Bad Serpentine Belt Symptoms (9 Things To Be Aware Of)

You probably don’t realize this, but there’s one belt that passes through and provides power to most of the accessories in your car’s engine.

As such, if this single belt breaks or goes bad, then it’s likely to have a huge impact on your car. Here’s what I found!

Bad Serpentine Belt Symptoms

Loud noises, unpleasant odors, and even weak headlights can all be signs that your car’s serpentine belt is malfunctioning. Additionally, battery discharge is a symptom of a damaged serpentine belt. A faulty serpentine belt can potentially cause the engine’s major parts to fail, as well as cause the car to stall while you’re driving.

Keep reading if you’d like to learn more about the signs of a faulty serpentine belt!

1. Battery Charge Warning Light is On

One of the more noticeable symptoms of a bad serpentine belt is the check battery warning light on your dashboard.

This could indicate a problem with the battery because it is connected to the alternator, but the serpentine belt could also be to blame.

In this case, as soon as the serpentine belt starts to perform incorrectly, the entire electrical system of the vehicle will be harmed.

As a result, even when the belt is at fault, the issue will appear to be with the battery.

2. Weak or Flickering Headlights

Headlights that flicker could potentially mean the serpentine belt isn’t working properly.

Generally, if your car’s headlights grow dim or blink randomly and without reason, there may be an electrical issue.

Usually, these problems can start with the alternator or the battery since this shows that the engine is malfunctioning to the point where it is almost completely shutting down.

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If the light problems persist over time and endanger turning the alternator off completely, the serpentine belt is likely to be at fault.

3. Unpleasant Burning Odors from the Engine

Another indication that your serpentine belt needs to be replaced is a burning odor from your car’s engine bay.

Typically, the internal wires of the automobile or alternator will emit a burning smell in this scenario as they start to degrade due to shorting or irregular current.

Additionally, this can happen when the belt is broken or misaligned and starts to rub incorrectly against other engine parts.

The smell of burnt rubber will therefore almost instantly emanate from a serpentine belt that has been damaged.

4. The Engine Produces Unusual Noises

Aside from unpleasant smells coming from the engine, you may also hear unusual noises if there’s a problem with the serpentine belt.

In this situation, an old serpentine belt can start to generate screeching noises as it rotates when your car is idle.

Furthermore, a frayed or improperly positioned serpentine belt may create ticking or flapping noises as it doesn’t fit properly over the parts it should be touching.

Therefore, the serpentine belt may be interfering with some of the engine’s components and resulting in strange noises.

5. AC System Doesn’t Work

AC System Doesn’t Work

In a similar vein, a damaged serpentine belt may also have an impact on the AC system and prevent it from working properly.

Normally, the AC compressor transfers energy from the serpentine belt to the AC system.

However, if the serpentine belt’s teeth are worn out, the AC compressor may receive an insufficient amount of power.

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So, if the air conditioner in your car isn’t blowing any air, it could be a good idea to examine the serpentine belt’s condition.

6. Discharged Battery

Aside from my points above, a dead or depleted battery may also be indicative of a broken serpentine belt.

Generally, most of the engine’s components, including the alternator, receive power from the serpentine belt, which is often referred to as a fan or accessory belt.

Furthermore, the alternator is also in charge of running and charging the battery.

As a result, when the serpentine belt breaks or wears down, the alternator—and therefore the battery—cannot operate.

7. Stalling Engine

Engine problems may be another sign of a serpentine belt that isn’t working properly.

For instance, a damaged serpentine belt can contribute to an overheated engine because it prevents the water pump from working, which is necessary to keep the engine and its components cool.

Additionally, your engine could stall or die unexpectedly as a result of the serpentine belt detaching from the pulley in the engine.

Therefore, these issues could indicate a problem with the serpentine belt.

8. Faulty Ignition System

In addition to my points above, a broken serpentine belt may be the cause of your car not starting.

As I previously mentioned, the serpentine belt transmits electrical current from the alternator to various engine components.

However, if the serpentine belt slips or cracks, the alternator may not be able to supply enough power to the spark plugs to start the vehicle.

So, if your automobile won’t start, the alternator belt is probably to blame.

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9. Failing Power Steering

Furthermore, the serpentine belt may be to blame if your car’s power steering isn’t working.

Normally, people think the steering wheel is a standalone car component that has nothing to do with the engine.

However, this isn’t the case, as it is part of the power steering system.

Moreover, the power steering is connected to the serpentine belt, which supplies the energy needed to enable steering-based vehicle movement.

As a result, if the serpentine belt is destroyed, you could lose the ability to steer.

To know more, you can also read our posts on bad timing belt symptoms, bad torque converter symptoms, and bad transmission mount symptoms.


If you think something is wrong with your car’s serpentine belt, it may be a good idea to check for things like warning lights on your dash or unusual smells and sounds coming from the engine.

Additionally, a faulty serpentine belt can seriously harm your car’s ignition system and engine, so it’s crucial to have the alternator belt examined by a mechanic to replace it.

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