2001 Ford Taurus Eating Serpentine Belts

My daughter has a 2001 Ford Taurus SEL, 3.0 litre V6 (just the plain 2 valve-per-cylinder version). She’s owned it for about a year. In that time, the car has went through 8 serpentine belts - 2 in the past two days. When we bought it, it had 120k miles on it and the belt at that time was thinner than it should be. But I thought, 120k miles, it just needs a new one. Everything else seemed fine about the car. Engine runs great, all the accessories are in fine working order (I did just have to replace the water pump recently though).

When the belt is “eaten”, it seems to loose several “ribs” from the outside of the belt, the side facing away from the engine. Then, depending on the situation it either just looses the width or the failed ribs get wrapped around a pulley and dislodge the entire belt. If the ribs fly away without yanking the rest of the belt, the thinner belt seems to be fine until we notice it and replace it.

I’ve had the car looked at by three different mechanics now. None of them can find anything wrong with the pulleys, pulley alignment or anything. One even suspected that the engine bearings were bad and checked the play in the crankshaft - there was none. Needless to say the parts store, the mechanics and myself are all at a loss.

Since it seems to always chew the outer part of the belt away, I still suspect an accessory pulley that’s out of alignment or too thin. But I’m no mechanic. If it is out of alignment, it’s so slight that it can’t be seen by watching the belt as the engine runs.

Anyone else had an experience like this?

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No, I haven’t experienced it, but I believe that the only possible explanations include:

Misaligned pulleys
Non-stock pulleys
A bad belt tensioner

Not for sure how much space there is on the side but would it be possible to do an alignment check yourself with a yard stick?

I hate to say this but I think you need to find a mechanic that’s better than the last 3 or have one of them take a closer look. If it’s shredding a belt in 2 days it shouldn’t be that hard to determine the cause.

Have your mechanic put a new belt on and use the car for the day as a shop vehicle. They surely will need to go to the bank, pick up parts, drive a customer home, get lunch. If they use your car to do this it shouldn’t be hard for them to open the hood periodically and catch the belt in the act of slipping, shredding, sliding, or whatever.

The first thing I’d suspect would be a belt tensioner that’s worn and no longer in plane with the rest of the pulleys. But the fault could be with any of the moving parts. Another cause could be a very slight fluid leak causing the belt to slip off one of the pulleys.

@VDCdriver - me too. But I can’t seem to find it.

@Harland - there is enough room to check a few of the pulleys like that, but not all of them. I used a small metal straight-edge to check those that I could, it all seems ok.

@asemaster - two things you said never occurred to me. Letting the mechanic use it for a shop vehicle - better than my daughter getting stranded. And the fluids leaking. I’m now wondering if there is a small oil leak or something causing it. Will have to look into that.

@all - thanks for replying. I’ll keep looking.

@ Kevin-The-ScatterBrain

A good sign. As asemaster said it maybe a small leak…try to keep track of all fluid levels in the vehicle if able to drive. I also believe the idea of it being handled by a mechanic is a good idea, I’m rarely able to diagnose something w/o being able to drive behind the wheel for a few miles. Even just the sounds while driving can be a huge help.


Are you using high quality parts . . . Gates or Motorcraft

Besides a possible misalignment, I would check the idler pulley and the tensioner for wear

We have a lot of Fords of that vintage in our fleet, and I’ve noticed that the idler pulleys start wearing out after several years. That is a wear and tear item.

Oh, another important question . . . are you absolutely sure the guys have installed the correct length belt . . . some of those generics don’t fit that well

I would suspect the idler pulley, I have a 2001 Taurus & had to have one replaced a couple years back.

If it isn’t the idler pulley, I wonder if something causes the air conditioning compressor to lock up. I had a bad bearing in the compressor clutch and it would lock up and then release until it finally locked up completely. My other thought and this is far out is that something in the steering gear when you turn the wheel to the extreme right or left causes the pump to turn too hard and shreds the belt.


You may have hit the nail on the head!

Like I said earlier, we have a lot of Tauruses in our fleet, with the same engine and belt routing as OP’s car.

In the past year, a few of the AC compressors essentially “let go” . . . which destroyed the belt. This has happened on at least 2 separate cars, but with the same setup.

I am having the same problem but I can tell that the a/c pulley is the odd man out on my 02 Sable platinum edition 133,235 miles. It sets back towards the motor about 1/16”-1/8” causing the belt to wear and heat up and 1 rib at a time it eats away the belt until you recognize it or in my case. I heard it slapping around and hitting the hood and motor parts ripping out the wiper fluid hose before finally tearing away from the rest of the belt and falling away.j

The problem with that theory,is that, all of the drive belt pulleys are ribbed except the tensioner pulley. This means, if, the tensioner was out of alignment. It would be noticeable as soon as the belt is installed. As , you have to depress the tensioner to install the belt. Also, there would be evidence of the problem on the pulley. It would be seen as a wear pattern.

I,personally, am going to see if there’s a belt that will route as a w/o air conditioning option. And see if I have the same problem or not.