On the outside of the engine, the serpentine belt transmits power from the front of the engine to other systems in the vehicle, like the air conditioning system and charging system. Some factors that contribute to wear and tear on your belts and hoses include vehicle age, mileage, belt tension, hose clamp failure, electrochemical degradation, and oil contamination. In the long run, routine maintenance and replacements of your vehicle’s belts and hoses will prevent breakdowns and costly repairs.
When compared to other components in your car, belts and hoses have one of the shortest life spans. These items are constantly exposed to engine heat, vehicle vibrations, and harmful chemicals, which all have the potential to cause cracks and leaks. Some symptoms to be aware of for belts and hoses nearing failure include squeaking, screeching, or grinding noises that begin when starting your engine or appear during vehicle operation. It's worth noting that grinding sounds near belts are usually associated with a bad pulley bearing rather than the belt itself, as the pulley bearing may freeze up and ultimately lead to a belt replacement.
Other symptoms of a bad belt or hose include loss of power, leaking coolant or other fluids, illuminated dashboard lights, rising steam from the engine, and air conditioning failure. While routine maintenance of belts and hoses is always important, summertime is an especially important season to keep an eye under the hood due to increased temperatures, which will accelerate deterioration of the rubber components.
Since belts and hoses can be difficult to inspect visually, be sure to follow your manufacturer’s recommendations for scheduled maintenance.