Without ample warning, a belt may suddenly break and disable your vehicle completely. Warning signs can include squealing after starting or under load. There are two main types of belts today. A series of "V" groove belts and a single piece "SERPENTINE" belt that drives all the items under the hood. Belts must be checked regularly. If a serpentine belt breaks, you have no engine coolant pump, air conditioner compressor operation, power steering or alternator power. This will disable your vehicle immediately. Check your belts once every three months. It will only take no more than 1 to 2 minutes. Should your vehicle's belt breaks or about to break, do not attempt to replace it yourself. Some vehicle require special tools to do the task. Have your belt replaced by a professional.
There is only one belt to check. It is wider than a normal V belt, and one side is smooth while the other is ribbed.
Inspect the ribbed side for cracks in each rib. There must be no more than 10 cracks in any rib over 3 inches. Any more, the belt must be replaced. Other reasons for replacement are nicks and cuts. Serpentine belts should be replaced every 2 years or 30,000 miles.
Tension of the belt on most vehicles is automatically maintained by a spring loaded tensioner.
Check the belt in several places to ensure that you have an accurate idea of its condition.
Check the belts (there are more than one) for tension: each belt has its own tightening method.
Grasp the belt in between the pulleys and feel the amount of free play or movement. Most vehicles should not have more than half inch (1.66 cm) of play or deflection between the pulleys. If it is more than half inch, then the belt may have to be tightened by a mechanic or someone who is qualified to perform the task. V groove belts generally last approximately 3 to 4 years or 40,000 to 50,000 miles.
Remember: most auto warranties do not cover belts. They are considered a maintenance item.