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How dangerous is a flapping belt on a ford escort?

I have a 98 ford escort. Yesterday, I noticed a thumping sound coming from the front of the car as I was pulling into the drive way after a 60 mile trip. I looked under the car by the right wheel, which is where the sound seemed to be coming from, and noticed that a piece of fabric was frayed and hanging from what looks like some kind of belt. When I started the engine again, the thumping started again, and I could see the fabric flapping against the grass. So, two questions, what exactly happened here? And two – I’m assuming that I need to get the belt replaced – but how urgent is it? This is the only car I have access to, and I need to make a 120 mile delivery tomorrow, but could take it to the shop when I’m done.

Any help/insight would be greatly appreciated!

Do The Words “Catastrophic Failure” Mean Anything To You ?

I can’t see the car, so it’s hard to tell for sure that it’s the belt. It could be somebody’s under garments caught in there or something, but whenever the words car, hanging fabric, started, flapping, grass, and thumping are combined, it’s not a good thing.

I doubt seriously the car will go 120 miles. When the belt blows off, the battery will no longer charge and will eventually go dead, the power steering will go away, and little inconveniences like that.

Get that flapping thingy looked at ASAP . . . Now. That’s my advice.

You’ll be home-sick tomorrow if you put it off.


Okay… that’s what I needed to hear… looks like it’s car rental time for me! Thank you!

Agree, nothing should be “flapping”, whether it’s part of the car or not. Get it fixed NOW, and don’t go on your 120 miles trip until it is correctd.

Have you actually popped the hood? It sounds like one of two things. First is that through some miracle your belt has frayed but not yet broken completely. If this is is then it will every second. However, it would be hard to think of a frayed belt as being like fabric. I don’t actually think this is a very strong possibility.

The other thing would be that you managed to get some road debris tangled up with the belt & its pulleys - someone’s old socks or something.

Either way you can’t just drive away like that. If you pop the hood it should be pretty obvious what is going on. This belt can be changed with a 3/8" ratchet and about 5 minutes. Or it can be removed and whatever it tangled up in one of the pulleys probably cleaned up pretty quickly.

If it turns out that you did pick up some kind of read debris then you likely need to have your splash shields under the car reattached or something.

Whoa… when you’re right, you’re right. Just back from the shop where they replaced the belt. The splash shields are missing – so those will be replaced when the parts come in. And it did look like something got caught in the belt.

Thank you for your advise!

Clare, Thanks For Getting Back With The Information.

I don’t know where you stand with other vehicle maintenance. Did the shop people look over anything else on the car ? You might want to have the car “safety checked” and if you don’t know if or when the timing belt (different, more critical belt) was replaced, I’d get an estimate and arrange to have it done.