Hobbies Cars & Motorcycles How to Inspect Your Serpentine Belt Share PINTEREST Email Print Nick Nguyen/Flickr Cars & Motorcycles Cars Basics Buying & Selling How Tos Reviews Tools & Products Classic Cars Exotic Cars Corvettes Mustangs Tires & Wheels Motorcycles Used Cars SUVs Trucks ATVs & Off Road Public Transportation By Matthew Wright Matthew Wright has been a freelance writer and editor for over 10 years and an automotive repair professional for three decades specializing in European vintage vehicles. our editorial process Matthew Wright Updated August 23, 2018 Just about every late model car and truck use a serpentine drive belt. It is a single ribbed belt that drives all the accessories, A/C, power steering, alternator and various other pumps and accessories. They should require no maintenance unlike their predecessors the V-Belt that needed periodic adjusting. But the fact of the matter is they don't last forever and they do need to be inspected often to keep you from getting stuck. If it starts to go bad, you can replace your serpentine belt at a time of your choosing and not when the belt decides for you. Checking ribbed drive belts at every oil change, and the position of the self-adjusting mechanism indicator will ensure you catch a bad belt long before it snaps. All About the Serpentine Belt The backside of the serpentine drive belt, or the smooth side, usually drives the water pump. If the serpentine belt gets oil soaked or glazed, it will slip and not provide the proper circulation to keep the engine cool. And if there is oil on the serpentine belt, it's coming from somewhere so you will need to find out where and fix it before putting on a new serpentine drive belt. Look for tears or abrasions. If you see any it means the serpentine drive belt is rubbing a pulley flange or bolt as it winds its way around. This will happen more often as the drive belt gets older. If this happens you may need to file a pulley flange smooth or bend something out of the way. Also look for pinholes and/or bumps. If you see any it means dirt and debris are getting in between the serpentine drive belt and the pulleys. Turn the belt around and see if there are chunks of the ribs missing. You can crank the engine to expose sections of the belt as you inspect. A few small widely spaced chunks are okay, but if there are many and/or close together, replace the serpentine drive belt. Hairline cracks are normal, but if they go into the backing, or flat side, of the serpentine drive belt you will need to replace it. A good rule of thumb for serpentine drive belts is that if cracks are observed 3 mm (1/8 in) apart all around the belt, the belt may be reaching the end of its serviceable life and should be considered a candidate for changing. Small cracks spaced at greater intervals should not be considered as indicative that the belt needs changing. However, the onset of cracking typically signals that the belt is only about halfway through its usable life.