Why Serpentine Belt Replacements on Cars With Limited Clearance Can Be Tricky

Why Serpentine Belt Replacements on Cars With Limited Clearance Can Be Tricky

Car and small sport utility vehicles that are front wheel drive and all wheel drive will have a clearance issue when it comes to replacing a serpentine belt.

A serpentine belt, also known as a multi-vee, poly-v, or multi-rib belt, is a single, continuous belt used to drive multiple devices in an automotive engine, such as an alternator, power steering pump, or water pump.

The replacement of the serpentine belt can vary due to conditions of wear. It could be just old and has weather cracks or perhaps a belt tensioner or pulley has failed causing the belt to become stretched and glazed.

For most front wheel drive and all wheel drive vehicles, the serpentine belt is usually difficult in many ways to replace. Most of the time a standard ratchet cannot fit between the belt tensioner and the fender or even a breaker bar. It would seem to remove the inner fender to gain access to the belt tensioner, but removing the inner fender could be tiresome and take a long time. Therefore, a tool was created just for moving belt tensioners to remove the serpentine belt.

Some vehicles that are front wheel drive have top engine mounts that are commonly known as dog bones. These engine mounts are either mounted from the top of the engine to the front of the vehicle or to the sides of the vehicle. When the engine mount goes from the top of the engine to the inner fender it tends to interfere with the serpentine belt removal.

If an engine mount is to be removed from the top of the engine, the engine must be supported from rocking back to prevent damage to other parts and to aid in reassemble of the engine mount.

Some vehicles are required to be lifted off the ground to gain access to the belt tensioner. Also for some vehicles, when having to go up from underneath through the engine compartment there may be a engine guard that would need to be removed prior to gaining access to the serpentine belt.

When removing the serpentine belt, it can be tricky to take the belt off some pulleys and very tricky when putting the new belt on. It is best to follow the diagram on the vehicle decal located on the hood or hood mount. If there is no diagram decal on the vehicle then viewing the diagram from the owners manual would be an alternative way to see how the serpentine belt is routed.

After routing the serpentine belt, it is best to hold the belt up and have a top pulley to lace it around. While holding the belt, use the belt tensioner tool to relax the tensioner so the belt can easily slide over the final top pulley. When releasing the belt tensioner tool the serpentine belt should be aligned properly.

  • Note: Be sure to check the serpentine belt for proper alignment and proper installation prior to starting the engine.

If you need to replace your serpentine belt, book one of our mechanics and we'd be happy to help.

The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details

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