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Drive Belts | GoMechanic Basics

Your car runs on numerous mechanical parts and gizmos. Among these are the drive belts! These are not the one that keeps your pants up. Here we are talking about the different types of mechanical belts, each having a very specific role to perform in your car. They do everything from cranking the alternator, powering the AC, running the water pump and many more.

In this aptly named GoMechanic Basics post, we are going to look into various types of mechanical car belts. So buckle up! (see what we did there?)

Serpentine Belt

Serpentine Belt
Serpentine Belt

The serpentine belt is also known as multi-v, poly-v, multi-rib or simply drive belts. A serpentine belt is a long snake-like winding belt that wraps around various peripherals of the car engine. It is also responsible for powering the AC compressor, power steering pump, radiator fan and alternator. The serpentine belt draws power from the crankshaft via the crankshaft pulley. It is guided by a belt tensioner or an idler pulley.

Serpentine belts are made of heavy-duty grade rubber, with newer belts being made of EPDM or Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer, which claim to last up to 1,00,000 km. However, in reality, most belts show signs of wear after the 60,000 km mark and it is recommended to replace the serpentine belt after 80,000 km.

Also read: 5 Signs That Your Car’s Drive Belt Is Failing

Advantages Of Serpentine Belts:

  1. Serpentine belts are more efficient and use less space in the engine bay, allowing for a more compact engine form.
  2. Moreover, serpentine belts are easily available and cheap to replace as they don’t require multiple disassemblies.
  3. As the engine utilises a single serpentine belt for various operations, there is no chance for multiple belt failure.
  4. In addition to this, serpentine belts are self-adjusting and require no manual adjustment.

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Disadvantages Of Serpentine Belts:

  1. A serpentine belt is a single belt powering numerous components. Therefore, a failed belt will cause multiple component failures (AC, compressor, water pump etc).
  2. A loose belt will affect all the peripherals that are powered through the serpentine belt.

Signs For A Failing Serpentine Belt:

  1. High-pitched squealing noise from the engine bay.
  2. Visible cracks and tears on the serpentine belt.
  3. Sudden component failure (Power steering, AC etc).

Also Read: What happens when you don’t service your car AC?


They are also known as wedge-type belts. Their name is derived from their shape which is roughly trapezoidal (like a “V”). They also draw power from the engine. But unlike serpentine belt, they are limited to power only a few components usually one or two.

Flat belts were used before. V-belts replaced them as the former was inefficient. Due to their wedge type form factor, V-belts are used a lot in power transmission. Besides, they also come with pros like higher load pulling capacity and reduced torque tension. V-belts are made up of hard rubber, neoprene, and urethane.

Advantages Of A V-Belt:

  1. V-belts are shorter in length, unlike serpentine belts.
  2. Additionally V-belts power only a few components at a time, thereby no multiple component failures.
  3. Therefore, if a single V-belt fails, other components won’t be affected.

Disadvantages Of A V-Belt:

  1. V-belts are now being replaced by serpentine belts. Hence, the former is now hard to find and are expensive.
  2. All the V-belts in the car will more or less wear at the same rate. You will find replacing a lot of belts during a service.
  3. Moreover, a loose V-belt can adversely damage the component it is powering.

Signs For A Failing V-Belt

  1. High pitch squealing noise similar to serpentine belts
  2. A component failure like the alternator not charging the battery
  3. Worn pulley bearings

Timing Belt

Prevent car overheating
Timing Belt

They are also called a crankshaft drive belt or a Gilmer belt. A timing belt is a toothed belt that performs the function of syncing the valves and cylinder with the pistons and the crankcase. But, the timing belt is not visible in the engine bay and is usually hidden behind an engine cover. Earlier, manufacturers used a timing chain to achieve the same goal, but there were efficiency issues. So they replaced it with the timing belt.

Advantages Of A Timing Belt:

  1. With the timing belt, there would be a lesser chance of adverse damage to the valves and the pistons.
  2. Furthermore, timing belts have a high mechanical efficiency of up to 98%.

Disadvantages Of A Timing Belt:

  1. However, a failed timing belt can cause catastrophic engine damage.
  2. An out of sync timing belt can also mess up the valve and piston timings

Signs For A Failing Timing Belt:

  1. Rough idling or ticking noise from the engine
  2. Check engine warning or engine failure

    Check Engine Light
    Check Engine Light

How To Take Care Of Your Car Drive Belts

  1. Keep the belts away from engine oil, water/moisture and debris.
  2. Make sure the components are in good shape to avoid stress on the belts
  3. Always perform routine inspections and checks
  4. And finally, replace them periodically or when recommended

Congratulations! You have earned a black belt. These were all the basics you need to know about car belts.

Need help with your drive belts? We are here to indulge your car servicing needs. Download the GoMechanic App Now!

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Read next: How to Spot a Counterfeit Fake Spare Part | An Expert Analysis

Akshat Ajeya
Lead, Content & Creatives at GoMechanic | Automobile Scale Model Collector | DIY guy | Consumer of many foods | CVT is not that bad


  1. Timing Belts are one of the most important parts of Power Transmission drives. Timing Belt can be best described as Belt with integrally moulded teeth on its inside which makes positive engagement with axially grooved pulley. Timing Belt is also known as synchronous Belt or positive-drive Belt. A timing Belt drive is not considered as a substitute or replacement to other modes of Belt drives.
    Timing Belts exhibit important properties such as fixed speed ratio, no re-tensioning after installation, low maintenance with a wide variety of power transmission capacities and drive speeds.

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