How to Tell if Your Belts and Hoses Are Going Bad

  • By Morgan Gertler
  • 29 Aug, 2017
You probably pay little attention to your car’s belts and hoses on a regular basis. However, they can cause major issues when they go bad. It is crucial to keep an ear out for unusual noises, visually check your belts and hoses regularly, and have them professionally inspected according to your car manufacturer’s recommended service schedule. Here is a list of the belts and hoses in a typical vehicle, along with what they do and how to tell if there is a potential problem.


The top radiator hose carries coolant to the radiator for cooling, while the bottom radiator hose returns the cooled fluid to the water pump, through the thermostat, and then into the engine. The bypass hose transports cooled fluid directly from the water pump to the engine, bypassing the thermostat for faster engine temperature regulation when needed, such as during initial warm-up. The heater hose circulates hot coolant to the passenger compartment heating system.

These hoses tend to lose their strength and flexibility over time. Look for signs of hardening, bulging or swelling, and cracks. Leaks can also develop, so look for any liquid on the outside of a hose. If you notice any signs of damage, have the hoses checked as soon as possible.

V-Belts or Serpentine Belt

Your car’s systems may be controlled by a series of v-belts or a single serpentine belt. Either way, these belts power the water pump, alternator, cooling fans, and power steering system. A belt failure would almost certainly cause the vehicle to break down, and repairs could be costly, so it is very important to ensure that this does not happen

Visually inspect these belts for splits or cracks, excess grease or a glazed appearance, and wear or damage along the edges. Also listen for a squealing noise, especially during acceleration. If you notice any of these symptoms, take your car to a qualified auto technician right away.

Timing Belt

The timing belt (or timing chain) is responsible for keeping the camshaft and crankshaft synced up. A failure will likely cause major engine damage, which may require a full engine replacement. Therefore, the timing belt or chain must be replaced as scheduled by the car’s manufacturer due to natural degradation over time.

Inspect the timing belt or chain regularly, looking for worn or sheared teeth, cracks or excessive wear, edge damage, and contamination by oil or grease. Difficulty starting the vehicle and a high-pitched shriek or whir during starting or idling are also clues that the timing belt or chain is going bad. Have your car inspected immediately if you notice any of these signs.

Belt Tensioners

Belt tensioners are pulleys that maintain consistent torque and tension on the car’s belts. When a belt tensioner fails, the belt it supports will no longer be able to properly do its job. A squealing or rattling sound from the engine compartment could mean that a belt tensioner has come loose. Have your car checked out as soon as you can.

Belts and hoses are not the most glamorous parts of your car. When they fail, though, the consequences can be severe. Keep an eye on them, have them checked or replaced at designated intervals, and always have them inspected immediately if you notice any signs of impending failure.
If you are tired of getting the runaround and being treated like you haven’t got a clue, we invite you to try Colchin Automotive instead. Give us a call at 303-431-5421 for all of your automotive needs!

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