Is the area where the belt lives oily


Look in the owner's manual; there's usually a routing diagram. With a half-dozen pulleys to choose from, it's possible, sometimes, to install the Automotive V Belts the wrong way. It might look right, but spinning the a/c compressor or water pump backwards isn't good. If the belt is hard to install or seems to fit poorly, you may have it routed incorrectly. Don't freak-sometimes the water pump is driven by the flat, back side of the belt. Any pulley that has grooves on it is intended to contact the grooved side of the belt. If you need to, sketch the correct routing down before you remove the old belt. As a last resort, check the shop manual.

Most cars provide a common 3/8-in.-sq hole in the tensioner's arm to release the tensioner. Simply use a ratchet to loosen the belt, and unthread it from the pulleys. Inspect the belt for damage. Cracks across the ribs are the most common indication of a belt that's simply at the end of its life span. Little rubber bands of rib, tufts of fiberglass reinforcing belt or disintegrating belt edges are indications of a problem with the pulleys, idlers or tensioners. A high-mileage belt that's just looking worn can simply be replaced. If there are other indications of damage from misalignment, get out the straightedge and make note of what isn't square.

A bent accessory-mounting bracket can make a pulley crooked, and you'll need to realign it. A steel bracket could be bent back into place, but a couple of shim washers might be a better option. If you're replacing a belt because of a fried alternator or seized a/c compressor, don't assume the new accessory or bracket will run true either.

Check the tensioner. The pulley should freewheel smoothly. The spring should have an appropriate amount of tension (which you can check with a belt tension gauge once the belt is installed), and there should be no friction in the pivot. Tensioner assemblies are usually not very expensive. Ditto for any idler pulleys, which should spin freely. We replaced the tensioner on our Suburban and added a drop of threadlocker to the bolt. The tensioner came with a new bolt-nice.

Is the area where the belt lives oily? Engine oil will rapidly degrade the rubber in the belt. Repair any leaky engine seals, like the crankshaft or camshaft front seal, or any gaskets-lest the new belt should go south in short order. Clean up any old oil too.

Check all the pulleys as well. Old rubber or dirt can build up in the bottom of the pulley grooves. You may need to clean the grooves with brake cleaner or a wire brush to remove any debris.

It's a simple matter to install a new tensioner and reinstall the belt, holding the tensioner slack with one hand as you thread the last pulley. Once the belt's in place, start the engine and let it idle for a minute or two. Check the belt tension by looking at the tensioner arm-the mark cast into the tensioner body will fall between the high and low marks if the belt is the correct part number and is installed to see more information.

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