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Ever wonder how your engine transmits power to the air conditioning compressor, alternator, power steering pump, and water pump? Drive belts turn these parts using rotational energy from engine’s crankshaft. Get a serpentine belt kit or other repair kit and get your parts fast with free next day delivery, or you can pick up your purchase today at your local AutoZone.

Your vehicle’s auxiliary and electrical systems depend on the rotational energy delivered by the vehicle’s engine belts. Without them, the AC won’t work, the alternator won’t charge the battery, the power steering pump cannot assist with steering, and the water pump cannot cool the engine. Each of these auxiliary components and systems are attached to a pulley that needs to be powered by the turning of the engine’s crankshaft, which is connected to each of the pulleys and held in place by a tensioner. Older vehicles lack a tensioner and require tension to be set.

How Long Does a Serpentine Belt Last?
While a drive belt can last between 50,000 and 100,000 miles, the only true way to know when one needs replacement is by visual inspection. They are made from durable rubber compounds, but all rubber warps over time. Signs of wear like abrasions, cracks, and damaged ribs are sure indicators that your belt is on its way out. When driving, this kind of damage can cause squealing noise from the front of the vehicle or engine overheating. In the event of failure, it’s recommended to pull over and stop driving the vehicle immediately, as further use could cause serious damage to your engine.

If your car is approaching the time for a replacement, check out our guide: how to change a serpentine belt.

How Many Belts Does a Car Have?
It depends. Most modern cars just have one, a serpentine belt. This belt winds around multiple pulleys throughout the engine compartment so that you only need one. Older vehicles have multiple V belts, to turn each of the pulleys on the various components.

Common belts are:

- Alternator Belts: These are by far the most common, as virtually any vehicle with an alternator needs one
- Power Steering Belts: These drive the power steering pump to provide energy to the system and make steering easier
- Water Pump Belts: These provide power to the cooling system so your engine will not overheat. Sometimes the water pump is driven by the timing belt or chain instead
- AC Compressor Belts: These turn AC compressors so you can keep your cabin cool

What is a Serpentine Belt?
Serpentine belts combine all of these into one, and are long so they can wrap around all of the component & idler pulleys. This serpentine option is generally used on newer vehicles because it makes maintenance easier. It’s easier to check on one thing than it is to check on two. The downside is that if your belt breaks, none of your components can receive engine power.

Because these two different systems exist, the first step to doing an replacement job is determining which system your vehicle uses. It should be pretty easy to determine by looking at the engine compartment under the hood.

Making sure you have working drive belts is a crucial part of vehicle maintenance, and it’s an easy job for any DIYer. Simply inspect the rubber surface and replace if necessary. We sell belt tensioner component kits that come complete with everything you need to do the job right.