how difficult is it for someone with modest skills to change a 2001 saturn sc serpentine belt?
If you have the tools it shouldn’t be that hard. A service manual, such as Haynes, might be a big help, especially when it comes to proper tensioning of the belt.
Having never done one on this particular car I can’t say for sure. But, in general, replacing such a belt is an annoyance (little room to work) but isn’t difficult at all. There is likely an automatic tensioner into which you stick a 3/8" ratchet, rotate the tensioner, slip the belt off. Re-route the new belt, rotate the tensioner again to finish getting the belt in place, let go of the tensioner - double-check the routing & correct alignment around each pulley. (I prefer to have someone else start the car for me the first time while I keep an eye on the belt. Then I just watch it go for a couple of minutes to make sure I didn’t get something cock-eyed).
A $20 repair manual for this car, available from most any auto parts store, is a great source for doing all sorts of basic maintenance & repair jobs.
As mcparadise and cigroller indicate, it is not difficult. But, here are some “pro tips…”
While the belt is off, rotate the belt tensioner idler pully. If it is “rough”, or “squeeky” then replace it. Also, rotate the other accessory pullies (alt, etc.) by hand for the same test. If they are in bad shape, then you should have a professional check out the system.
Buy the best belt you can. Cheap belts on a single belt, serpentine system, can cause lots of “instant” and “serious” issues when driving. I’d suggest NAPA (Gates brand) or CarQuest (also Gates) for a good belt.
If the belt is “greasy” or oil stained you have some issue with the engine that needs to be looked at ASAP since a greasy or oil stained belt will have a short life.
The first time you do this, it might take over an hour. The next time would take 5 minutes. Is this an SC1 or an SC2, not sure if there’s a difference in the drive belt layout.
Before removing the belt, pay close attention to how it is routed. Draw a picture if the routing isn’t in your owner’s manual.
Depress tensioner arm using a 14 mm or 9/16 inch wrench.
Remove belt assembly off idler or A/C compressor pulley.
Remove accessory drive belt.
Route belt around all pulleys, except front cover idler or A/C compressor pulley.
Depress tensioner arm using a 14 mm or 9/16 inch wrench. NOTICE: Make sure the belt is properly aligned on the pulleys.
Slip the belt over the front cover idler or A/C compressor pulley. IMPORTANT: If the tensioner idler pulley attachment bolt is loosened, remove the bolt and apply Saturn P/N 21485277 (Loctite49 242 or equivalent) to threads. Torque bolt. Torque: 30 Nm (22 ft. lbs.)
Alldata would be a little wrong here. I replaced the serpentine belt on my 02 SL(1, if 1 or 2 is not in the description, then its the same as a 1)
By a little wrong here, I mean that it sounds a lot easier than it is. The skid plate (plastic tray under the engine) must be removed and it goes a lot easier with two people. The car has to be on jackstands or ramps too.
You are right that the first time will take an hour (at least), but you would be wrong to think that the second time will take 5 minutes. The second time might take 5 minutes less than the first time, but it won’t be done in 5 minutes. That belt is extremely difficult to route.
Something else that helped was that I had an old “tappet wrench”. That was an open ended long handle wrench with a 1/2" open on one end and a 9/16" on the other. A typical 14mm or 9/16" open ended wrench is too short to use. It won’t extend far enough out from the side of the strut tower to get your hands around it. You would have to push on it with your finger tips, and that tensioner is sprung pretty heavy for that. BTW, I have replaced a lot of belts, this by far was the most difficult. I’ve replace timing belts that were easier to do.
The hard part is access. There might be a belt routing label and if not find a picture of it are draw it yourself.
Remember, grooved pulleys turn clockwise and smooth pulleys turn counterclockwise.
Maybe. Depends on the car.