Squealing Startup

This week my car ('99 Subaru Legacy Sedan, 140,000 mi)started making a very loud squealing noise whenever I start it with a cold engine. It stops after about 15 seconds. I live in Maryland, and it’s just starting to get cold.

I think my old Saturn used to make a sound like this, and it was a serpentine belt. It continued to do it during cold weather even though we changed the belt.

The car just passed a VERY thorough state inspection about 2 months ago. Any ideas on what it might be, and how serious it is?

The serpentine belt is worn, loose, or glazed, more than likely.
It is also possible that the belt tensioner will need to be replaced, in addition to adjusting or replacing the belt.

On an unrelated note, I really hope that you have already had the Timing Belt replaced, as it was due about 3 years/35k miles ago. If not, prepare yourself financially for about $2k of engine repairs when the belt snaps.

How old is the battery?

When you start an engine cold it draws a lot of energy from the battery. Once the engine starts, the alternator immediately comes on line to recharge the energy to the battery that was used to start the engine. If the battery is drawn down too far when starting the cold engine, it puts a greater load on the alternator to recharge the battery. This can then cause the serpentine belt to slip on the alternator pulley from this load the alternator see’s. The belt continues to slip/squeal until the battery is recharged where the load on the alternator is reduced and the squealing stops.


If it’s the serp belt, would it have been evident on the safety inspection? Here in Maryland, they check a gazillion things.

I replaced the timing belt at about 90,000 miles. Whew!

I think the battery is 2-3 yrs old.

The tensioner for the belt may have lost its tension, and this would have the same symptoms as a bad belt. It is very unlikely that they would check a belt tensioner during the course of a state inspection.

Any idea how much it might cost for a belt and/or a tensioner?