Corolla drive belts: is the dealer bluffing?



When I took my 2004 Corolla in for regular maintenance around 30,000 miles, the mechanic (Toyota-certified, dealership service) told me that the drive belts were cracked and needed replacement (he also told me the cost of this, which I think was $110 or so.) I declined to do it at that point to do some warranty research. I found out that the drive belts are not even supposed to be checked before 60,000 miles (which is like Toyota swearing that they will last at least as long, right?) Yet, I called Toyota and found out that the warranty only covers them for the first 3 yrs/30,000 miles. My car is now 4-yrs old and has 36,000 miles on it, so the warranty doesn’t cover it. Is my mechanic bluffing? Could the drive belts possibly need replacement at my mileage? So far I assumed he was bluffing, but the cost if the drive belts fault on me is very serious.


What do you think is a “very serious” cost? The drive belts drive things like the alternator and AC compressor. This is not a timing belt where if it breaks you can cause lots of damage. If a drive belt breaks your car continues to run and you can drive it to the shop for a replacement and nothing should be harmed except possibly running down the battery if you don’t fix it pretty quick.

On the other hand, in some climates 4 years might be all a belt can take. Did you ask to see the cracking? Have you looked?


You could go to an independent mechanic or cheaper still is to buy the belts and replace them yourself…just get the tensions correct.


Those belts are now 4 years old; it’s entirely possible they need replacement.
Rubber degrades over time, whether it’s belts, tires, or inner tubes.

The alternative to this would be wondering what your opinion would be of the dealer if the belts were not inspected or told of the belt condition and one broke the next week.


Very possible, most belts, except the timing belt, can be seen with the naked eye, just grab a flashlight and look. Hairline cracks in drive belts are very common, what you are really looking for are large cracks, fraying belt, etc. Hairline cracks are an indication that it may need replacement in the future but immediate failure is unlikely if they are tiny cracks


I agree with ARMTDM. It is likely the dealer mechanic is just being conservative. It is similar tp predicting when a light bulb will burn out. You know it should reliably last so many hours and when it exceeds that number it starts to have an accelerating probability to fail. Most rules of thumb I have seen with belts is to replace them every 3-4 years. This does not mean it won’t last 10 years or longer. It is just an insurance policy and you have just entered the zone where the probability of failure climbs more rapidly. I am not familiar with the Corolla engine. So I don’t know how difficult it is to replace it. Get a manual and check it out. I would bet you could do it your self in a few minutes or have a mechanicaly inclined friend give you a hand. The belt at a part store is likely less than $30. You will have a nice cost savings and some piece of mind.

Also, if the belt does fail while driving, do not drive it. The water pump is likely belt driven and you will over heat.


I have a 2001 Corolla. Changing the serpetine belt is so easy even a caveman can do it. The belt is held on by a belt tensioner. Release the tension and the belt comes off. Make sure you draw a diaghram of the path of the belt.


The dealership recommends replacing the belts because it’s a profit generator. There is probably nothing at all wrong with the drive belts. New belts will show tiny cracks in a relatively short time, but they don’t harm anything.


Thank you everyone! I very much appreciate y’all’s advice.


I didn’t read any of the other posts, but 110 dollars is inexpensive and drive belts can always quit. As the dealer says “keep your new car new”. It is sometimes the cheapskate who pays the most. I read that in the Car Talk stuff by The Tappet Brothers. It’s possible for a broken belt to haunt you with problems down the line. Not your biggest concern I’ll admit.


Maybe I just blindly did what the dealer said which was really just manual recommendation, but I never found myself broken down on the side of the road in my 225,000 mile/9 year old Civic. The bulk of people who break down I know tend to skimp on maintenance and typically state yeah the mechanic said I should replace that. IMHO why wait since your already there? Questioning them is always good and you can even ask to see the item however belts are a wear item.

My time when I am working(self employeed IT contractor) is way too valuable to be sitting on the side of a highway, that is unless WIFI is available where I broke down :slight_smile:


Three things shorten the life of belts:

  • Harsh weather (extreme cold or heat)

  • Oil or other solvents spilled on the belt

  • Out of line pulleys.

Cracking is usually a sign of the first two.


No, you can’t keep driving for very long. The water pump is not running, and this can quickly overheat the engine.


Don’t quite trust your dealer’s mechanic? Somewhat taken aback at spending a lot of money to install a belt? This is a perfect opportunity to learn to do a somewhat minor vehicle maintenance task. Buy a new belt, a tensioner pulley tool also from a car parts store and have at it! You will save hundreds of dollars over a lifetime knowing how to do only this task. It will lead you do do more, I guarantee it!


Don’t most Toyotas drive the water pump off the timing belt?


You can inspect them yourself. If the belts look cracked or glazed then they should be changed.