How to Determine if a Belt Needs Replacement

September 2, 2015

The serpentine belt plays a pivotal role in the proper functioning of a vehicle’s engine. It powers many key components like the alternator and air conditioner compressor. Did you know that just 5% wear on a belt can negatively impact vehicle performance? A worn belt loses its ability to grip and/or function properly. A slipping belt puts a strain on other components within an engine, causing them to malfunction and eventually fail.

Serpentine belts used to be made of neoprene, which showed visual signs of wear such as cracking, pilling, chunk-outs, and glazing. These signs made it easy to determine when a belt needed to be replaced. However, since the late 1990s automotive manufacturers have phased out neoprene serpentine belts and are now installing ethylene propylene diene monomer (EPDM for short) belts on current models. EPDM belts rarely show the visual symptoms of wear that their neoprene counterpart was known for. They wear out gradually, much like a tire, meaning that a belt can appear to be in good condition when it’s actually near failure. Nowadays, determining if an EPDM belt needs to be replaced requires more than a simple visual inspection.

So, how can you determine if an EPDM belt needs replacement? Use the Gates belt wear gauge. This unique tool has been redesigned to more easily diagnose belt wear with a simple pass/fail result. It can be used on or off the vehicle, one-handed, and even in places where you can’t see. To learn more about this new tool, please click here.

Gates belt wear gauge in use

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