Unless you’re a fairly experienced do-it-yourself-er when it comes to car care and maintenance, chances are that your know-how ends somewhere around oil changes, tire rotations, common parts replacements, and/or seasonal maintenance. Once you start taking a look under the hood, though (both literally and figuratively), you’ll quickly learn that there’s an entire world of parts to keep an eye on.
The layout of hoses and belts in your vehicle represent a somewhat intricate system that ensures functionality concerning anything from your transmission to your air conditioner to your power steering. It can be an intimidating system to keep straight, but once you understand how they’re made up and their role in your vehicle’s operations, you’ll have one more tool to diagnose issues that may arise. Let us break it down for you:
Oil, fuel, transmission fluid, and coolant are a few examples of what pass through the hoses in your vehicle each time it runs. Hoses are typically made out of a rubber compound designed to absorb vibrations that occur between the systems they connect, which helps lengthen their lifespan. As they get older, the rubber can become susceptible to cracks and leaks. And because a leaky hose can have dire effects on your vehicle, it’s recommended that you get them checked as part of your routine maintenance or if you suspect a leak.
Most experts agree that, if there are no issues with the hoses themselves, to replace them every four years or so.
- The Radiator/Bypass/Heater hoses all work together to carry coolant throughout your car’s engine and its heater core to maintain safe temperatures.
- The Fuel hose transports gas from the tank to the engine.
- The Power Steering hose connects the power steering pump to the gear that helps operate the steering.
When assessing the health of hoses, you should consider replacing them if they are cracked or leaking, swollen, and/or lack flexibility or are hard to the touch.
Through a sort of pulley system, belts in your car help power everything from accessories, like the air condition compressor, to more pivotal parts in your vehicle, like the power steering pump, the alternator, and water pumps.
Replacement periods vary depending on the type of belt. Generally speaking, all belts should be replaced, regardless of its age, if you notice any cracks, splits, or fraying on the belts themselves, or if any grooves are missing, causing the belt to become smooth and susceptible to overheating and cracking. A squealing noise upon accelerating your vehicle can also be a sign that a belt is starting to go out, too.
- The Serpentine belts are used in newer vehicles as the main belt that winds around your engine and powers just about everything, which means you should take care to replace it every five years or so, even though they may last longer.
- V belts are a series of belts that power the same accessories as the serpentine belt does, the difference being that V belts are typically found in older car models. Again, these should be replaced every five years or so.
- The Timing belt is a very important in that it determines the timing for when certain valves in the engine should open or close. A broken or slipped Timing belt will rapidly deteriorate and prevent the engine from running, which can cause serious damage to the engine. The maintenance schedule provided with your car should inform you of how often to replace this, but generally speaking, the Timing belt should be replaced every 60,000 to 100,000 miles or so.
- It is important to monitor the Serpentine or V belts in regards to tension. Belts that are too tight can wear out some of the bearings in the accessories (or even the engine itself) too quickly. Belts that are too loose can slip, which will destroy the belt.
Most Serpentine belts today are equipped with automatic tensioners so you shouldn’t have to do any manual tightening, and an indicator to let you easily see if the belt has been worn or stretched too far. V belts, on the other hand, almost always need to be manually adjusted.