Driving your car can be an adventure, but when your car suddenly makes a strange noise, it becomes an opportunity to learn more about how your car works. Ever wonder why your car is making an alarming squealing sound when you turn it on? What could be the cause? Are there any solutions to remedy the problem? Is it expensive to fix? Let’s answer these questions, look at why your car engine could be starting to squeal, and explain what steps to take next.

What’s the Problem?

If your engine is squealing when you start your car or make a U-turn, it could signify several things going wrong. However, most commonly, this is a sign that your serpentine belt needs to be replaced. The serpentine belt connects to all of the main components of your vehicle. It drives the power steering pump, alternator, water pump, and air conditioning compressor. So if your serpentine belt is wearing out and starting to fail, it will make some noise.

Sometimes that noise is a persistent squealing, and sometimes, it’s a loud chirp. Regardless, this will happen during acceleration, start-up, and during a U-turn. On the other hand, if your vehicle is squealing while you’re braking, it’s likely not the serpentine belt but the brakes themselves.

How Important is the Serpentine Belt?

Although a worn serpentine belt doesn’t mean you can’t drive your vehicle, it is an important part overall. If you hear a squeal coming from under the hood of your car and you haven’t replaced the belt in more than 60,000 to 100,000 miles or five years (whichever comes first), then you should have a mechanic look at it.

How Does a Serpentine Belt Work?

A serpentine belt works by connecting to the grooves on each pulley mounted on the engine. The pulleys turn at various speeds depending on what drive system they’re operating, but the pulleys work together much like gears do in a transmission system. The serpentine belt allows these different drive systems to operate at their own speed while still connecting them all to one power source: the crankshaft pulley.

Three Common Serpentine Belt Issues

Now that you know more about how a serpentine belt works and why it’s important let’s look at some common problems with this part.

  • Cracked or Worn Belt – As mentioned above, the serpentine belt has groves that fit into a pulley system. Over time and many miles, the friction of the system wears down those grooves, resulting in a belt with a looser fit. A worn belt will begin to slip, and that slip is what causes the squealing sound. A worn belt may sound frustrating, but alternatively, the belt can become so worn it cracks and breaks off altogether.
  • Improper Belt Tension – A serpentine belt can become loose with wear, but it can also be too tight. Improper tension in a belt can cause it to fall out of alignment and or slip off from the pulley system entirely.
  • Failing Pulley System – Sometimes, it’s not the serpentine belt that has the issue but the pulley system itself. A failing pulley can cause misalignment and slippage. Have your mechanic check that the pulleys are working as they should if you’ve recently had a serpentine belt replaced and are still having squealing issues.

Need a Belt Replacement?

Thankfully, replacing a serpentine belt is a relatively quick and low-cost service. However, because a broken serpentine belt can leave your car inoperable, leading to an expensive towing service, we recommend coming into Master Muffler Riverton when a squealing sound begins. Contact us today or set up an appointment at one of our many locations.