Both superchargers and turbochargers are used on today’s vehicles to provide extra power and performance. While they do essentially the same thing (injecting additional air into the intake), they work in different ways. Turbochargers work based on exhaust, which means they don’t kick in until the engine is already revving high. Superchargers use a belt, so they provide better performance at the lower end of the power spectrum.
Your car’s supercharger belt attaches to a specific drive pulley, and it’s in operation only when the supercharger is engaged. That can limit wear and tear to some extent (compared to your car’s serpentine belt, which is in use at all times when the engine is running).
Like all other belts on your engine, your supercharger belt is subject to wear over time and through use, as well as with exposure to heat. Eventually, it will dry out and start to crack or come apart. It may also stretch out, like your car’s serpentine belt. The best defense against a damaged or broken belt is to have it inspected regularly. It should be checked at every oil change so you can keep an eye on its condition and replace it before it breaks.
With that being said, a broken supercharger belt isn’t the end of the world. Without it, the supercharger won’t work but the engine will still run, although you might experience higher fuel consumption. It may also be an indication of another problem – a seized supercharger pulley, for instance.
Watch for these signs that indicate your belt is about to fail:
- Cracks on the belt’s surface
- Cuts or tears on the belt
- Glazing or a shiny appearance on the belt
- A loose fitting belt
- A squealing sound when the supercharger is engaged (indicates a loose belt, or a problem with the pulley)
If you’ve noticed wear on your supercharger belt or are hearing an unusual noise when the supercharger engages, a certified mechanic can help to inspect the pulley, belt and other components, and replace the supercharger belt if needed.
This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as How Long Does a Supercharger Belt Last? and was authored by Valerie Johnston.