I have a 2001 Dodge Grand Caravan that has recently started squeeling like a stuck pig. I assume this means the belt is loose or is about to snap. Is the vehicle safe to drive until I can get it in the shop?
I can’t hear it from here, but I’d suggest that the tensioner is shot so the belt is slipping, a bearing in the tensioner (or other idler if so equipped) is bad, or some combination thereof. The belt is probably damaged too. I’d get it to a shop as soon as practical. See: http://www.cartalk.com/content/mechx/ for an indy shop near you.
There is also a possibility that the belt is glazed and slipping and the tensioner is OK, or that it is a bearing inside the tensioner that is squeeling. You can test to see if it’s just the belt or bearing by spraying some household cleaner on the belt as it rotates. If it quits squeeling temporarily, it’s just the belt. If not, it’s a bearing. Caution, the spray will go all over the place, including your eyes if you stand in the same plane as the rotating belt. Step to the side of the van, not the front.
The belt may be squeeling because some item it is driving is failing. My wife’s Ford had a squeeling A/C belt, which turned out to be the compressor bearing seizing up. You need to test the idler, driven items, etc. With luck it will only be the belt or the idler.
Since it is squealing now, it is trying to get your attention, and needs help.
Most likely the tensioner is going. BUT, as doc said, any other item must be eliminated as a possibility too.
I had my tensioner drop off in the driveway, so there it sat until i replaced it. (if you lose the belt you lose power steering, water pump, and the ability to get home) So your question about “needing” it done is appropriate… once it drops the pulley or the belt you ain’t moving (at least far, without possible damage to engine)