August 15, 2022
Written by
Kate Rochat

Understanding The Three Drive Belts in Your Car

Drive belts are essential parts of your car that help it to run smoothly. A drive belt is similar to what you might expect - a loop of flexible material that keeps the engine running properly by safely transmitting power to different parts of your engine. 

Most cars have somewhere in the range of 1-3 drive belts: the Serpentine belt, V-belt, and Timing Belt. it is important to understand the purpose of each drive belt to be able to recognize when it is not functioning properly.

Here we will explain the different drive belts in your car, what they do, and how and when you need to replace them. 

Timing Belt

The timing belt connects the crankshaft to the camshaft. The crankshaft helps the engine’s pistons to rotate the engine’s pistons, and the camshaft helps open and close the engine valves. 

Rubber timing belts must be replaced relatively frequently, so many manufacturers have moved to using Timing Chains, because they do not need to be replaced very often.


A V-belt is a drive belt that runs off a crank and pulley system. It typically moves between one or two engine systems, and many older vehicles require several V-belts to power the different systems in the engine. V-belts are less common today, for a few reasons. While they perform the same job as a modern belt, they do not last as long as modern belts, and are more difficult to replace. 

Serpentine Belt

The serpentine belt lies under the hood and it helps to operate many systems in your vehicle by transporting power.  In contrast to a V-belt, it is the easiest to replace and maintain, hence why modern manufacturers prefer it. 

The serpentine belt is a very essential part of your car. It is a rubber belt that runs through the systems of your car to transport power to engine accessories. 

Serpentine belts are found in most cars produced past 1990. Thus, it is a modern drive belt that is simple to remove and replace. The serpentine belt transmits power to multiple systems within the vehicle, including the air conditioning (AC) compressor, the alternator, the water pump, and the power steering pump. When the engine is running, the serpentine belt is constantly in motion, transporting power to these systems to ensure the car continues to run properly and smoothly. 

How does this work? The serpentine belt transports energy to the different systems in the engine using a pulley system and tensioner that keeps the belt rotating at all times. 

Drive Belt Maintenance

You should replace the belts in your car approximately every 60,000 to 100,000 miles. However, there are also some clear indications that you might need to replace a drive belt. Though certain symptoms of a bad drive belt are shared with other mechanical issues, if you are experiencing any, it is definitely worth checking out, as the drive belts are essential pieces of your car’s functionality. Bad serpentine belt and bad V-belt symptoms are identical, while those of a timing belt are different.

Symptoms of a bad serpentine belt (or V-belt) include a squealing noise coming from the front of your car, a malfunctioning air conditioning, an overheating engine, and power steering not working. Lastly, if you can visibly see cracking on the serpentine belt, this is a very clear indication that you need a replacement. 

Symptoms of a bad timing belt include a ticking noise coming from the engine, a misfiring engine, an engine that will not ignite, or oil leaks from the front of the motor. 

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, get your drive belts checked out, because you might need a replacement. It is crucial that you get the issue diagnosed as soon as possible, because the drive belts are very essential to the proper functionality of your vehicle, and it is unsafe to drive with faulty drive belts.