How Long Should My Car’s Belts Last?

by Dave Eastman on July 24, 2010

With the advanced materials being used to make automotive belts today, most are lasting much longer than they used to.  That means the recommendations for replacement have changed, too.  So, the real question is “How do I, as a conscientious car owner, know when to start thinking about belt replacement?”

Many belts don’t get replaced until after they fail, and they all eventually do fail if not replaced.  But since you’re obviously wondering how long your car’s belt(s) should last, you’re probably not willing to wait for the inevitable to happen when you’re who knows how far from home.

Generally speaking, the easiest way to get an answer to the question posed above is to call your repair facility and ask.  But, if you don’t have a shop you usually use, be aware that answers may vary significantly, depending on who you ask and which belt you’re talking about.

No matter who you do ask, they’ll want some basic information like this before giving you an answer:

  • the type of car you drive
  • the age of your car
  • the mileage on your car

Depending on what information you give, they’ll probably suggest having an inspection of your belt(s) done for starters.  The reason for this is that it’s necessary to see what condition your belt(s) are in before making a recommendation. 

Though some things that determine whether a belt needs replacement can’t be seen easily, any belt with visible glazing, fraying, cracks or chunks missing is worn enough to be replaced.  Belts that have been contaminated by grease or oil should also be replaced since these fluids deteriorate belt material.

V-Belts usually should be inspected for wear after 3 years or 30-40,000 miles of use.  According to belt manufacturers, failure rates rise sharply after 3 years of service.  Replacing V-belts every 3-4 years can minimize the risk of sudden belt failure.

Most cars on the road today have only one belt, a serpentine belt.  These belts replace the multi-belt systems on older cars and started becoming common during the 1990s.  Replacing several belts with one greatly simplifies belt maintenance overall.

Some of the older serpentine belts, made of Neoprene, need replacing every 4-5 years.  One source I found, however, said many 2005 and newer vehicles have serpentine belts made of a superior product (EPDM – ethylene propylene diene monomer) that can last the life of the vehicle.  These EPDM belts are not expected to need replacement before 10 years or 150,000 miles of normal use.  A skilled technician can measure the wear on these newer belts and then recommend replacement based on that measurement.

Though recommendations for replacement are often made based on a mileage interval, keep in mind that how your vehicle is used can also be a factor.  Operating your car under conditions termed “severe” accelerates the wearing on belts (as well as on other components) and will probably be noticeable on inspection.  Winters with freezing temperatures and summer heat in the triple digits would be classified as “severe” and become a factor in belt life. 

Remember, if you want to know what shape your car’s belts are in, give Palmer’s a call.  They can help.

Palmer’s NAPA Auto Care, Twin Falls   (208) 735-8810

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