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2001 Ford Escape Serpentine Belt Replace it or let it break

The Ford Dealership wants to do a lot of maintenance, one of the things being to replace the serpentine belt.

My question: What happens if I let it break? Can it do any real harm to the car? It should get loud before it breaks anyhow.

Why should it get loud before it breaks?

How much are they charging for this job. It shouldn’t be a whole lot, really. What’s the other maint. they want to do?

If it breaks you’ll be stranded. Murpphy’s law says it will be at a very inconvenient time. Why would you do this?

How many miles or years are on the belt? Is it showing any signs of cracking at the “V” ribs?

What does the rest of the list look like?

And when the broken end of the belt snaps around, it might take something else with it…

The belt will likely not give you any signs that it is about to break, and it may not even make any noise you can hear when it does break. When it breaks, you will be in for a spectacular show. Lots of lights lighting up in your dashboard, lots of steam and smoke from under your hood, lots of honking horns and people yelling and flipping you the bird as your disables Escape blocks traffic in an intersection. On top of that, steering the car anywhere will require a great deal more effort since the power steering system will be disabled.

If the prices are too high, you could try a different shop. There is not really any reason to continue having this ten year old car serviced at the dealership, unless their prices are reasonable, their service spectacular, and their coffee delicious. A reputable independent can do at least as good a job as the Ford dealership for things like this.

Braking will get hard too when the engine dies and the vacuum booster becomes inactive.

So, hard steering, hard braking, just the thing to suddenly experience.

I’m still hoping to see the rest of the recommended maintenance list.

if your car has the original belt on it at this time you’re really, really lucky.

what is the list of maintenance they want to do?

I had a serpentine belt break on my car 3 months ago. It gave no warning whatsoever.

You can buy a belt for maybe $10 - $20, you don’t need to buy this through the dealer.

With a little research, you can probably figure out how to change it yourself. Once you know how to change it, you can carry a spare in your trunk and change it yourself if it ever breaks and leaves you stranded. In fact, just keep the old belt as a spare for an emergency.

Does your serpentine belt spin your water pump or is your water pump driven by the timing belt?

We took it in for a hissing noise (Master Brake Cylinder leaking into Brake Booster) $1028

They also want to do the following… I’m gonna shop for a better deal.
Serpentine Belt, Intake Manifold Gaskets, Spark Plugs, Valve Cover Gaskets: $1375
Front Struts leaking, replace front struts: $534
For a 4WD V6 2001 Escape, are these quotes way too high?

The reason for the Serpentine was “because it is time” in his words. I will be inspecting it for cracking when I get the car back.

I think that this is completely bizarre. Is the belt due for replacement? If so, then why would you even ask about this of all things.

How about this - give a list of what is included in “a lot of maintenance.” There very well may be some things that aren’t necessary. People here can help. The belt is the wrong tree. (Of course, the best way for you to know is is to look at the maintenance schedule in the owner’s manual).

Unless it is warranty or recall service, you don’t need a Ford dealer. A good local mechanic can do anything they can do and normally for less.

Sorry, I posted this above… I’ll repost at the bottom for clarity:

We took it in for a hissing noise (Master Brake Cylinder leaking into Brake Booster) $1028

They also want to do the following… I’m gonna shop for a better deal.
Serpentine Belt, Intake Manifold Gaskets, Spark Plugs, Valve Cover Gaskets: $1375
Front Struts leaking, replace front struts: $534
For a 4WD V6 2001 Escape, are these quotes way too high?

The reason for the Serpentine was “because it is time” in his words. I will be inspecting it for cracking when I get the car back. I’ve looked through the recommended mechanics in my area and there are lots of people who like the quality if their service, but not a lot of people talking about fair pricing… probably because most of us normal people don’t get enough service to have a good feeling for what mechanic service should cost.

First, look at the owner’s manual yourself to see what the basic maintenance intervals are. These will include spark plugs, wires, filters, fluids, belts, etc.

Several of these items are “repair” rather than maintenance. These include the brake items, manifold gasket, valve cover gasket, struts (though those are normal wear items).

Why you picked the belt out of all of that I don’t know.

Get that thing out of the dealer’s shop and take it to a local independent mechanic. Ask for a second opinion on the hissing noise and ask them to give it thorough once over for any needed repairs. It looks to me like this dealer is looking for reasons to replace things. E.g. why do they want to do the intake & valve cover gaskets? Are you having any problems other than the hissing?

No problems other than hissing. Their explanation for valve covers was and gaskets was that some spark plugs need to be replaced and the labor required to get at them made the gaskets and covers an easy service with the labor already paid for due to the plugs so it is just cost of parts. “they are rubber parts that wear out over time…” At this point, since the car isn’t running rough, I’m wondering how they know that “some of the plugs are worn out, we should replace them all since they are so difficult to get at”.

The Escape has finished all its warranties, I’ll be finding an independent mechanic for everything but the brakes. The hissing was related to the brake pedal and I feel they accurately diagnosed it (“the master brake cylinder leaked brake fluid (which is very corrosive) into the brake booster and caused the leak”). Ford may be overpriced, but they do competant work. So for safety they got to fix my brakes. After that I’ll be hunting for an independant mechanic for the other stuff in the Fort Collins/Loveland (CO) area.

I can’t comment on whether or not its time to do the S-belt, but I will say that I don’t see any need to replace the gaskets unless they’re leaking. Especially the valve cover. The whole point of the valve cover gasket is to keep oil from leaking out from between the valve cover and the head. Unless you have little streaks of oil coming down from that area, you don’t need to replace it.

I’ll also say that yes, they’re probably too high. I can say that with a fair amount of confidence because the dealership ALWAYS charges more than an independent shop, and the stuff you’re specifying doesn’t need to be done at the dealership.

If they have to take the valve cover off to get to the spark plugs, they’re doing it wrong.

You do have to remove the upper intake manifold to get to the back bank of spark plugs, but the gasket is reusable and rarely fails. Valve cover gaskets also rarely leak on this engine, and the valve covers do not have to be removed to change the spark plugs. $1375 is ridiculous for the amount of work they are doing. I would take the car somewhere else to have the entire process done over again. Spark plugs and serpentine belt replacement, I can understand, but a few extra gaskets that probably don’t need to be replaced on top of a job that will take less than two hours to complete does not, in my mind, add up to $1375.

I didn’t completely read your last post. I would be leery about this dealership service department. I would have the hissing noise diagnosed elsewhere also. You could need a brake booster, but not need the master cylinder. It is possible the master cylinder is leaking, in which case it would need to be replaced, but brake fluid is not “very corrosive” and a leak in the master cylinder will not “corrode” the booster and cause it to leak. If brake fluid were corrosive, think of how quickly it would eat through brake lines, rubber hoses, and the seals inside calipers, wheel cylinders, and master cylinders. You wouldn’t be able to keep a brake system on a car! Brake fluid is hard on paint, but is certainly not “very corrosive” or even a little bit corrosive.

Any competant shop can do the master cylinder & brake booster also, and likely a lot cheaper. Parts prices alone from dealers are often 1-1/2 to 2 times the cost of aftermarket parts that are just as good.

Frankly, I’m wondering about the intake manifold gaskets and the valve cover gaskets. Unless you’re experiencing some problem like a vacuum leak or an oil leak I cannot understand why they’d want to change them. This is not normal. Frankly, that makes me wonder if the struts are really leaking too.

Price this job around as it can likely be done for less at an independent shop. The high prices do not mean that you’re being gouged. It simply means that the dealer is using Ford OEM parts and these are often much higher than comparable aftermarket parts.

The dealer has no choice in this matter in regards to parts pricing and labor rates. Many are under the perception that FOMOCO provides parts to the dealer at scrap prices and that is not the case. Labor rates at dealers are generally higher because the dealer has much more service dept. overhead than an independent shop and it all has to be paid for.

As to reusing a gasket, that is a bad recommendation to make. That gasket is 10 years old and one never reuses a gasket on a repair. The DIYer at home can certainly do this but a pro tech who is expected to stand behind the repair should never consider doing this.
Reuse that gasket which then leads to an oil leak the next week or a trashed engine due to oil loss and then who is the car owner going to point the finger at? You know who.

The upper plenum gasket on the Duratec V6 used in the Escape is a rubber O-ring type and can be reused, if necessary, such as parts not available or a customer who declines the gasket with a “tune up”. It’s similar to a valve cover gasket on a Honda, which can be reused after routine valve lash adjustments. The plenum carries only air, no fuel, oil, or coolant, so it is not subject to much. It certainly wouldn’t hurt to replace it and replacement shouldn’t add more than $30-40 to the repair bill, dealer parts or otherwise. If the upper plenum gasket is being replaced to correct a vacuum leak, of course it needs to be replaced and should not be reused, but the OP said there were no problems of this nature. Valve covers do not have to come off this engine to access the plugs. I am aware of no engine design that requires this. If the valve cover gaskets are leaking, they should be replaced, but if they are not, it is not necessary. Did the dealership tell you that you had an oil leak at the lower plenum gasket or is the intake gasket part of the spark plug replacement? If they are changing lower intake gaskets, I could see $1375 for this job, but if it is just replacing an upper plenum gasket after removal for a spark plug change, $1375 seems steep for what is essentially new spark plugs and a serpentine belt.