The cost of replacing a serpentine belt in a vehicle depends on whether you plan to replace the belt yourself or whether you need the repair work done for you; both approaches have their pros and cons. A serpentine belt keeps your car's or truck's peripheral devices working flawlessly. Staying aware of a belt's condition and replacing it when necessary may save you money in the long run.
The serpentine accessory belt drives a number of internal devices, such as the power-steering pump, water pump, air-conditioning compressor and alternator. Although not all of these components are crucial to overall operation, some, such as the alternator and water pump, are necessary for continued operation. Older vehicles use a multiple belt system that powers individual devices separately from the others, and you should be aware of whether your vehicle uses multiple belts.
Signs a belt needs replaced
A serpentine belt works best when it stays tight on the various pulleys it winds around. A tension pulley is included to keep the belt at the correct level of tension on the other pulleys, and can be adjusted to compensate for minor stretching. Should a belt develop more than 1.2 cm (1/2 inch) of play, if it becomes frayed or cracked, or if you hear a loud squeaking noise during driving, the belt should be replaced as soon as possible. Also watch for water, oil or other foreign substances on the accessory belt, as these can cause it to deteriorate or malfunction faster.
Replacing the belt yourself
The serpentine belt is a user-serviceable part on most vehicles. Depending on the make and model of the vehicle and the quality of the belt you seek, it can cost you between £16 and £48, as of 2010, and take you roughly 30 minutes to an hour to replace. Most vehicles have a diagram near the belt to aid in alignment around the pulleys, but sometimes the belt is hidden beneath a cover or shield and can be difficult to access. It is also sometimes difficult to know when a belt is at the proper tension. Tension pulleys are usually spring-loaded and can be dangerous to adjust, so take care at all times.
Service at a repair facility
If replacing a belt is beyond your abilities, any responsible service facility can do the work for you. Of course, having the work done for you may incur substantial labour costs (depending on the vehicle). A dealership or independent workshop will know the right belt to use for the vehicle, but expect labour charges to add anywhere from £39 to £130 to the cost of a £16 to £48 belt, as of 2010.
Whether you choose to replace the serpentine belt yourself or pay to have it replaced, the procedure will range in cost from a few dollars to a few hundred dollars. Despite this, a properly functioning serpentine belt is integral to the well-being of your vehicle, so check its condition regularly and replace when necessary for continued smooth operation.