What Happens When a Fan Belt Breaks?

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When a radiator fan belt breaks, the entire car engine can cease to work. A dead battery is a high possibility. In addition, the break may cause serious damage to the alternator, radiator, steering pump and other parts the belt controls. While some older cars have radiator fan belts, most modern cars have a serpentine belt, which serves the same function but controls many more engine parts.

There are warning signs that indicate a fan belt or serpentine belt needs to be replaced. Often, a worn belt makes a squealing noise for 1 or 2 minutes after the engine starts. Left untouched, the squeaking grows louder and lasts for longer periods of time. Drivers may notice the noise whenever the car accelerates. Other telltale signs that a belt is worn out or slipping is the development of visible cracks in or a glazed appearance on the belt. Radiator and serpentine belts sometimes become contaminated from water or oil from other engine parts. Belt damage is usually easy to detect upon close inspection.

As soon as there is any noticeable damage to a radiator or serpentine belt, drivers should take the car to a mechanic and have the belt replaced. Better still, the belt should be regularly inspected to avoid extensive engine damage.