The radiator fan belt keeps the radiator fan turning and helps cool air to circulate. It also powers other components. If it’s not doing its job well, this can lead to decreased performance and the engine overheating. There are a number of indicators that your radiator fan belt might need to be replaced. If you pay attention to them, you won’t suddenly be faced with a broken fan belt or be left stranded at the side of the road.
Radiator fan belts will sometimes wear out, and with older vehicles, they should be replaced every 50,000 miles. If you hear a squealing from the engine, it’s a good sign that the radiator fan belt is wearing out. You might just hear the squeaking belt when you start the car, and it could just last for a couple of minutes. Be aware that this will increase over time, as will the volume.
The cause of this is the belt slipping on the pulley. Generally, this will be due to corrosion of the radiator fan belt. You can buy sprays that will stop the belt slipping, but these are only short-term fixes. The only real solution will be to replace the belt and make sure the tension on the new one is right.
If the belt is slipping a great deal, the chances are that it’s not as taut as it once was. It can stretch over time, and when that happens the belt will need replacement. The way to check this is by pulling on the belt. With a good radiator fan belt there will be very little give. Push down on the fan belt with your thumb. If it gives too easily and travels too far, then you will need to replace it, as it will be slipping on the pulleys and not producing enough power. If you have a new belt, comparing the length of the old belt to the new one can also give you an idea of how stretched out the belt is.
You’ll need to replace a radiator fan belt if there’s a great deal of fraying or cracking on the belt. You can check this with a visual inspection. Use a flashlight, and have a small mirror to look at the underside of the belt. If there are more than two cracks per inch on the belt, then you should replace the belt. Do so immediately if any of the cracks run deeper than half the belt’s thickness, as these could break at any time.
You should also look out for rubbing and cording on the belt, which are strong indicators that the radiator fan belt is very worn and needs to be replaced.
When you inspect the radiator fan belt, you might observe a number of bumps and pinholes. These indicate that somehow dirt is coming between the pulley and the belt. If there are just a few, this isn’t a great worry. If there are quite a number of them, then it’s time to replace the belt. Similarly, if you spot any abrasions on the belt, you should consider changing the belt before they become worse.