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If you’re reading this, you’ve already figured out you need a new belt. In the article, we won’t talk about the symptoms of a bad belt. Instead, we’ll focus on the costs of a new one and whether you can do the job yourself or need to take your car to the car shop.

A replacement alternator belt costs between $30 and $75, depending on the make and model of your car. Labor costs range from $80 and $125. In total, expect to pay between $110 and $200 at a car shop.

Why The Difference in Price?

Most modern alternators (Serpentine belts) are made of synthetic rubber. Until the 1990, ‘s Neoprene, also known as polychloroprene, was used to make them. Alternator belts made of this lasted up to 50,000 before they needed replacing.

Neoprene has been replaced by a more modern and robust synthetic rubber called Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer, or EPDM for short. 

Neoprene belts are still available, but most belt manufacturers have moved onto EPDM as their rubber of choice.

Neoprene belts often degrade rapidly after 50,000 miles when they stretch and become brittle.

EPDM belts tend not to crack but instead wear down. With these belts, it’s worth investing in a belt gauge to check the depth of the rib valleys.

On average, expect to pay $30 for a Neoprene belt and $60 for a belt made from EPDM.

All the major belt manufacturers now use EPDM.

Some cheaper imported belts are still made of Neoprene, but these will be brands that you haven’t heard of. The costs of these belts are in the range of at least 40% cheaper than EPDM.

EPDM belts are cheap and last twice as long as Neoprene, so there are no advantages to using Neoprene over EPDM belts.

How Much Does It Cost To Replace An Alternator Pulley?

The idler pulley is responsible for keeping the belt at the right tension. Sometimes when a belt fails, it is because the pulley is bad and isn’t keeping the belt at the right tension. Simply replacing the belt will result in the new one failing too.

The idler pulley isn’t actually on the alternator but bolted to the engine – in most cases – and should be checked once the old belt is removed and before the new one is fitted. It should spin freely; if it doesn’t and makes a grinding noise it’ll need replacing too.

An alternator belt idler pulley costs between $35 and $65 for the part and an additional $50 to $110 in labor. Expect to pay between $85 and $115 in total.

How Many Labor Hours To Replace An Alternator Belt?

The position of the alternator / serpentine belt on all cars makes replacement easy. There are no other parts to remove or fluids to drain.

Once the car shop has the part, replacement should take between 30 minutes and 1 hour.  

Some dealerships will charge a minimum of an hour’s labor, so it’s worth calling different shops and inquiring about a fixed-cost replacement. It could save you around $50 in labor.

Is an Alternator Belt The Same As A Fan Belt?

This often creates confusion as the terms are interchangeable.

Most modern cars have two belts. One is underneath a case on the side of the engine. This is called the timing belt or timing chain. Its job is to control the speed and timing of the pistons in your engine. Rarely is this anything other than a timing belt or chain.

The other belt is visible when you look under the hood. Older cars used to have more than one belt visible; each would do a different job. 

A fan belt’s job was to allow the car fan to power in front of the radiator. A sensor now powers this fan, and a fan belt isn’t needed. 

The term fan belt is still commonly used for any belt under the hood and causes confusion.

Is an Alternator Belt The Same As A Drive Belt?

The drive belt is the correct term. This belt drives – and provides power – to the alternator and other systems. Both terms are used interchangeably, so whatever term you use, the car shop or parts store will know what you mean.

Is an Alternator Belt The Same As A Serpentine Belt?

An alternator belt is more often called a serpentine belt. This belt snakes – hence the name serpentine belt – through the engine and by rotating spindles on parts such as the air conditioning compressor and power steering pump.

Because it is easily visible running from the engine to the alternator, it is often given this name. 

In older cars, a specific belt was used to power different components. This resulted in some cars having four belts. Each belt would be called the name of the part it was powering.

Power steering pump belt or water pump belt – for instance. 

To confuse things, some cars still have more than one belt. This is becoming increasingly rare and confined to bargain brands manufacturers who still build their cars on outdated blueprints.

What Tools Do I Need To Change An Alternator Belt Myself?

Not many special tools are needed except for a belt tensioner pulley tool

You’ll need this to slacken the bolt that keeps the tensioner tight. Once you’ve slackened it, you’ll be able to take the old belt off. Normally a half turn on the bolt will loosen the belt enough to enable you to take it off.

Can You Drive With A Broken Alternator Belt?

Your car may drive, but not for long. 

Your car’s alternator will not be spinning, so the battery will power all the car’s electrical components. Once the battery is flat, you’ll come to a stop.

Even before this happens if the belt powers your water pump – not all are – it won’t be pumping heated coolant away from the engine, and your car would overheat.

A very popular related article here: How Long Can You Drive A Car With A Bad Alternator?

In essence, you’ll be running an electric car with a battery never designed or powerful enough to do the job being asked of it.

It’s best to get the belt replaced as soon as you can. It makes no financial sense to risk overheating your engine or draining your battery below 80%, where it may need replacing.

Can A Loose Alternator Belt Drain A Battery?

When an alternator belt is loose it won’t power the alternator and other systems effectively. The alternator is designed to charge the battery. If it isn’t working efficiently it won’t be able to top up the charge that the battery has used to start the car. This will eventually result in a dead battery.

There have been occasions where people have thought the alternator was bad and replaced it even before checking the tension of the belt first.

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