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When to replace the belt - newbie

I have KIA Rio 2007 with 56k miles. My wife took it into a mechanic who suggested she replace the belt (I guess serpentine belt). I did a bit of research and this is below the average replacement distance of 60k-100k miles.

Does the belt(s) look like it needs replacing in the attached photos? I do not see any cracks that the mechanic said to my wife.

I’m a newbie who is looking to learn a bit about cars as well. I appreciate your help. Thank you.

Depends on whether the mechanic meant the serpentine belt or the timing belt. Your picture is of the serpentine belt. However at eight years old you might want to do both.

“mechanic…suggested she replace the belt (I guess serpentine belt)”

You shouldn’t be guessing, because he may have been talking about the timing belt, and ignoring/postponing that type of maintenance can be…very costly.

IIRC, Kia specifies a timing belt replacement interval of 5 years or 60k miles, whichever comes first. On that basis, while you are coming up very soon on the 60k mark, you are about 2 years overdue on the basis of elapsed time–which is just as important as the odometer mileage factor.

If this engine is of the “interference” type, when the timing belt snaps (with no warning whatsoever), pistons and valves will collide and lead to very expensive repairs.

Even if the engine is not of the interference design, when the timing belt snaps the engine immediately stalls, you lose power assist for the steering, and there will only be enough power boost for the brakes for one hard stop. Imagine if that happened…at turnpike speeds while amongst 18-wheelers…or while crossing RR tracks…or while driving through a very dicey area late at night.

All of this is why timing belts should be replaced proactively by following the mfr’s guidelines. To do otherwise is…foolish…and not cost-effective, to say the least.

So…I strongly suggest that you clarify with the mechanic whether he was talking about the serpentine belt (which powers the alternator & A/C compressor), or whether he was talking about the timing belt.

If he was actually talking about the serpentine belt, ask him to point out the problem that he has observed with it. If he was talking about the timing belt, say your prayers that this overdue maintenance will not result in “big bucks” repairs before you can have it taken care of.

Replace all the belts. Cheap insurance. 7 years is max.

You can’t determine if the belt requires replacement on appearance anymore.

You can get this tool for free at most auto parts stores to measure the wear of the belt.


It’s an interference engine and Gates says to inspect the timing belt at 60,000 miles and replace no matter what at 80,000 miles. Your owner’s manual should tell you when to replace the timing belt based on time. Given the mileage requirement, I would guess it is 6 to 7 years. If the timing belt needs to be removed to replace the water pump, replace the pump at the same time. While the serpentine belt is off, you might as well replace it, too.

oh wow. This is very alarming. I thought belts were able to last much longer. I’ll have to go in and get both belts replaced. Thank you so much for the information

I am a parts guy and have constant access to to my shop guys any time I want, so you’d think
I’d be good to go on belts and such.
A year ago I thought my serp belt ‘‘looked ‘’ just fine. ( 08 Expedition , o.e. belt ) no, or few surface cracks and nice and smooth all around.
’‘nice and smooth’’ turned out to be…TOO smooth !

The resistance from the a/c kicking on coupled with the old compressed smooth belt caused it to jump over a groove or two… which sliced those grooves off…which caught under the rest of the belt…which pulled it all off the pulleys…which turned it all into spaghetti…which stopped any pulleys from turning…which stopped the power steering…and the water pump…warning lights like a christmas tree and starts to heat up !

Once I wrestled the non-power steering beast into the Albertson’s parking lot, I poppped the hood and saw it was just the belt. JUST THE BELT ?? I looked at that thing two weeks ago and thought it to be ok !
I carry a spare and changed it after it cooled down BUT…
Joe Customer would be stranded calling for a tow and probably on a sunday to boot.

Now that it’s even being brought up…
change both belts now. Belts are rubber and age with time and heat and can fool you from looks alone.

I just changed the timing belt on my girlfriend’s Suzuki Reno which is a Daewoo product. These are notorious for breaking and trashing the engines. I know that basically all Hyundai products are interference engines and Kia is part of Hyundai. I wouldn’t take the risk on either belt, especially the timing belt.

The funny thing was that her serpentine belt was so cracked up and had holes in it. It must have been just barely hanging by a thread so that got replaced too. The timing belt had cracks so who knows how much longer it would have held on. It was nothing like that serpentine belt.

Do the timing belt according to the manual no matter what.

This idea is not for a permanent fix, but to get you home and off the highway.

When ever I replace a serpentine belt on any of our personal vehicles. I slip the old one into the sleeve that the new belt came in. Then I tuck that under the hood where it won’t fall out near the firewall.

If my wife calls and the belts broke… on a Sunday…I always have that one to get the car home with.


Newer Kias and Hyundais have gone to timing chains, at least on some models.

To the good comments above, I’ll add that to ascertain the wear on an accessory belt (e.g. the serpentine belt), if such a thing is even possible, you have to look at the inside surface, the surface that contacts the pulley. The outside surface appearance isn’t typically diagnostic. Noticeable cracking on the inside surface indicates the belt may need replacement.