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Serpentine belt replacement?

Hi everyone! It seems as if every time I take my car to the shop, I am nailed with a new item replacement recommendation. It wasn’t too long ago I had to change transmission fluid at 57K mileage ( car is a toyota Camry SE, 2012 model) and battery. Then today, at 58K mileage, I got the front brakes and rotors installed ( all OEM parts) and was told my serpentine belt needs to be replaced, which may be around $200 bucks.

I am starting to feel fear taking my car in as I am certain every visit is going to knock me with a bill. Sure, I understand if one wants a car he has to take care of it by maintaining it properly. But I am curious as to know if maintenance on a car is frequent ? I am a novice to cars like I explained in my previous posts, and I live on very limited funds. And sadly, I can’t do without a car ( will avoid going into personal details at this time.)

What is a serpentine belt? And how often does it need to be replaced? Thanks for taking your time to respond. Much appreciated.

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#1 Serpentine belts do need replacing over time…but 5 years and 58k miles is way too soon.

#2 $200 is awfully expensive.

Do yourself a favor and find a different mechanic. Preferably a good independent.

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It drives the air conditioner compressor , the alternator and possibly the water pump. Why did you not have them show you the belt ? Your manual should have a miles / time period for the belt. You are out of warranty so that belt can be changed by any shop.

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A serpentine belt operates all the components mounted to the front of the engine. Power steering pump, alternator, AC compressor, etc.

How was it determined that the serpentine required replacement?


I replace mine about every 40,000 or so because I don’t like problems when I’m 500 miles from home. If your belt breaks, you will likely lose power steering unless you have electric steering, engine cooling, alternator, etc., so you are stopped dead. Unfortunately, there are costs per mile for maintenance that just needs to be included in the budget. You don’t need to have everything done at the dealer though.


They did an inspection of the car when installing the brakes. And they also are suggesting brake fluid. I am not sure if I need that done immediately.

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I replace my belts after 5 or 6 years. I wouldn’t be surprised if yours is at the recommended time or mileage to be replaced. You can check it by looking for fraying edges or fine crackling on the underside, you might have to bend it a little and look close to see crackling. The belt is under $20, probably easy to change but I’ve never looked at that car.

You can’t determine if a serpentine belt requires replacement by a visual inspection.

It requires a serpentine belt wear gauge to determine if the serpentine belt requires replacement.


I believe I paid $70 for my last Acura belt but I had a private shop put it on for another $35. Most of the quality belts I’ve bought at NAPA are in the $35 range. I don’t know where you would get a good belt for $20. Again this is not a place to economize. Not fun to have a belt failure away from home in a bad neighborhood, but luckily I carried a spare.

I looked up belts for Camrys, they were $5-$20. The last belts I bought for my Chevy & Ford trucks were under $25 for the premium Gates or Dayco.

Great, now I need a serpentine belt wear gauge, well at least it’s free.

I changed the one on my Camry at 80 K miles and then 160 K miles and both times the old belt was just fine. Now I live in CA where the weather is generally okay. I bought a good quality belt on Amazon for $11.

If C33 wants to start learning and doing more on cars, replacing a serpentine belt is one of the easier, cleaner DIY projects, requiring not much in the way of tools. On my Chrysler minivans all I needed were ramps to raise the front and a 1/2" drive breaker bar to release the tension on the belt while pushing it onto the last of the pulleys it drives. Also a piece of cardboard to lie on.

If you do it wrong you can break the tentioner and that will cost you $$$

Yes, the tensioner can be relieved of its tension in one direction. The other direction, if too much force is applied, can break it.

Any mechanic worth their salt replaces the serpentine belt tensioner along with the serpentine belt.


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Read your owners manual for the proper service requirements. Although it is not in your manual, they should have changed your brake fluid when they did your brakes.

Most posters here recommend changing your transmission fluid regularly. Toyota says it never needs changing. Since Toyota extended the transmission warranty on my 2012 Camry to 10 years and 150,000 ,miles and I am not planning to keep mine beyond that . I am not going to touch my transmission.

That belt tensioner is $210 and should last a lot longer than 57,000 miles.

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Or, get a serpentine belt replacement kit made by Gates for less than $150.00 from Rockauto.


Tester, if I were working at a shop and that was their practice, I would do it.

As a DIYer, I have replaced tensioners when they were noisy or they felt rough/grainy when turning them. When I replaced the belt, I was reinstalling the one that was on there, after removing it and checking the driven components for smoothness of bearings and absence of free play, or after replacing an alternator.

One advantage of DIY is there’s no salt (no salary) to pay. But it’s not for everyone. I started DIY on bicycles as a boy to have fun, and on cars as a college student to save money. I still get satisfaction and save money working on bicycles and cars now that I am retired.

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