Does my car need belts?
November 10, 2012 11:41 AM   Subscribe

Serpentinebeltfilter Some coolant, not a ton of it, leaked from the water pump, got on the serp belt and another, both of which are pretty new. The shop, which has not been impressing me at all, alleges that both need to be replaced because the coolant got on 'em. Some measure of evidence on the Internet that belt damage is quite rare even when belts are doused with coolant (and I never got a low-coolant warning so it wasn't a staggering amount). What say you?
posted by ambient2 to Travel & Transportation (7 answers total)
I would be more concerned about the water pump leak. You can keep an eye on the belts over time.
posted by HuronBob at 11:48 AM on November 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yeah, the leak is what you should be concerned about, not the belt.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 11:53 AM on November 10, 2012

There are a lot of things on a car that are behind other things. For instance when you change the timing belt (not a serpentine belt-this one is inside the engine and runs the overhead cams in the correct sequence with the crankshaft) you usually change all the parts that might wear out as you take them off to get to the damn thing. Like the serpentine belt and the water pump. So the shop may have just, as a matter of course, recommend replacing the serpentine belt on your car with the water pump since the expensive part is the labor and the belt is usually just 40-50 dollars for the part. Now if they are telling you one hour labor for belt and another hour (or whatever)for the pump they are being shady. Their should be a labor charge for about 2-3 hours at the most for doing this labor, not labor attached to each item since you almost always have to remove the serpentine belt to change the water pump. And if you pump is leaking, it is bad, guaranteed. IF the belt has been recently changed (like in the last year) you don't need a new one and just reuse the old one, but if you don't know how old it is, just get a new one while they are changing the pump.

Also the coolant sure shouldn't ruin a belt. Sometimes gas or oil can degrade a belt over time but not coolant and not just a brief exposure. Those things are tough, about as tough as tires really and no-one replaces tires after they get a little antifreeze on them.
posted by bartonlong at 12:36 PM on November 10, 2012

Serpentine belts are designed to last and generally you can replace them in a few minutes. Your car may be special and the belt requires special tool, special knowledge or etc. The water pump should not just leak a little and then stop, they aren't built that way. If you aren't getting a slow drip from the water pump leave it alone until you need to replace the timing belt (60 to 90,000 Miles usually)

If my mechanic came back with the indicated response I would definitely find someone else.
posted by ptm at 2:11 PM on November 10, 2012

I would tell them to NOT change the belts. If they are slipping, they are slipping. If they are not, they are not. I can't imagine coolant causing total failure, either.

Coolant is a rather gentle automotive fluid.
posted by colinshark at 2:11 PM on November 10, 2012

How long did the coolant sit on the belt?
posted by dottiechang at 2:50 PM on November 10, 2012

Little bits of coolant were getting on the belt(s). By the way, I am replacing the water pump, forgot to mention that. Thanks to those who took time to help me.
posted by ambient2 at 6:56 PM on November 10, 2012

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