Replacing a Squeaky Alternator or Auxiliary Drive Belt
For inexperienced car owners, hearing talk of worn, snapped, cracked or squeaking alternator or auxiliary drive belts can sound very technical and more than a little intimidating. However, the repairs needed are not actually that complex and with some care, they can certainly be tackled by a newcomer to motor maintenance. One of the most important tools in the maintenance of your car is your eyes; look at your motor and get to know how it is put together; learn the names for the parts and much of what once seemed complex will become simple and familiar.
Firstly, many people want to know what the difference is between an alternator and an auxiliary drive belt; the fact is that they are exactly the same thing. In the past the belt was called a “fan belt” but that was in the days before electronics became a part of motor technology. So what this belt does is to support the auxiliary systems in your car; such as power steering, your alternator and your air conditioning for example. If this wears and eventually breaks then the systems reliant upon it will break down too.
Replacing the belt
Firstly you’ll need to ascertain that it is in fact worn; if it needs replacing then the belt will appear frayed or “chewed” looking; the other issue which becomes apparent on a worn belt is that it will appear looser than it should do. Check the tension of the belt by giving it a little push; if it moves more than half an inch, then it needs replacing.
Remove the belt by releasing the tension; this is done via the tensioner pulley. Bear in mind that depending upon the make and model of your car, the belt will be wound round a number of pulleys. You can find the tensioner pulley by looking for a rotating bracket which will be attached to the engine block. Remove the belt with a ratchet.
Before you begin to remove the belt ensure that you memorise exactly the way in which it is wound and attached to your car. You can photograph it in the various main points of contact, and this will be a useful tool to refer back to when you want to fit the new belt.
Replace the old belt with the new one
As you replace the old belt with the new one, wind it around all of the necessary points carefully; all of the time making sure that your work corresponds to the pictures you took. Leave the alternator till last and adjust the tensioner in order that you may fit the new belt, taking care to re-tension it once your new belt is in place.
Finally, double check the placement of the new belt via the photographs and ensure that it looks exactly the same with no deviation. Once again, give the belt a gentle push as you did when checking its condition; it should remain firm with no give at all.
As with all motor repairs, be very careful as you work and take care to dispose of any potentially dangerous parts with care.