What Is A Serpentine Belt And Why Is It Important?

Most newer engines have one serpentine belt. Some older engines have two serpentine belts. What is a serpentine belt, though? Why does your engine need one? Read on to find out.

What A Serpentine Belt Looks Like

A serpentine belt is a long, thin belt made out of highly reinforced rubber. It winds through several pulleys. It has grooves on the inner surface to match the grooves on the pulleys to which it's connected. The quality of the rubber is very important when it comes to serpentine belts. It has to:

  • Withstand very high temperatures
  • Withstand heavy use

A serpentine belt spins through the engine as long as the engine is on. It doesn't stop until you turn off the engine. That's why nothing works as well as highly reinforced rubber in serpentine belts.

Serpentine belt

OEM Toyota serpentine belt #90916-A2033, for 2014-2020 Land Cruisers, Sequoias, and Tundras

Have you ever wondered why they call a serpentine belt a serpentine belt? It's because a serpentine belt is snaked through the engine. It follows a certain path so it can power a variety of engine parts.

What A Serpentine Belt Does

The serpentine belt powers many different parts within the engine. It's connected to the crankshaft, which causes the belt to spin. As the belt spins through the engine, it spins all the pulleys it's connected to. As each pulley spins, it powers the part to which it's connected.

The serpentine belt is the connection between the crankshaft and various engine parts. It helps the crankshaft power these parts. There's also a tensioner pulley that keeps the serpentine belt from slipping off the other pulleys. The serpentine belt may be a simple part, but it's a very important part. Your Toyota's engine needs a functioning serpentine belt at all times to work properly.

Which Parts Does A Serpentine Belt Power?

Many different engine parts have a pulley for the serpentine belt. When the serpentine belt is connected to a pulley, it powers that part as it spins through the engine. Some of the parts include:

  • Water pump
  • Air conditioner compressor
  • Power steering pump
  • Alternator
  • Air pump (if applicable)

How Long Does A Serpentine Belt Last?

Change belt

Image Credit: Mahalohouse

A serpentine belt should last 50K-100K miles. To be more specific, older neoprene rubber belts last about 50K miles. Newer EPDM (Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer) rubber belts last about 100K miles.

It’s still possible for a serpentine belt to fail early, though. If that happens it’s important to replace the bad serpentine belt ASAP. Neglecting to replace your serpentine belt will cause some problems. Here are some things that may happen when the serpentine belt starts slipping:

  • Your car's battery won't be fully charged, since the serpentine belt drives the alternator. That damages the battery over time.
  • The power steering won't operate normally. The serpentine belt drives the power steering pump, which supplies fluid to the steering gear.
  • The air conditioner won't have as much cooling power. The serpentine belt drives the air conditioner compressor.
  • Your engine might overheat. The serpentine belt drives the fan that helps cool the engine.

If the serpentine belt breaks, your car will loose power to all of the above components, and you'll have to stop driving. If you need help finding the right serpentine belt for your Toyota model, we’ll be happy to assist you.

Written by Jason Lancaster