The serpentine belt plays a pivotal role in the proper function of a vehicle’s engine. It powers many key engine components, including the alternator, power steering pump, and air conditioner compressor. In fact, even just 5% wear on a belt can negatively impact overall vehicle performance. A worn belt loses its ability to grip and/or function properly, while a slipping belt puts a strain on other components within an engine, causing your engine systems and components to malfunction and eventually fail.
Serpentine belts used to be made of neoprene, which showed obvious 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 now install ethylene propylene diene monomer (EPDM for short) belts on all current models. In contrast to neoprene, EPDM belts rarely show visual symptoms of wear. They wear out gradually, much like a tire, meaning that a belt can appear to be in good condition when even when nearing the end of its life cycle. Nowadays, determining if an EPDM belt needs to be replaced requires more than a simple visual inspection.
As part of our Be System Smart initiative, we always recommend that you start inspecting the vehicle’s serpentine system at 60,000 miles, and complete a full system replacement at 90,000 miles, or as advised by the vehicle manufacturer.
Developed in partnership with automotive technicians, we created our reliably accurate, easy-to-use Gates belt wear gauge to make wear diagnosis simple. We’ve redesigned this unique tool to give automotive technicians an instant pass/fail result. It can be used on or off the vehicle, one-handed, and even in places where you can’t see. Learn more about our revolutionary belt wear gauge.
To learn more about the signs and symptoms of EDPM belt wear, we offer a complete guide: Belt Wear Diagnostic Tips: Diagnose EPDM Serpentine Belt Wear