Your drive and fan belts should not be overlooked, as these car parts are crucial for proper engine operation. Both can eventually fall prey to wear, and even begin exhibiting audible signs of it such as irritating squeaking noises.
The thing is, most people will find it difficult to assess the condition of belts or pulleys based on sounds alone. In this article, we discuss belt care and identifying the source of the noise, as well as what to do.
Though these belts can last anywhere between 80,000-160,000km, you can prolong their life by using belt dressing. This product usually comes in spray cans found in hardware shops, and will help lessen wear, tear, and squeaking. Here's how to use it:
1) Start the engine and keep your car running on idle.
2) Insert straw extension (usually comes with the can when purchased) into spray nozzle for precise application.
3) Aim spray can towards the inner lining of the belt/s while running, depressing spray nozzle for about 2 seconds. Never soak the belts.
Note: While having your vehicle serviced at a dealership or shop, it will be wise to inspect the treading of your belts from time to time. Look for cracking or tearing, and replace when found along the belt lining or if a portion is heavily deteriorated.
There are only a handful of reasons for your belts to squeak. It can be a worn out belt, misaligned pulley (due to bearing wear), or a tensioner that has gone bad.
A highly effective way to localize the root of the problem is by popping your hood open and listening for the source. If you feel it's a specific belt, grab a spray bottle filled with water and squirt the inner lining of the belt as it runs.
If the squeak goes away, your belt is the culprit. If a noise remains after spraying your belts, it could be a bad pulley or a tensioner that needs replacement.
Another telltale sign of a bad pulley or tensioner is if your belt does not maintain a steady, straight track during operation. Another way to inspect pulleys is by checking if they have any play while the engine is off. A good pulley should feel solid to the touch and should not show signs of side-to-side movement.
A bad pulley or tensioner must be repaired or replaced immediately, as this can speed up the wear on your belts. It's best to seek a professional mechanic for the job unless you want to do it yourself. Of course if you choose the latter option, you need to have the proper knowledge, tools, parts, and experience.
Keep in mind that these belts run your engine's cooling system, alternator, and compressor. If they break while you're on the road, you'll be in for some serious trouble. Preventive maintenance is worth the trouble compared to the huge hassle of an expensive breakdown. Furthermore, nobody likes hair-raising noises coming from a vehicle.