The Kia people have informed me that my 2006 Rio with 57K miles needs to have the AC belt replaced due to cracks-- is there really such a belt?
Unless the Kia Rio has some unique method of driving the A/C compressor, then–yes–it is driven by a belt. That belt also likely drives the alternator and possibly some other components like the power steering pump.
If (and that is the key word–IF) the belt is deteriorating, then it does need to be replaced. Depending on the design of your vehicle, when that belt snaps it would likely also cause the alternator to stop turning, which means that your battery would be killed within a few miles, and you would have no power assist for the steering.
Why not ask an independent mechanic in your area to check the belt?
A Kia can be worked on by any mechanic, and the price for a belt replacement would likely be far lower at an indy shop than at the Kia dealership.
The Kia Rio uses several belts including an AC belt. It’s probably time for a replacement at 57K. You also need to check your owner’s manual because your engine has a timing belt. That’s the one that you really need to check when the time comes. It’s usually in the 60K to 90K range. Make sure you replace it at the proper interval as a broken timing belt can destroy an engine.
Well, of course there’s an AC belt. The AC system has a belt-driven compressor, and if the belt breaks the AC won’t work any more. That doesn’t mean the belt needs to be replaced, however. Belts develop cracks as they age. It’s part of the normal aging process. If the belt is not slipping (you’d hear it) there’s no need to replace the belt. At least not yet.
Your car also has a camshaft drive belt, aka “timing belt.” This is the one you need to worry about, because if it breaks the engine in your Rio will suffer significant internal damage, and I think the replacement interval for the timing belt is 60K miles, which is coming up pretty soon.
I think you should check out the maintenance schedule that came with the car, and see what this vehicle is supposed to have as preventive maintenance. Preventive maintenance is ALWAYS less expensive than repair.