What Is a Serpentine Belt?

serpentine-belt Credit: Jordan Siemens/Taxi/Getty Images

A serpentine belt is a rubber belt with a ribbed side that drives vital vehicle components, such as the alternator, power steering, water pump, air conditioning and many other accessories in a vehicle. As a serpentine belt breaks, many critical vehicle functions cease simultaneously.

Signs that a serpentine belt needs to be changed are cracks, holes and abrasions on the belt. It is recommended that serpentine belts are checked every time the oil is changed in a vehicle. Normally, a serpentine belt will tear or shred before breaking, giving motorists ample warning to have the belt replaced before it breaks.