not allowed the generator to charge the battery even if you are able to somehow start your car.

Battery charging gives life to your vehicle, otherwise, without generator’s charging, you will eventually use all the power from your battery in the headlights, radio for spark plugs. Usually, a car can travel some distance without properly working alternator but not for too long.

Similarly, if your serpentine belt does not have appropriate tension to maintain an appropriate grip on the alternator pulley, you may end up having similar symptoms as that of a snapped belt.

6. Pulley Whine

Bad serpentine belt symptoms & replacement cost

If you witness a whine from the engine and noticed that it changes with the engine speed, you might have to check the tension of the serpentine belt. It’s because an excessively tight serpentine belt put a lot of pressure on the pulley bearings in all the accessory pulleys. This excessive pressure can result in the quick failure of these components.

Bearing failure is one of the most frequent reasons for the breakdown of water pumps, caused by the excessively tight serpentine belt. If you believe that your serpentine belt has excessive tension, you must address this problem as earliest as possible to avoid any costly damage caused by the engine overheating.

7. Overheated Engine

Bad serpentine belt symptoms & replacement cost

One of the major responsibilities of the serpentine belt is to power the water pump which keeps your engine cool with the help of a radiator. If you have a cracked or worn serpentine belt, it will not be able to properly power the water pump. This is a warning that your engine temperature is constantly increasing and ultimately entering the overheating mode.

You can easily monitor your engine temperature with the help of a temperature gauge on your dashboard. If the temperature gauge needle is moving towards the red zone, it is alarming. Don’t let this happen for too long or otherwise you will damage your entire engine.

10. Loss in System Performance

Bad serpentine belt symptoms & replacement cost

Maybe you feel one day that your power steering is not working properly or your battery is draining suddenly or the engine quit working. These symptoms should alarm you for something more serious such as a broken or cracked serpentine belt. All of the above systems are controlled and powered by the serpentine belt. As soon as the belt is cracked, it produces more damage to the important systems such as power steering, air conditioning, alternator, and water pumps in your engine. The worst part is that you may have to undergo lengthy and costly repairs just after little warning.

9. Blinking Engine Light on your Dashboard

Bad serpentine belt symptoms & replacement cost

Is it the engine light in your dashboard is blinking, this may be the indication that something is going wrong with the serpentine belt. You may also hear some strange noises. Don’t take these noises easy and head towards the nearest service center or a Jiffy Lube location and get your vehicle inspected.

Serpentine Belt Replacement Service at Jiffy Lube

Serpentine belt replacement is an essential service that ensures a constant and uninterrupted power flow to critical engine components such as power steering, air conditioner, and water pump. Jiffy Lube offers a full range of serpentine belt replacement services, which includes:

  • Visual examination of the serpentine belt
  • Replacing the old serpentine belt with a new belt.

How much to get the serpentine belt replaced at the Jiffy Lube?

Serpentine Belt Replacement Cost at the Jiffy Lube

Serpentine belt replacement service at the Jiffy Lube is pretty expensive compared to the market. They have high labor rates, between $100 and $150, whereas the belt itself is only between $30 to $80. So, in total, you will be spending between $130 to $230, exclusive of taxes, for simply a serpentine belt replacement at the Jiffy Lube.

The labor charges at the Jiffy Lube largely depend upon ease of accessing the serpentine belt in your engine. Some vehicle makes have easy-to-access serpentine belt and demand for less than an hour of labor. Whereas, if the vehicle has the serpentine belt location in a complicated area, the replacement may take about 2 hours.

The good news is that if your vehicle has an easy-to-access serpentine belt, you can easily change it at your home with minimum tools. You can consult your vehicle manual to check how to open the belt. Sometimes it can be removed merely by losing one bolt, while in other cases, you will require a wrench to relax the belt tensioner. If you feel uncomfortable to replace the belt yourself, you should consult your mechanic to do it for you.

But certainly, the serpentine belt is one of the inexpensive components in your engine compared to other engine accessories. But you should replace it immediately or otherwise, you have to spend a larger amount of money on repairing the damage done by a bad serpentine belt.

Frequently Asked Questions about Serpentine Belt

Do cars have more than one serpentine belt back in the day?

Yes, many old cars make had a separate belt for many components. These cars were unreliable and had compromise performance since it was a difficult job to replace each belt individually as they wear. Today, almost all vehicles have a single serpentine belt which has made life much easier. It is highly recommended to check your serpentine belt on a regular basis, and the best time is during each oil change. Jiffy Lube offers complimentary serpentine belt checks during each signature oil change.

How often should I replace my serpentine belt?

Today, serpentine belts are a lot more stable, and therefore, last longer than they do in the past. New research trends have improved durability and reliability in Rubber Technology. As a result, a serpentine belt it should move with you for an average of 60,000 to 1,00,000 miles. But it may wear earlier due to manual tension and need replacement. There are vehicles today who have a self-tensioning mechanism, and last even longer. But it is important to know that if the serpentine belt breaks, your vehicle will immediately stop moving.

How much to get the serpentine belt replaced?

Serpentine belt Replacement Cost will largely depend upon the labor price. The belt itself is quite inexpensive, only $25 to $80 and labor cost is between $75 to $120. As a whole, the serpentine belt replacement will cost you between $100 to $200. Here are serpentine belt estimated replacement costs by make/model:

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What will happen if my serpentine belt break?

If the serpentine belt break, one of the following may happen:

  • Your vehicle would wind up stalling
  • It will overheat your engine
  • The alternator will stop working
  • Power steering will stop working.
  • The water Pump will no longer work.

You would probably be stranded wherever you are, even if you’re in the middle of a highway or out of the desert or someplace where there’s no helpful. So, you are in a dangerous situation. Therefore, be sure to replace your belt regularly and as recommended by your mechanic.

How many serpentine belts are in a car?

The majority of vehicles today have one serpentine belt to run the complete engine assembly. Some vehicles also have other types of belts for certain engine accessories. However, the major part of the job is done by the serpentine belt. In earlier vehicles, there was more than one serpentine belts to handle different parts and components, but as the technology advanced, vehicles got equipped with an all-in-one serpentine solution.

What are old serpentine belt symptoms and what are the related threats?

The serpentine belt can wear, crack, fray with time and the upper layer of rubber can peel off making it shiny or glazed. As a result, you can easily observe brittles or cracks on the surface of the serpentine belt. An aged belt can also squeal or slip and can become misaligned. A worn and old belt can also possibly snap, obstructing the maximum portion of the engine torque from reaching the accessories. In any of the above cases, you will have to replace your serpentine belt.

Why replace the serpentine belt and what are the benefits?

Driving with an old serpentine belt is like waiting for a dangerous situation. It is because the serpentine belt is like the core of your car’s engine which power most of the engine components and accessories. Therefore, if the serpentine belt breaks due to any reason, your engine will immediately get tremendously overheated, your power steering, alternator, and air conditioning will stop working, and it can even severely damage any other part. You may find yourself stuck in the center of the highway, or anywhere else where it is almost impossible to get any help. So, timely replacement of your serpentine belt can minimize such risks.

What is a Belt-Tensioner and why should I replace it?

A lot of modern vehicles today have an automatic belt tensioner device. These tensioning devices can insert a predetermined amount of tension only serpentine belt which increases its longevity and keep it functioning properly and cruising your car for a longer period of time.

Actually, the serpentine belt is a big quick-spinning rubber band that maintains a specific tension and flexibility. Many tensioners consist of pulley and spring system which employs required force to the serpentine belt to keep it tight. If the belt has not sufficient attention to keep it tight, it can around hot, squeal, or slip away. In the worst case, it may fall off from its pulleys. If this happens, the majority of accessories length with the engine will breakdown and the vehicle will ultimately stop running.

What are the different types of belts in a vehicle?

Today’s vehicles consist of a number of different belts. Amongst those serpentine belt is the most common which control the majority of the functionality in your car. Some cars also consist of V-belts, also known as fan belts that perform almost the same job as that of a serpentine belt. A few older makes also consist of a toothed timing belt that controls overall engine performance, and transport power to the oil pumps, water pumps, and other important engine parts.

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