The accessory belt, which is located on the front of the engine, is an important part that controls the function of the vehicle. It may also be called the serpentine belt, which is a much more mysterious sounding name but means the same thing. The reason for its name is that it wraps around different pulleys much like a snake.

Now that you’ll never forget what a serpentine or accessory belt is, you want to know its purpose. It controls components, such as the air conditioning system and alternator. It may also operate the water pump and power steering.

How the serpentine belt works

This belt replaces the multiple belts that were once seen on engines. Older models had one belt for each accessory. Now, the serpentine or accessory belt controls all of these components. Some models may have a special belt for certain accessories, but for the most part, one belt does the job of several.

When the serpentine belt breaks, the systems begin to shut down. Sometimes, the car will continue running for a short time, but not for long. Steering becomes more difficult because the power steering isn’t active. The alternator will quickly lose its charge and the engine will shut down. The air conditioning will no longer work.

You can see how powerful one of these belts is in your vehicle. Basically, if it’s broken, you won’t be able to go very far before you have to have it repaired. This all-in-one solution is easier to manage, but you must ensure it is inspected periodically so it doesn’t break.

This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as What Do the Belts on the Front of an Engine Do? and was authored by Joyce Morse.


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