How to Replace an Air Conditioning Belt

Unless you drive a newfangled hybrid or electric car, the AC compressor in your vehicle is driven off a belt. The belt is strapped to the engine crankshaft balancer, which turns with the engine. Older vehicles use v-belts, which typically only drive the AC compressor. Modern vehicles use serpentine belts to drive all of the engine accessories including the drive belt.

Over time, belts crack and deteriorate. Replacing the belt at the first sign of wear ensures it won’t break, leaving you without AC.

Part 1 of 3: Determine which type of belt you have

Materials Needed

  • Jack
  • Jack stands

How to Replace an Air Conditioning Belt 2

Step 1: Locate the AC belt. The AC belt is routed over the AC compressor, which is located at the front of the engine compartment.

You may need to raise the vehicle with a jack and support it with jack stands for access.

How to Replace an Air Conditioning Belt 3

Step 2: Determine which type of belt you have. Determine which type of belt you have.

V-belts will be thin with a single rib. Serpentine belts will be multi-ribbed and much thicker.

Part 2 of 3: Remove and replace the serpentine belt

Materials Needed

  • Protective gloves
  • Repair manuals
  • Safety glasses

  • Tip: You can often get free repair manuals for your car.

How to Replace an Air Conditioning Belt 4

Step 1: Locate the serpentine belt tensioner. If you have a difficult time finding the tensioner, consult the belt routing diagram.

This can typically be found on a decal placed somewhere in the engine compartment or in the vehicle repair manual.

How to Replace an Air Conditioning Belt 5

Step 2: Rotate the tensioner. Use a socket or wrench to slide the automatic tensioner away from the belt.

Whether this is clockwise or counterclockwise depends on the vehicle and belt routing.

  • Note: Some tensioners will have a square hole to insert a ratchet end into rather than a bolt head for a socket or wrench.

How to Replace an Air Conditioning Belt 6

Step 3: Remove the belt from the pulleys. While holding the tensioner away from the belt, slide the belt off the pulleys.

How to Replace an Air Conditioning Belt 7

Step 4: Position the belt on the pulleys. Position the belt on the pulleys.

Following the belt routing diagram to ensure the belt is routed correctly.

How to Replace an Air Conditioning Belt 8

Step 5: Install the new belt. Push or pull the tensioner to a position that allows the belt to be installed onto the pulleys.

Once the belt is in place, you can release the tensioner and remove your tool.

Part 3 of 3: Remove and replace the v-belt belt

How to Replace an Air Conditioning Belt 9

Step 1: Locate and loosen the compressor pivot. The compressor on older vehicles will generally have a pivot bracket.

Loosen and/or remove the pivot bolts. Then, push the compressor away from the belt.

How to Replace an Air Conditioning Belt 10

  • Note: Some compressors use an idler wheel tensioner. In this case, instead of loosening pivot bolts, you’ll loosen the locknut on the idler adjusting screw. Then, turn the adjuster until the belt is loose enough to be removed.

How to Replace an Air Conditioning Belt 11

Step 2: Remove the belt. Remove the belt by sliding it off of the pulleys.

How to Replace an Air Conditioning Belt 12

Step 3: Install the new belt. Install the new belt by correctly positioning it in the pulley grooves.

How to Replace an Air Conditioning Belt 13

Step 4: Adjust the belt. Push the compressor back into its original position so that the pivot bolts and holes line up.

Put enough pressure on the compressor so that the belt is snug but not too tight. In order to achieve this, you may need to use a pry bar to put tension on the compressor and hold it in place while you tighten down the pivot bolts.

  • Note: If your compressor uses an idler wheel tensioner, tighten the belt until it's snug using the adjuster, then tighten down the locknut.

How to Replace an Air Conditioning Belt 14

Step 5: Check the belt tension. Once the new belt is installed, you’ll want to check the belt tension.

To do that, push down on the longest length of the belt - there should be about ½” of deflection. If not, loosen the belt and readjust as outlined in the previous step.

That’s it! Now you don’t have to worry about losing your AC on a hot day due to a failed belt. You can crank the AC up and enjoy. If, after reading this, replacing your belt sounds like something you’d rather leave to the pros, let the team at YourMechanic perform a replacement for you.


Next Step

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Recent Serpentine/Drive Belt Replacement reviews

Excellent Rating

(5,202)

Rating Summary
4,976
126
27
19
54
4,976
126
27
19
54

Robert

20 years of experience
1061 reviews
Robert
20 years of experience
GMC Savana 1500 V8-5.3L - Serpentine/Drive Belt - Golden, Colorado
As always, Robert was right on time, was focused through the whole project and got it done in good time. He even found a part or two that weren't needed for my vehicle in the belt replacements. It was as easy as always and I do appreciate Robert's effort and exceptional product. Thank you again!
Ford Escape - Serpentine/Drive Belt - Denver, Colorado
Robert was great! Highly recommend! He showed up early, fixed my serpentine belt, was friendly, professional and now my car is working again. Thank you!

Brian

18 years of experience
31 reviews
Brian
18 years of experience
Ford Escape V6-3.0L - Serpentine/Drive Belt - Hampton, Georgia
Brian was very knowledgeable when it came to services needed , as well as how the process would go. He also went the extra mile in ensuring the complete car was inspected and recommendations for future services. Brian finished the job in less time then I initially thought which was great!!!! I will definitely be booking services through this provider again.
Jeep Liberty - Serpentine/Drive Belt - Covington, Georgia
I am so thankful you sent Brian Shelley to repair my Jeep. He is so professional. Brian was on time, went right to work, and had my Jeep repaired and ready to go in the time allowed. If possible, I would love to use Brian Shelley if I ever need another repair in the future. I will be recommending YOUR MECHANIC and Brian Shelley to my friends. You are very fortunate to have Brian Shelley representing your service. Thank you!

Kevin

24 years of experience
523 reviews
Kevin
24 years of experience
Mercedes-Benz S550 V8-5.5L - Serpentine/Drive Belt Replacement - Lawrenceville, Georgia
Kevin was very personable and professional really knew his job very quick yet through he made some recommendations and I'll ore thank Likely follow through with them you guys have gained a new customer

Kevin

6 years of experience
83 reviews
Kevin
6 years of experience
Nissan Rogue L4-2.5L - Serpentine/Drive Belt - Kissimmee, Florida
Kevin was very helpful and knowledgable! I really appreciate how he was able to find me a great deal on the parts my car needed, too.

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