How to Replace an Air Conditioning Belt

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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

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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.

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  • 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.

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

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

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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.

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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.


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Nathaniel

9 years of experience
172 reviews
Nathaniel
9 years of experience
Chevrolet Equinox - Serpentine/Drive Belt - Yorktown, Virginia
I really appreciate his service, very professional. He knows exactly what he's doing. I highly recommend him
Buick Encore - Serpentine/Drive Belt - Virginia Beach, Virginia
Nate Cobb was an excellent and personable mechanic who certainly knew what he was doing. First of all, what was described as a thermostat replacement job turned out to be something much different. He quickly and correctly diagnosed the problem, used his knowledge of the local automotive part dealers to get the required parts and then proceeded to do the required repairs. Despite close to freezing temperatures, he maintained a cheerful attitude and was courteous and pleasant throughout what was an ordeal. A top notch “Your Mechanic “.

Xavier

10 years of experience
23 reviews
Xavier
10 years of experience
Toyota Tundra - Serpentine/Drive Belt - Frisco, Texas
Xavier showed up on time, completed the work, and even noticed a small crack in a part and went to the store to get a replacement so it wouldn't cause trouble in the future.

Patrick

32 years of experience
1095 reviews
Patrick
32 years of experience
Hyundai Veloster - Serpentine/Drive Belt - Austin, Texas
Patrick is wonderful. Does a fantastic job on my car, always on time, always professional. Thank you!!

Bradford

12 years of experience
18 reviews
Bradford
12 years of experience
Infiniti JX35 - Serpentine/Drive Belt - Upper Marlboro, Maryland
Brad was very patient and accommodating. Did a great job. Explained what was done today and made projections of what should be done in the future on the car. My gratitude is extensive.

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