Car engines are complex mechanisms with many elaborate parts that have to work seamlessly together. Whereas automotive engines used to be driven by multiple smaller belts, serpentine belts have emerged as a simpler and more efficient alternative. But, the best serpentine belts last a long time and can ensure the longevity of your vehicle.
Serpentine belts, otherwise known as drive belts, are wrapped around pulleys in the engine to drive various processes. These include the air, water, and power steering pumps, as well as the alternator and air conditioner compressor (Source).
Over time, serpentine belts fail due to the constant friction it experiences every time the car engine is on. They can last up to 5 years, but sometimes more.
You’ll know that your serpentine belt needs replacing if you hear a squealing sound from the hood of your car, or if your engine starts overheating. You might also not be able to turn on your air conditioning (Source).
The best serpentine belts are ribbed to prevent slippage and have a low cost per mile. They’re also capable of reducing engine noise and regulating engine temperature. If you’re a car enthusiast, mechanic, or just someone who’s updating an older car, serpentine belts are perfect for you.
Prior to purchasing a serpentine belt, you’ll want to ensure it’s long enough to fit your engine. You’ll also want to consider its cost per mile, ribbing, and any possible warranties.
The next time your engine needs servicing, try installing one of these top-rated serpentine belts.
What Do Serpentine Belts Do?
A serpentine belt is a long and sturdy belt that you can find in cars. These fan belts are present to keep the car’s systems under control.
Some cars may have multiple shorter belts, called fan or V belts, which have the same function as a single serpentine belt. With a serpentine belt, your car gets the power to run its automotive parts efficiently.
The belt is long and tangled over various engine parts to keep the air conditioner, power steering pump, alternator, and water pump run seamlessly in the car.
Just one serpentine belt is capable and long enough to run all the major components and systems of a vehicle. Some cars may have extra belts, which are shorter, to do additional work.
Serpentine belts are quite crucial as they can handle all the primary operations of a car on their own. That is why they need to be durable to withstand such immense responsibility.
How Much Does it Cost to Replace a Serpentine Belt?
The cost of replacing a serpentine belt might have a varying price depending upon certain factors, such as the quality of the belt, labor costs, the model of the car, etc.
A typical serpentine belt may cost you between $25 and $75. Some belts are even costlier than that based on quality and length.
Additional costs for replacing a serpentine belt depend upon the labor charges. These can vary from $75 to $120 per hour. The rates vary as some vehicles require longer serpentine belts.
Longer belts may need looping on several systems in the vehicle, which takes longer to accomplish. If you buy a serpentine belt individually, then it can even cost you as little as $10.
To give you a fair price for the replacement of the best in your car, the mechanic will first inspect the vehicle properly. That way, he can give you an estimate before you agree to the service.
Comparing The Best Serpentine Belts
|Continental Elite 4060740|
1. Continental Elite 4060740 – Best For Efficiency
This design also increases the flexibility of the belt due to the channel system, allowing it to run cooler. This reduced heat level lowers the rate at which the belt gets worn down resulting in a longer life.
This belt is also less prone to stretching allowing for more power to be directed to peripheral engine components.
- Gatorback Poly-V Design
- Quiet Channel Technology
- Runs Cooler Than Other Belts
- Short Effective Length
2. Gates K081189HD – Best For Cost Per Mile
This belt offers all of this alongside an incredibly low cost per mile due to its durable and reliable design. It also offers 8 ribs reducing the risk of slippage during operation, most belts only use 6 ribs.
- 8 Ribs
- Low Cost Per Mile
- Extremely Flexible
- Larger Initial Expense
3. Dayco 5060840 – Best For Noise Level
The Dayco 5060840 is designed with intense durability in mind, it can operate at temperatures ranging between -45F – 265F. Dayco builds to exceed industry standards and is so confident in their products they come with a 3-year warranty.
This belts 84″ effective length allows compatibility with over 340 different vehicle makes and models.
- ‘W’ Rib Style To Combat Misalignments
- Noise Resistant Fibres For Quieter Running
- 3-Year Warranty
- Not As Thick As Other Belts
4. ACDelco 6K930 – Most Durable Serpentine Belt
The ACDelco 6K930 is also extremely compatible and fits a huge variety of makes and models. Due to durable design, this belt also accepts misalignment better than most other belts. This help to ensure the safer running of the vehicle as an ill-fitting belt can cause engine damage.
Its flexible construction also allows the withstanding of billions of top and backside bends resulting in longer belt life.
- Made From EPDM Temperature And Crack Resistant Rubber
- Lasts 50% Longer Than Low-End Retail Belts
- Accepts Misalignment Greater Than Other Belts
- Narrow Top-Width
5. Bando 6PK2240 – Best For the Price
Bando are award-winning OEM suppliers and deliver high-quality products at very affordable prices for over 100 years. This belt uses a high-strength synthetic rubber, containing zero hazardous materials, for greater durability. Bando is the 3rd largest manufacturer of serpentine belts in the world. Therefore, you can rest assured that your product will be of the highest quality.
- Strong Tensile Cords
- Award Winning OEM Supplier
- Extremely Affordable
- Limited Vehicle Compatibility
What are the Symptoms of a Bad Serpentine Belt?
A serpentine belt has to last for a long duration. But, situations can arise where it might start losing their grip. Here are some symptoms of a bad serpentine belt:
- Squeal Noise – The front of your car might emit a squealing sound, which is an indication that the serpentine belt is misaligned or slipping.
- AC or Power Steering Failure – Upon breaking of the serpentine belt, the air conditioning and power steering system in your car might stop working.
- Overheating Engine – A failing serpentine belt cannot operate properly to keep the engine cool, as it should. So, you might witness an overheated engine in your car.
- Cracking – The belt has to bear a lot of physical pressure while running. It can cause it to undergo abrasions, breaking, and other damages.
During a damaged serpentine belt tensioner, you will need the help of a mechanic to diagnose the issue accurately and fix it for you.
What Happens to a Vehicle if the Serpentine Belt Breaks?
If a serpentine belt breaks, then it stops individual systems from working. These systems include the electrical system, the cooling system, and the power steering system.
The power steering may lose its ability to work instantly, which can be risky when you are driving on a busy road, as it becomes harder to control the steering.
It will also cause the vehicle’s radio, headlights, air conditioning, and battery to stop functioning.
The car engine will overheat due to the absence of a coolant system to keep it under control. It might not be instantaneous, but it can happen any time while running the car.
Things To Consider When Buying Your Serpentine Belt
Alternator belts are in constant and heavy use when running your vehicle and drive numerous instruments in the engine.
It’s important to have them checked on a regular basis as if they are worn down too much you could see the damage caused to these peripheral systems.
It’s important to check the size of the belt you’re buying. If you’re unsure of what size you need, check the make and model number of your previous belt. Don’t go by the size of your old belt as it will be worn down and stretched from use.
You should also be able to find the measurement in your car’s manual. Alternatively, a quick search online when entering your vehicles make and model number should also help.
The material of the serpentine belt will determine durability and resistance to heat, stretching, and cracks. EPDM rubber belts are becoming far more common as small cracks cause significantly fewer issues than in Neoprene belts. A belt more resistant to stretching will also provide more power due to greater efficiency in the number of rotations.
Avoid Neoprene belts altogether. They are quickly becoming out-dated due to the technological advancements being made in the motor industry. The main issue with Neoprene arises when it gets worn down.
Neoprene takes on similar characteristics as the outside of a wetsuit, becoming too smooth and not gripping effectively. This can cause slippage and internal component damage.
As well as getting the right sized drive belt, you also want to make sure it’s compatible with other items. These could include components such as the tensioner, pulley, and other accessories.
Most product sites will link to the manufacturer’s site displaying a full list of compatible makes and models. If you’re in doubt, you can contact your car manufacturer and they’ll be able to inform you. Just make sure you have all of the relevant information to hand for a more efficient call.
Those with aftermarket parts, if you’re unsure of what you’re looking for it’ll be best to visit a mechanic. They can inform you what belt you need as it most likely won’t be the standard belt.
Change Other Parts
If the serpentine belt is due a change it might be worth considering having a look at other parts too. The most common items to replace at the same time would be the gaskets and gasket adhesives.
Changing numerous parts at once will give you a better idea of when everything will next need replacing. It will also put your mind at ease knowing you shouldn’t have any engine trouble any time soon.
Whilst most products don’t display a specific range value it’s common to expect a belt to last 60,000+ miles. High-end belts can see the likes over 100,000+. If you contact the manufacturer directly they’ll be able to give you some guidance on the range.
One of the benefits of mechanics is that they replace these belts often. This helps them know how far you’re likely to get with different types of belt. Otherwise, just look for belts made of high-quality EPDM rubber.
It’s best to check your belt at every oil change, simply look for excessive wear or cracks per inch. This will give you a good idea of how well your belt is coping. If the ribs have also been worn down rather low you may want to consider replacing the belt.
For those that want to play it safer either have it checked at a garage or replace the belt. Regardless of condition, do this every 50,000 miles.
The pattern of the ribs can have a tremendous impact on the durability of the belt. It’s best to find a belt with numerous valleys and cross-cuts allowing more air to get under the belt. This will help keep the belt cool and less likely to stretch or overheat.
Belts with hexagonally crossing rib patterns also allow for greater flexibility, in turn, also reducing the likelihood of stretching.
Online Vs Garage
Buying online will require you to install it yourself or take it to a garage and pay for installation. If you’re not installing it yourself, it’s likely to be similar pricing.
The benefit of visiting a garage is that they know what will fit your car. Garages most likely already the item in stock, and can do it in a very short period of time. However, labour costs can be relatively high. If you’re unsure or not confident installing it yourself, this is definitely the best option for safety reasons.
Those buying online, make sure to check compatibility across numerous websites ensuring it’ll fit with your vehicle model.
The notable downside to a serpentine belt is that if it does fail, every attachment also fails. In a system of numerous belts, this wouldn’t be an issue. In order to prevent this, and because of the low cost, it’s a good idea to keep a spare.
This can be extremely helpful if you’re comfortable replacing it yourself. This will prevent you from being stranded and waiting for an expensive repair service to aid you.
It Might Not Be The Belt
There are many issues that can cause an engine to make a shrieking noise. As soon as you hear something concerning, pullover and take a look at the engine. If it isn’t obvious either cautiously make your way to a garage or call roadside assistance.
To prevent belt slippage or breaks, have it replaced by professionals on a regular basis. If you replace the belt yourself, this is when a belt with forgiving alignment measures comes in handy.
Shear strength is the strength of the material against the type of structural failure where it fails in shear. This directly relates to the belts ability to prevent itself from shearing apart causing a breakdown.
Always look for a belt with high levels of shear resistance. This can be depicted by the material and design of the belt.
SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) standards are put in place to ensure products are safe for distribution. It’s important to check to make sure your serpentine belt meets these standards.
Most high-end belts will not only mention that they’ve achieved these standards but have actually exceeded them. This will assure you that the product is of quality design and therefore significantly less likely to fail.
Serpentine belts are relatively inexpensive when comparing to other car parts. This allows for a more regular replacement of the part and ensuring a safer working engine.
With minimal price differences, it’s important to focus on the different belt features. When checking its status and it looks even marginally worn down, it’s probably a good idea to replace it.
Ready To Buy The Best Serpentine Belts?
Car safety is extremely important and if you’re in anyway unsure, consult a professional. This can be done during your general service or MOT.
The serpentine belt drives numerous vehicle functions and can be checked on a regular basis, ideally every oil change.
Getting an ill-fitting or incorrect belt can cause damage to the engine and peripherals so be 100% when installing. Purchasing EPDM belts usually provide greater heat and stretch resistance meaning they’ll last longer.
Serpentine belts do offer greater durability over a series of belts, as they can be made thicker and stronger. These belts are also more compact and easier to maintain.
Are you searching for something to keep the fueling system as clean as it can get? Buy the best fuel injector cleaning kits to remove any obstructions from the fuel channels.
If you are using serpentine belts, consider buying a diesel compression tester which is a diagnostic tool designed to check out a number of problems with your diesel engine. This tool is extremely useful in performing pressure checks on your engine.
Ekta Kapoor says
The serpentine belt are all nice. But I”ll go for the continental Elite 4060740 because of the features it portrays. it’s true, it has a short effective length belt, but for me it doesn’t matter for now because that’s the belt I use for the AC compressor Bypass in my car and is just the best. I hope for a longer belt with the same features.
Thanks so much Isaac for the post.