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Tow truck or drive it?

Hi everyone.

The alternator and power steering belt disappeared on our 2005 Legacy. I understand the battery will drain without being charged but the car does run. I hooked it to a battery tender to get the charge back up.

Can this be driven to 8 miles to the local mechanic?

8 miles shouldn’t be a problem, especially during day time.

I agree with Remco, except…if the battery is the original one, I wouldn’t trust it to be able to have sufficient reserve power for the ignition, daytime running lights, stop lights, and all of the electronic management systems for 8 miles. If the battery is relatively new, then it should be able to make it that distance after being recharged.

How old is this battery?

Does the water pump operate off the timing belt? You won’t make it 8 miles without the water pump turning.

I forgot about the water pump!

Unless the OP wants to deal with overheating, and consequent engine damage, then the answer is…NO, you can’t drive it!

Edited to add:
I just checked the Gates website, and the water pump on this model is driven by the timing belt, not by the serpentine belt. So, Rod’s caution does not apply. (Obviously, if the timing belt was broken, the engine wouldn’t even be running.)

The battery is 2-3 years old. My $6 walmart battery tender is hooked up with a yellow light on. Green means fully charged.

My wife(panicked) already ran it in this condition for 3 miles and did not see anything abnormal except for the bright red brake light and battery light beyond the extremely stiff steering.

Ehhh, guys - you can’t drive a car without a /timing/ belt.

On a legacy the alternator and PS belt is just a belt in front of the engine. No biggie.
The waterpump is driven off the timing belt, which is fine on his car.

Just drive it. Maybe top off the battery and there’s no need to overthink it. Maybe pop the fuse out for the headlights so they are off.
I take it you’re buying a belt and driving back to put it on (so 16 miles) or having them put it on?

You should make it, IF the battery is fully charged. A battery tender is a low amp charger (1 amp) like a trickle charger. One night might on a trickle charger might not have you at full charge. My tender has a red and green lights to show when you are up to a full charge. If yours is the same and showed green you will be fine. No AC, no blower, no radio, just start the car put the window(s) down and drive. Might be a good idea to have a jumper box handy just in case.

Rember the car will not have power streering!

I think this is a question of “what is it worth to you”. You might very well make it and save the towing charge. If not you will be stuck at some undetermined place and have to wait while the battery charges, enough to hopefully make it the rest of the way, or replace the battery with a fully charged one. At best you can pay yourself the tow cost. In the worst case you can get stuck then decide to have it towed. It might best best to replace the belt yourself.

I’m sure he’s there by now. It doesn’t take that long to walk eight miles…

Made it there. But the steering was very difficult. I thought my wife was being dramatic(typically is) but it was hard to steer car. Next time tow truck for sure.

Turned out to be a sheered bolt on alternator which let the belt go. In/out of indy mechanic for $46 parts and labor.


I’m glad you got your car fixed. Trying to steer a car with power steering when the power steering isn’t there is not easy because you are fighting the hydraulic system. Some years ago, I had a female colleague who was of slight build and cheap. She had a 1968 Mercury Cougar and said that when she pulled into a parking place, the steering became very hard and the car was leaking fluid. I guessed that there was a leak in the power steering system. I advised her to have the car towed to the dealer. She didn’t like my answer, so she asked another person in the department. He told her that it would be o.k. to drive it the two miles to the dealer. She came past my office and said that another colleague had said it would be o.k. to drive the car and to save the money by not having the car towed, and she was going to drive it to the dealer. I was only half listening to what she said and five minutes later, I realized she would have a problem. I ran to the parking lot. She had backed the car out of the parking place and then found she didn’t have the strength to turn the wheel. She was blocking traffic and sitting behind the wheel crying. I ended up taking the wheel and drove the car to the dealer. I’m a pretty big old country boy and I had a hard time steering the car. That incident was probably 40 years ago, but I always have a car towed if the power steering is gone.