The serpentine belt came off while driving but didn’t break. Causes

A serpentine belt is simply a single long belt that holds many essential components together to ensure they keep working. This belt is convenient and effective in ensuring the reliable functionality of these engine accessories. The best part is that this belt is very easy to maintain and replace.

Why does the serpentine belt fall off, but doesn’t break?

Many may associate the serpentine belt with a snake-like object. That mindset is somewhat accurate since this belt is long and winding to connect components like the power steering pump, air conditioning compressor, and alternator to the crankshaft pulley.

But why does the Serpentine belt fall off while driving?

The answer is simple. It is due to the damaged or worn-out tensioner pulleys, which throw the belt off. Usually, the serpentine belt falling issue is due to misalignment of pulleys, belt tensioners, and defective bearings on the tensioner.

Causes of serpentine belt detachment

1. A Damaged Belt Tensioner

If the belt tensioner pulley is damaged, it causes unusual wear and fraying on the edges of the serpentine belt. This makes it break, thus falling off.

2. Pulley Misalignment

Also, if the pulley isn’t aligned in the correct position of the machine, it tends to put more pressure on its important components, making them wear off. This, in turn, makes the serpent belt fall off.

3. Bad Tensioner Bearings

If there’s an abnormal noise in your car, then it’s likely that your tensioner bearing is defective. This causes the engine to have gas and ignition, which affects the normal operation of your vehicle. A broken tensioner bearing produces a harsh noise while accelerating.

Immediate symptoms of a detached serpentine belt

The serpentine belt is not much prone to failure, but at times it can fall. If your serpentine belt falls while you are driving but does not break, you will see the following symptoms.

1. Sudden Loss of Power Steering Power

When your serpentine belt falls, the steering power stops functioning as expected. You may not notice at high speed, but the slower you get, the more your steeling wheel will reflect the power loss.

2. Alternator fails to power the electrics

The main purpose of the alternator is to power up the electronics and recharge your car’s battery. If the serpentine belt jumps, the alternator will not power up your car’s electronics, your radio will not work, the battery will die, and your car’s headlight will start to dim.

In some cases, the car stalls shortly after

3. Water pump stops circulating the coolant of the engine

The main work of the water pump is to circulate engine coolants through the engine cooling system. A fallen serpentine means that your engine cooling system does not function in the right way. If you notice that your engine is overheating, check to confirm if your serpentine belt has detached.

4. Your Vehicle gets into the Limp Mode

The computer system (ECU) on your car may initiate the limp mode that protects the car from further damage to the engine. You should check for a fallen serpentine belt in case your car gets into limp mode.

What damage does a serpentine belt that has just jump off?

When the serpentine belt is detached, the engine accessories won’t function anymore, leading to decreased power to the electrical system.

This might result in a sudden loss of power that helps the steering system, making it hard to turn the steering wheel.

A fall-off serpentine belt will also make the water pump stop circulating coolant via the cooling system, causing the engine to overheat.

The alternator will then stop generating the power to operate the car’s electronic systems and recharge the battery. Your car headlights may, in turn, become dim while the radio will fail to work, and shortly after, the vehicle stops.

Solutions for a serpentine belt that fell

If your car’s serpentine belt jumped off, you should try solving the by checking the possible cause of the problem. If the belt tensioner is damaged, you should repair it or replace it with a new one.

Also, check to ensure that the pulley is correctly aligned. If not, ensure that you align them in the right way. Lastly, check for defective tensioner bearing and replace them with working ones.

These operations are quite hard to do and tricky, so my advice is to go to an authorized service to perform these tasks.

Does a serpentine belt give warning signs before it can jump or break?

A serpentine belt can cause many problems when it fails. Here are some signs you will know when your serpentine belt is about to jump off:

The serpentine belt produces squealing sounds

If you hear as if the vehicle is producing the squealing sounds, check your serpentine belt as soon as possible. Usually, it happens when the belt slips or is misaligned.

The belt pulley has a slight play

In most cars, you can see the serpentine belt spin in the engine compartment. Check to see if the pulley has some play, even if the serpentine belt is not worn out.

The serpentine belt show some signs of wear

If the serpentine belt looks worn, especially if it has some cracks on it, it’s an obvious symptom that it could break, causing the same consequences as when it comes off.

Bottom line

In a nutshell, a serpentine belt is among the most vital components of the car’s engine. Without this belt, the engine won’t work properly.

As such, it’s vital to check it regularly to ensure it’s working smoothly, and not only the belt, but the pulley and tensioner as well. Remember, monthly maintenance of your car is of utmost importance as it will help detect any defects.

As discussed above, a failing serpentine belt may prevent the car from functioning properly, including the ability of your engine to charge effectively. So, do all it takes to prevent all these problems.

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