Skip the auto shop - Our mechanics make house calls
  1. Home
  2. Articles
  3. Symptoms of a Bad or Failing Drive Belt Tensioner

Symptoms of a Bad or Failing Drive Belt Tensioner

belt tensioner

A drive belt tensioner is a pulley mounted on a spring mechanism or adjustable pivot point that is used to keep tension on the engine belts. Spring tensioners are designed to tension automatically while the pivot design types can be adjusted manually. Both are used to keep tension on the engine serpentine belts so that they can drive the various engine accessories.

When the tensioner has an issue, it can affect the how the belts drive the pulleys which can affect the performance and functionality of the vehicle. Usually a bad or failing tensioner will produce a few symptoms that can alert the driver of a potential problem that should be serviced.

1. Grinding or squeaking noise from the belts or tensioner

The most common symptom of a bad or failing drive belt tensioner is noise from the belts or tensioner. If the tensioner is loose the belts may squeak or squeal, especially when the engine is first started. It is also possible for the tensioner pulley or bearing to wear out, in which case the vehicle will produce a grinding noise from the pulley.

2. Unusual belt wear

Another symptom of a potential problem with the drive belt tensioner is unusual belt wear. If the drive belt tensioner pulley has any sort of issue it can cause unusual and accelerated wear on the belt. A bad pulley can cause fraying on the edges of the belt, and in severe cases can even cause it to break.

3. Belt-driven accessories fail

Another symptom of bad or failing drive belt tensioner is failure of the belt driven accessories. Many of the engine’s accessories, such as the alternator, water pump, and AC compressor, can be belt driven. A seized or loose drive belt tensioner can cause the belt to snap, which will disables those accessories and can cause problems such as overheating, a dead electrical system and battery, or a disabled AC system. Usually a belt that has failed because of the tensioner will have to be replaced, along with the tensioner, in order to restore full functionality to the vehicle.

A drive belt tensioner is an important component as it is what keeps the belt properly tensioned so that it can properly drive the vehicle’s accessories. If you suspect that your drive belt tensioner may be having an issue, have the vehicle inspected by a professional technician, such as one from YourMechanic, to determine if it should be replaced.

The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details
Still not sure about your car's issue?
Diagnose your car
What kind of issue are you experiencing?
Brakes are squeaking
Car is not starting
Car is overheating
Car is shaking (vibrating)
Fluids are leaking
Heating and A/C
Smoke or steam is coming out of the car
Warning light is on

Skip the repair shop, our top-rated mechanics come to you.

At your home or office

Choose from 600+ repair, maintenance & diagnostic services. Our top-rated mechanics bring all parts & tools to your location.

Fair & transparent pricing

See labor & parts costs upfront, so you can book with confidence.

12-month, 12,000-mile warranty

Our services are backed by a 12-month, 12,000-mile warranty for your peace of mind.

Get A Quote

Need Help With Your Car?

Our certified mobile mechanics make house calls in over 2,000 U.S. cities. Fast, free online quotes for your car repair.


More related articles

Symptoms of a Bad or Failing Flexible Clutch Hose
Common signs include difficulty shifting, low clutch fluid, and feeling no resistance at the clutch pedal.
P0052 OBD-II Trouble Code: HO2S Heater Control Circuit High (Bank 2 Sensor 1)
P0052 code definition HO2S Heater Control Circuit High (Bank 2 Sensor 1) What the...
How to Get a Louisiana Driver's Permit
s licensing program. The first step in this program is to obtain...

Related questions

Q: My battery light came on while drive and it became hard to steer. A liquid is leaking from my truck and my gauge says hot

You most likely broke a serpentine belt. If you open hood and look at belts to see if it is missing or broken. If it is then do not try and drive it since it will overheat and cause engine...

Q: Truck making noise after I replaced belts.

You should have a mechanic diagnose the noise. You could have a belt going bad. I would inspect the belt for cracks or frays. If the belt looks ok, the AC compressor may be on its last leg and can...

Q: Car will not start after belt came off

Hello. We need to gather some more information before we can diagnose the starting issue. Was the vehicle running fine before the belt popped off? Did the belt go back on as tight as it was before? When you turn...