Serpentine belt replacement cost ranges between $25 and $75 on parts only; however, the cost can get much higher depending on the location of service.
The serpentine belt is responsible for transferring the power from the engine to other internal systems like the air conditioning, steering pump, electrical system, and the water pump.
It is not safe to drive a vehicle with a broken or worn serpentine belt as the associated outcomes are sudden and unexpected. While you might notice things like air conditioning not working or strange engine noise, a broken belt can result in complete engine damage in a matter of seconds.
Repairing the serpentine belt is not a very expensive item. The dominant portion of the repair cost depends on the labor cost. If you can do the replacement on your own, you can expect to pay a total of less than $100 in any vehicle.
In this article, we will highlight to you the common serpentine belt repair costs, and we will show you how to replace it on your own.
What does the serpentine belt do?
Engines do not only produce power to move, but they also help generate energy to cool off passengers, produce electricity, provide the power necessary for steering, and maintain low engine temperature.
In older vehicles, there was more than one belt existed in the engine to move the pulleys and drive the power. However, most of the more recent vehicles have only one belt that does all the job. this belt is called the “serpentine belt.”
The serpentine belt is responsible for connecting several parts in the engine. The belt drives power from the engine to the water pump, steering pump, air conditioning, electrical system, and power needed to recharge the battery.
The way the serpentine belt works is that it transports the motion received from the crankshaft to the other systems pulleys (e.g., the alternator, the water pump, the cooling fan, the power steering, and the air conditioning.)
Bad serpentine belt symptoms
Like any other part of the vehicle, the serpentine belt might tear and wear over time. This tear can result in smooth ribs which ride on the pulleys.
Several symptoms can tell you there is an issue with the engine's serpentine belt.
- Strange engine sounds: when the serpentine belt tears or wears, you will start hearing a squeaky noise whenever you start your engine, especially when you are speeding.
- Poor air conditioning: the cracked or stretched serpentine belt can limit the amount of motion generated by the crankshaft. Receiving insufficient power, the air conditioning will not work properly.
- No power steering: losing the steering power can be a little scary. You can't drive without a steering power. While it might be other more complicated issues (e.g., lack of steering fluid, broken power steering pump.) causing the loss of the steering power, it won't hurt to check the serpentine belt.
- Battery warning light: if the battery is not sufficiently charged, you will see that the battery warning light is illuminating. A poor serpentine belt can result in an insufficient battery charge.
When should I replace my engine's serpentine belt?
The frequency of replacing the engine's serpentine belt depends on the car make, model, and year. Besides, your driving style and driving environment can increase the chance of wearing the serpentine belt.
There are several situations when you need to get the serpentine belt replaced:
- During regular maintenance: while experts recommend changing the serpentine belt once every 100,000 miles, you need to get the belt inspected during your regular maintenance. If the mechanic noticed tear and wear in the belt, you could save a lot of money fixing it early rather than waiting after more severe damages.
- Noticing any of the mentioned bad belt symptoms: for example, if you heard a squealing noise or belt slipping, you need to get the belt checked and replaced if needed. Similarly, if you noticed the battery warning light illuminating or there are signs of engine overheating, you need to get the belt replaced immediately, even if you are not at 100,000 miles yet.
How much does it cost to replace a serpentine belt?
Like the replacement frequency, the cost for replacing a serpentine belt depends on the car make, model, and year.
Typically, the serpentine belt itself is not expensive and cost you between $25 to $75. However, the cost gets significantly different when you account for labor costs.
In an automobile, labor cost is calculated by the number of hours the mechanic spent in fixing your vehicle times the hourly cost for this mechanic. Replacing a serpentine belt is a simple task and can be done within one hour.
However, the time to replace the belt might be longer in some vehicles, depending on how easy it is to access the belt and replace it.
Therefore, expect to pay between $150 to $189 to replace your serpentine belt at a dealership.
Here are some examples of serpentine belt replacement by car model/make:
|Vehicle||Serpentine replacement cost|
|Ford F-150||$78 – $98|
|Toyota Camry||$80 – $98|
|Chevrolet Silverado 1500||$138 – $ 173|
|Honda Accord||$86 – $108|
|Honda Civic||$80 – $99|
|Toyota Corolla||$70 – $90|
|Nissan Altima||$95 – $112|
|Honda CR-V||$82 – $109|
It is important to note here that a great portion of the cost is associated with the labor cost. Meaning, if you can replace the serpentine belt at a local auto repair shop or do it your own, you can save most of the repair cost.
- Additional costs
There are some additional costs you need to consider when estimating your serpentine belt replacement cost.
In some situations, if the serpentine belt breaks, the vehicle might shut down completely. As a result, you need to consider additional towing costs.
Additional costs can also be related to other repairs the mechanic might find while replacing the belt. Depending on the urgency and severity of the other repairs, you might need to get it replaced immediately.
It is also common to find that one of the pulleys broke as a result of the faulty serpentine belt. Therefore, you also need to consider the cost of replacing any broken pulleys.
Where to shop for a serpentine belt?
If you do not have a local personal mechanic, many online trusted services can help you either shop for the part or can find you a certified mechanic near you.
For instance, the National Institute for Automatic Service Excellence is a nonprofit group of automotive professionals. This institute also has a searchable service that can help you locate a certified auto repair shop near you.
Also, some national retailers like Napa Auto Parts carry serpentine belts. You can also find the belt at other online retailers like Auto Parts Warehouse.
When you purchase the serpentine belt from eBay, for example, some sellers provide a DIY service. The service is a certified technician who can walk you through the process of installing the belt yourself. This service is not expensive, and it is around $15 for 10 minutes.
Is it OK to drive a vehicle with a bad serpentine belt?
It is not safe at all to drive with a bad serpentine belt as the circumstances are sudden and not expected.
If the belt is not able to transport the power to the electrical system, for example, you might end up with a noncharged battery where you cannot drive the vehicle.
Other more severe circumstances might result in complete damage to the engine in a couple of seconds. For example, if the serpentine belt could not drive the power needed by the water pump, the engine will overheat immediately and could be self-destructed in no time.
Therefore, despite the severity of the bad belt circumstances, you do not want to risk your safety and your vehicle, and you must get it replaced as soon as possible.
Can I replace the serpentine belt on my own?
While there are some vehicle repairs where you must have an expert mechanic do it, replacing a serpentine belt is one of the simple repairs that you can do on your own to save a lot on labor costs.
If you have some level of mechanical experience or simple understanding, you can watch some videos on YouTube that help you replace the belt.
Therefore, it is recommended that you try replacing the serpentine belt on your own, you will be amazed that you can fix such things on your own.
How to replace a serpentine belt yourself?
Replacing your serpentine belt is a very common maintenance exercise. You do not need a lot of mechanical skills or specific tools to do it.
While the process of replacing the belt might change by vehicle type, here are the general steps you need to follow to replace the serpentine belt on your own:
- Prepare the tools to do the job: you will need a six or twelve points socket, a ratchet, and a four-millimeter Allen key.
- Mark the travel direction: it is a good idea to take notes for the direction of travel, especially if you are replacing the belt for the alternator. Simply, use a marker and draw an arrow on the belt that directs towards the front of the vehicle. This mark is only needed if you remove the belt to repair it. However, if you are removing the belt for replacement, you do not need to draw this mark.
- Note the belt routing. The serpentine belt might have four components in one circle or many more components. Therefore, you need to note exactly the components, so you have some guidance when you place it back together.
One way is to take a picture using your phone, or you can create a small drawing showing the components needed to be routed with the belt.
- Take off the tensioner and loosen the belt: use the lock pin and insert it in the small hole right next to the tensioner and push it. Then, use the ratchet and put it on the tensioner bolt and push it towards the vehicle's front. Slowly remove the ratchet.
Once you complete this step, the belt is going to be very loose and comes off by itself.
While there are some other parts in front of the belt location, you do not need to remove them. You can simply slip the belt and install it in the correct place.
Before putting the new belt, give a little spin to any rollers by hand. Confirm that the rollers do not make a strange noise, if they do make strange noise or not roll properly, it might be the time to get a new roller.
- Install the new belt: Installing the belt is very straightforward. Add the belt around the components you already took note of. Use the ratchet without a lot of tension, just give enough tension to get the pinout. Slowly remove the pin, then the ratchet.
- Inspect the new belt: do a visual inspection and make sure that the belt doesn't have any ribs, check how the belt is put around the roller. A small rip in the belt can cause severe damages.
Every part of the engine needs to work properly for smooth, safe, and efficient driving.
A bad serpentine belt is one of the issues that can result in simple problems like air conditioning, not working. However, in most cases, a broken serpentine belt results in severe damages that can get to complete engine destruction.
The serpentine belt repair cost can vary from $25 to $75 on parts. While it can take less than an hour from the mechanic to get it replaced, expect to pay up to $190 on the replacement only.
Replacing the belt is one of the very straight forward mechanical jobs. Therefore, it is recommended that you do it on your own if you have simple mechanical skills. A couple of YouTube videos can help you fill the knowledge gap and get you to install the new belt on your own.