Automotive Maintenance And Detailing


Automotive Maintenance And Detailing

What is the vehicle fan belt?.

All vehicles with internal combustion engines have either a fan belt or drive belt. This fan is by no means a cabin fan, but a radiator fan in the engine compartment.

It plays a significant role in cooling the radiator, where the radiator water cools the engine and transmission and drives other equipment such as air compressor, steering power pump, engine water pump, and alternator, etc. The rotation of belts is power directly from the engine crankshaft.

When your car is operating normally, you will see the temperature gauge at the center level. But when the radiator temperature rises, for example, due to a damaged fan belt, it will show you a red warning light and “STOP” sign of overheating water temperature.

Drive belts on an engine

In most rear-wheel-drive cars, the engine installs straight back with a fan is attached to the front, behind the radiator, as shown in this picture. You can see it from a pickup truck, a large truck, or some old car.

But if the vehicle is a front-wheel-drive type, place the engine transversely in the engine room.   You’ll find that those cars don’t have a fan belt that directly rotates the fan, as it uses an electric motor to spin the radiator fan instead.

The fan belts drive the other devices like air conditioning compressors, power steering pumps, engine water pumps, and alternators.

Rear wheel drive engine with a fan & Belts
Front wheel drive engine with transversely mounted

What does It look alike?

The drive or fan belt, typically,  has a V shape, and it has a V-shaped pulley as well. Besides, there are also other appearances, such as wide belts and several small V-grooves arranged, its grooves can be both sides, either top, and bottom, or just one on the bottom.

These belts have the main structure made of small wires covered with rubber. It can bend according to the shape of the pulley and the drive wheels of each type of equipment installed along the belt rotation line.

The belts have limited life equipment, so you should check them regularly. Older belts will begin to develop worn tires, such as cracks on the outer surface or torn sides. Also, there will be an unusual sound alarm when it rotates, for example. The sound of the wind all the time or when starting the engine for a few minutes then disappears.

Front wheel drive engine with transversely mounted

What is different between a fan belt and a serpentine belt ?.

In the past, it always said that the belt installed in front of an engine was a fan belt. Old cars had several belts acting at a different function at the same time that the crankshaft rotated, such as power steering pump belts, engine water pump belts, alternator belts, and air compressor belts.

Modern Japanese, American or European vehicles are now switching to a new drive belt, called the serpentine belt. This single belt drives much essential equipment at the same time. Because modern cars, whether the engine is straight or transverse, most of them switch to a motor-driven electric radiator fan instead of a belt driving.

Therefore, the serpentine belt is the preferred drive device on most vehicles today.

Example of installing a serpentine belt to drive all equipments

However, even though serpentine belts have been using more to drive equipment instead of fan belts, they are not the same as the old ones. That is because modern cars use electrical systems to power devices, such as the use of an electric power steering pump.

This pump uses a motor mounted directly to the pump without the need for engine power. Or the engine cooling water pump that carries cooling water from the radiator to cool the engine, a timing belt-driven pump installed separately in the engine body is used instead. No fan or serpentine belts are required, depending on the vehicle design.

What will happen if the fan belt broke?.

If the fan belt is broke, you may experience some malfunctions in the vehicle you are driving.

  1. Steering is difficult, heavier steer the wheels than usual. That is because the power steering pump does not run, so the oil does not flow into the steering rack.
  2. The radiator temperature warning light is on. In the case of pickup trucks or cars that use the fan belt to spin the radiator fan, when the belt is broke, it can cause the radiator water temperature to be too high and will cause your car engine to knock.
  3. The battery warning light is on. The alternator stops generating electricity to the batteries and necessary equipment. It causes the battery to decrease the current, causing the equipment of the car to stop working accordingly, and finally, you cannot start the engine because the battery power is not enough.
  4. The air conditioning does not work. The air compressor stops rotating because it is a device that uses engine power to drive through a belt. The air conditioning compressor has a clutch to run, and that requires a lot of engine power to spin it. However, now there are electrically driven air compressors for use in electric vehicles.

So what you should do is to observe the possible malfunction in the engine compartment. You should have a regular maintenance schedule by open the bonnet to check the belt at least once a month.

When should you change the belts?

In case you do not have a lot of mechanic knowledge, you can have a workshop mechanic check it out. Usually, these belts have a lifespan of 100,000 km or about 60,000 miles, and some of them may have a longer lifespan, such as 200,000 km or 125,000 miles.


The check is performed by looking for and touching any abnormalities on the belt drive. Watch for any tear in the belt, most likely starting from the side of the belt. Old, worn belts tear apart lines on the sides. Also, look at the belt groove on the side of the pulley surface. There will be cracks along the rubber belt. If you have a tool, you may remove the belt by detaching the belt tensioner and checking the entire belt condition.


You can check the maintenance schedule from the owner’s manual.


We advise you not to replace it at the end of its service life, even if its appearance still appears to be free of wear. In many cases, the belt break is caused by the deterioration of the metal wire hidden inside the rubber shroud.

The belts are very inexpensive, so you can buy and replace them yourself or have them replaced for up to $ 200. We think it’s a worthwhile investment in exchange for the damage done to your car, even your life, especially when you are on the road.

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