What is a Serpentine Belt or Drive Belt and Drive Belt Service

GM Serpentine drive belt system for Corvette

What is a Serpentine Belt or Drive Belt and Drive Belt Service

Why Do You Need The Drive Belt / Serpentine Belt Service

Serpentine Belt or Drive Belt Service


What is a serpentine belt or drive belt?

Drive Belt, Serpentine Belt, and V-Belt are basically different names for the same thing. The Drive Belt / Serpentine Belt is a rubber belt mounted on the exterior of your car engine. The belt is driven by your engine and is used to power or drive the accessory devices that are needed to make your car functional. The accessory devices may include the Alternator, Air Conditioner Compressor (AC Compressor), Power Steering, and/or Water Pump. Often times, you will hear a mechanic or vehicle service advisor name the belt after the device that it powers. For example, “AC Belt” refers to the Drive Belt that powers the AC Compressor for deliver cold air to your climate control (HVAC).

Why so many names for the same thing?

As technology has changed and improved on cars over the years, so has the names and the components they reference.  As with any industry, you have the veterans mixing with the younger generations and each has learned to refer to a part by a certain name. Eventually, it all becomes a melting pot. It is important for the service staff to define what they are describing to the car owners.

What is the difference between the belt types?


  • V-Belts –These were the original Drive Belts. They are aptly named for their V shape. Manufactured with older rubber and synthetic compounds, they have a shorter life span than modern drive belts. They are generally found on cars manufactured prior to 1990 and are used to only power one or two accessory devices. Older cars may have as many as 5 V-Belts.
  • Drive Belt– Made with modern synthetic rubber compounds these belts are flat, wide, and thin with anywhere from three to seven ribs or grooves. The strength of the belt needed to power a device is determined by the vehicle engineers. In general, the wider the belt or the more ribs it has, the stronger it is. Belts are of different sizes and thicknesses are not interchangeable.
  • Serpentine Belt– The Serpentine Belt is the name given to a Drive Belt that powers multiple Devices / Accessories. Most modern cars have only one or two belts that power everything.

Drive Belt, Ribbed Belt, ribbed belt, DescriptionWhat determines if the Drive Belts are bad or failing…

As the rubber of the belt dries from heat and hardens due to age it starts to deteriorate, usually within 5 years and 40,000 miles. Symptoms will be:

  • Cracking
  • Noise, squeak or squeal coming from the engine that sometimes will be louder when cold and disappear when hot. Usually indicates a bad Drive Belt Tensioner or old belt that is now slipping.
  • Depending on what the drive belt powers, potential symptoms may be Check Engine Light, engine overheats, Battery Warning Light, hard or tough steering, loss of electrical power, and no air conditioning or poorly operating defroster.


Our Recommendations:

Drive Belts should be inspected at every service. During Drive Belt replacement, the mechanic needs to check the Drive Belt Tensioner Assembly and the idler pulleys that support it as these items are prone to failure and can damage a new Drive Belt when they fail.

Why do you need the Drive Belt / Serpentine Belt serviced?

Since, the Drive Belt powers multiple accessories that are critical to the drivability and functional use of your car, a broken drive belt can render your car stranded and useless, thus require a tow truck.  If the drive belt that powers your power steering breaks or snaps while driving, a sudden loss of steering can be extremely dangerous to you and other drivers. If the belt breaks, it can take out or damage nearby equipment, such as the radiator. Therefore, it can save you money to replace the drive belt before it brakes.


At Sprint Motorsports, we take pride in caring for our customers, and are invigorated by the opportunity to provide competent and comprehensive automotive repair services. We strive to be the leading repair, tuning, and race facility in the Campbell, Los Gatos, Saratoga, Cupertino, San Jose, Los Altos, Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, Willow Glen, Evergreen, Rose Garden, Cambrian, and Almaden Areas of the South Bay Area and Silicon Valley while providing you personalized, detailed, and friendly service. Our relationships are built on trust, communication, integrity, and commitment to our purpose; to be the best shop we can be to you, the customer.


Give your car the proper love and car that it needs by experts with the proper tooling and equipment and avoid using the ill-equipped mobile mechanics.


We stand behind our work with a 2 year warranty!!
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To schedule an appointment for auto repair, major or minor services, please contact service@sprint-motorsports.com or 408-831-3730. We welcome you to stop by our auto repair shop located at 2099 S 10th Street, Unit 40, San Jose, Ca 95112.  If you have any questions about your car’s repair needs, performance, or maintenance, ask our friendly and expert staff for assistance.