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Belts & Hoses

Accessory belts Many of the same elements that attack hoses also attack belts—heat, oil, ozone, and abrasion.

Almost all cars and trucks built today have a single multi-grooved serpentine belt that drives the alternator, water pump, power-steering pump, and air-conditioning compressor. Older vehicles may have separate V-belts that drive the accessories. The Car Care Council says chances of a V-belt failure rise dramatically after four years or 36,000 miles, while the critical point for a serpentine belt is 50,000 miles. Any belt should be changed when it shows signs of excessive wear.

But many new composite belts don't show signs of wear until the failure occurs. 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.

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. If in doubt, check with a qualified technician about any cooling problems, and always consult your owner's manual for routine maintenance procedures.

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