Thursday, January 12, 2012 03:50
Belts and hoses don’t cost much individually, but if one of them fails you could be in for a huge bill to replace an overheated engine, or at the very least for an expensive ride on a tow truck to a repair shop. But unlike some systems on your car, which require electronic diagnostic tools to check and adjust, belts and hoses can be checked visually, in some instances in less time than it takes to read this article.
Start with the belts. Older cars might have as many as three belts driving the alternator, the air-conditioning compressor, and power steering pump. Later-model cars use a single belt, called a serpentine belt, which drives all of the auxiliary systems.
Both kinds of belts should be checked for cracks, uneven wear, and stripping—all are indications of impending failure—and checked for the right tension. A screeching sound coming from under the hood is a sure sign a belt is loose and slipping. During an engine oil change is a great time to inspect and replace accessory belts or, if necessary, adjust their tension to the specs in the shop manual.
The hoses everyone thinks of first are those that route coolant to and from the engine and radiator. But there are also hoses that send hot coolant to the heater core. Leaky hoses usually give themselves away by leaving a puddle of coolant on the ground, but by then it’s almost too late. Failure is right around the corner, if not closer. Check the hoses by hand, when they’re cool, to see if you feel any fluid on them, and check the clamps at either end of the hoses. Hoses that bulge when the engine is hot are likewise ticking time bombs.