You don’t have to know a lot about cars to change a fan belt, and that is a good thing because you could one day find yourself on the side of the road with a broken fan belt. Instead of being stranded, if you know how to replace your belt you can quickly get back on the road. Some of the process is intuitive, and some of it is mechanical, so with just a few tips, you should be able to change the fan belt in just about any car.
Does your fan belt need replacing?
The best way to reduce your chances of being stranded on the side of the road is by keeping an eye on all of your engine belts. Make it a habit to peak at your belts every time you open up the hood of your car, or at least when you stop for an oil change. You want to pull at the belts and check them for tension, extensive wear, or cracks. Uneven wear is also a sign of problems down the road. If you spot any of these things, then it is time to replace your belt.
How do you know it’s your fan belt?
If you find yourself on the side of the road, you may be confused about what happened, but if it’s your fan belt, there are a few predictors. Your fan belt is going bad if you notice your temperature gauge is rising every time that you stop but is not falling back down again when the car starts moving. Another telltale sign is a squeal that is coming from under the hood when the car moves. Either case means you need to change your fan belt sooner than later.
Take some pictures and prep beforehand
The largest mistake people make is they rip the old fan belt off and then have no idea how to put on the new one. The way a fan belt is threaded through the engine changes by vehicle, so it pays to look closely at how the fan belt is arranged under the hood. Your vehicle should have a description of it in the owner’s manual, or you can grab your phone and snap a few pictures, so there are no questions about it later.
How do I remove the fan belt?
Unless the belt has snapped, you are going to have to release the tensioner to get it off of the pulleys. The tensioner on the pully is very tight, so loosen it carefully with a wrench in the direction that is noted on the tensioner. Loosen it just enough to slip the belt off the pully and then once you get it off you can slip it off the other pulleys along the track.
What fan belt do I need?
Hopefully, you already have the new belt in hand, but if you don’t, then you are going to need to head to a parts store and grab one. You want a belt that is the same length as the old, but a little smaller if you can’t get the same size. The clerks at any auto store should be able to look up the model number. Be aware that some V8 engines have a double belt system, and if you replace one you need to replace the other. The tricky part is they have to be precisely the same, as in off the assembly line at the exact same time. Therefore, it’s not enough to get two of the same part number; you need to ask for a ‘matched set’ otherwise they will not fit right.
How do I get the new fan belt on?
Your tensioner should still be loose, but if it isn’t then you need to loosen it so that you can slip the belt over the pulleys. First, move it over all of the other pulleys, and end with the one that you loosened the tensioner on. If you are using a V belt, you need to make sure the V is properly even on all pulleys. Then tighten the tensioner to about the same tightness it was before. When you pull at the belt, you should only be able to slightly move it before there is obvious resistance.
You don’t want to pry the belt off the pulleys, regardless of how tempting that may seem because it will likely bend the pulleys which tend to be made out of thin metal. Instead, loosen them and institutively learn how to make the proper adjustments. The tensioner lives up to its name and can be surprisingly tight. Therefore, you may want to purchase a cheap tool at the auto store to help leverage the tensioner. They are usually pretty cheap and will cost less than the belt so its worth it in the long run.