How Long Can You Drive a Car with a Bad Serpentine Belt?

Broken car serpentine belt


How long can you drive a car with a bad serpentine belt?

A car with a broken serpentine belt should not be driven for more than 2-3 miles which is 3-5 minutes of driving.

Driving a car with a broken serpentine belt can cause further damage to other parts of the car’s engine and cause the  vehicle to overheat The best practice to follow is to pull over to a secure place and call a technician and the towing company.


Can you drive with a bad serpentine belt?

It is highly recommended to avoid driving a car with a broken serpentine belt.

A car shouldn’t be driven with a worn-out serpentine belt as it might end up damaging the overall functioning of other parts of the engine. The serpentine belt is used to operate several adjoining devices of the car engine. Water pumps, AC system, power steering, and alternator are a few of such components.


What happens if the serpentine belt breaks while driving?

A broken serpentine belt will lead to numerous dysfunctions within the engine. Some repercussions could be the power steering ceasing to function, interruption in running of the water pump and no cooling of the AC system or even a complete stoppage of power generation due to a malfunctioned alternator.


Power Steering

The power steering system will not work if the belt breaks. The power steering pump is controlled and run by the serpentine belt. The pump generates hydraulic pressure which aids in the ease of steering the wheels. This entire process of steering will become extremely difficult and may result in detrimental situations if the car is in motion.


Water Pump

The water pump may stop running due to a faulty serpentine belt. The function of this pump is to aid in maintaining the temperature of the engine and ensure that it functions properly. The water pump assists in a steady flow of coolant which will be hampered if the belt breaks.


Air Conditioning System

The AC system will stop working entirely with a defective belt. The belt also contributes to the effortless functioning of the compressor of the AC system so that a refrigerant is released continuously maintaining a cool temperature inside the car.

However, a deficient belt will impede the entire cooling system; successively preventing the air conditioning system to function.



All electronic accessories that run on the battery will stop working if the alternator does not perform its function due to a broken serpentine belt. The alternator is responsible for maintaining a starting charge in the car battery which drives all other electric accessories like lights, radio, chargers, etc. This may result in the dimming and flickering of the lights inside the car.

In case any of the above issues occur, the best alternative is to stop the car right away to avoid any further damage and call for help from the nearest car service provider.

How often do serpentine belts break?

The serpentine belt is not likely to break unless the quality deteriorates after continuous usage over a period of time. Most serpentine belts will last 50,000 to 100,000 miles of driving before it may break.

The major reason behind this is because it is subject to constant abrading and heat. However, at the onset of such an outcome, the belt needs to be restored and fixed at the earliest.


How long will a cracked car fan belt last?

The average lifespan of a car serpentine belt is up to 5 years.

If the cracks on the serpentine belt are spotted at a distance of 3mm from each other all over the belt, then it might be reaching towards the end of its lifespan and requires replacement. Minor cracks at larger intervals should not be a problem. However, the emergence of cracks indicates that the belt is halfway through its functioning lifespan.

The best course of action is to inspect ridged belts every time the car gets its oil changed or is sent to the garage for maintenance.

Additionally, the position of the self-aligning mechanism indicator will help in finding a faulty belt long before it breaks.


Will a car run without a serpentine belt?

A car can run for approximately 2-3 miles without a working serpentine belt before the engine may begin to overheat.

One of the functions of the belt is to provide power to other accessories of the car, so it may start, but the drive may not be long.

Another issue with driving without the belt will be that the battery might get discharged and the car may not start again ultimately. A discharged battery may require a boost from jumper cables in such instances.


Can a bad serpentine belt cause check engine light?

The check engine light can appear on the car’s dashboard if the serpentine belt is cracked or broken, thereby rendering the other accessories inoperative. The fault displaying light for power steering may also be lit up along with the battery light due to lack of power to the charging system.

If the temperature of the engine also rises to dangerous levels and is indicated likewise through the flashing light, it is best to pull over the car until it cools down.


Can a bad serpentine belt cause loss of power?

A damaged serpentine belt can result in loss of power to the automobile’s crucial components like power steering, AC system, alternator and water pump.

The name itself suggests that it is a long twisting snake-like belt that enables smooth running of these vital components. It also causes the battery to deteriorate.


Does the serpentine belt affect the transmission?

The serpentine belt does not affect the functioning of the car transmission directly. The smooth running of a car transmission straightaway is dependent on the proper functioning of the car engine, regardless of the transmission type (manual, automatic and CVT).


Can I run my engine without a serpentine belt?

The engine can run without the serpentine belt for about 3-5 minutes provided the temperature is under control and constantly monitored.

Since many automotive components are badly affected due to the poor functioning of the belt, the engine would not run for a longer period of time without a rise in temperature to unsafe levels.

If the engine is started after it is stone-cold, it might run for a couple of more minutes. Some technicians follow this method to identify if there is an issue with the starter belt tensioner.


How to fix a broken serpentine belt?

The serpentine belt cannot be repaired once damaged and should only be replaced by a new one. The cost involved to replace one is quite economical. Typically, it may range between $25 and $75 USD.

The belt can be repaired by anyone who is nifty with tools and who understands the basics of car repair. If one is not confident with tools, calling for a mechanic will be a good decision. However, the labor charges would add up to the cost and range somewhere around $75 to $120.

Please refer to the below list of tools that will be necessary to ease installation before fixing your broken serpentine belt:


New Serpentine Belt

The new belt should be of the same width and size as the old serpentine belt. A serpentine belt made from EPDM rubber is the best choice due to its durability and sturdiness.

The model and make of the car are also important things to be considered while buying the replacement belt along with the engine size. This information is required as not all cars have the same specifications of their engines.


Crank & Lever Set or a Socket Set

These sets of tools will be required to release the tensioner while placing the belt. One may already possess this set in the car which will be good enough to use when required.


Serpentine belt tool (optional)

This tool, if availed correctly, saves a lot of time and effort in releasing the tensioner and replacing the belt. The added advantage is that it can be used in various kinds of cars as it is available with an array of sockets.


Safety gear

When it’s related to safety, one should not take any risks. It’s best to use safety gloves and goggles throughout the replacement process as it involves work that is direct with the engine. After all, safety is a priority and always should come first.


  1. Note the positioning of the belt

One must understand the location and the weaved path of the belt. One can also take a few pictures to see how the belt winds through the pulleys. One can either browse through the car manual or check online to get the car’s exact routing diagram.

It is also necessary to ensure that the car is parked on a flat surface with brakes applied and intact and that the engine is also turned off. The hood should be open and the front side of the engine should be easily accessible.


  1. Release the tension and unfasten the belt

Locate the belt tensioner which secures the belt and use a wrench to remove the bolt and release the tension. Once this is done, the process of taking off the belt from the pulleys will be effortless.


  1. Evaluate for damage

The damage caused to the belt needs to be checked thoroughly to understand whether the fault is in the belt or misaligned pulleys. If the latter is the cause of damage, then installing a new belt may not be sufficient and the pulleys will also need to be restored or fixed.

This also may be an accurate time to check for any oil leakage. It is also a good practice to clean the pulleys of any dirt.


  1. Affix the new serpentine belt

The process of installation is as easy as positioning the belt on the same path as the old one, fastening the tensioner which should be centered on the pulleys. This can be performed by the same wrench or tool used to release the tension earlier.

Before beginning the procedure, it is recommended to check and compare the width and size of the old and the new serpentine belt. A minor difference in length is alright as the old one might have been overstretched due to wear and tear.

It is preferable to start the engine and check if it is running properly for 1-2 minutes before the car is taken for a drive. The entire procedure should not take more than one hour if all materials are gathered in advance.

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