Serpentine Belt Replacement Costs in 2023 – Parts and Labor Reviewed
The serpentine belt is a critical part of the engine. Without it, the water, air, and steering pumps won’t work. It’s the belt’s job to “feed” the alternator with just the right amount of power/energy from the crankshaft. When it fails, the A/C unit will stop working, and you’ll lose control over the vehicle. And if you don’t shut the car down immediately, the motor might also take a hit.
Now, drive/fan belts are quite durable, but they are known to break. So, how much will a new unit cost you? What’s the average labor cost? How much should you expect to pay in different parts of the country? Are there any extra expenses involved? What’s the best way to troubleshoot the drive belt? Read on to find out!
The Importance of a Serpentine Belt
There’s no hitting the road with a faulty serpentine belt—that’s the first thing to remember. While it’s not a particularly sophisticated component, the engine won’t be able to start with a malfunctioning belt. That’s because when it’s worn out or broken, the alternator doesn’t get a charge. As a result, you lose the ability to power steer the car. The air conditioner also stops working.
In some older vehicles, overheating can be an issue as well. You can’t overestimate the importance of the belt! And if you want to know how to recognize early signs of a malfunctioning belt, scroll down to the bottom of this post. But first, let’s check the average cost of a proper serpentine belt replacement.
How Much Does a Professional Serpentine Belt Replacement Cost?
Good news: replacing the drive belt won’t cost you a pretty penny. On average, expect to pay $170 both for the part and the labor. Most drivers are paying $120–150 for this service. The final price will be determined by the area that you live in, the car that you drive (is it a sedan, SUV, or truck), and the overall condition of the vehicle, along with the local fees and government regulations.
In any case, serpentine belt replacement is one of the cheapest (and quickest) procedures. Still, we encourage you to get in contact with the auto service shop/mechanic and negotiate a price before you arrive at their doorstep. This way, you’ll be able to avoid any confusion both on your and their side.
Serpentine Belt Replacement Cost By Different Regions
Do you live on the East Coast? Then expect the prices for a drive belt replacement to be a bit steep. Folks in the Midwestern region, in contrast, get to enjoy the lowest prices. You’ll also have to consider your state and city, of course. Here are the close estimates for various parts of the country:
- The Midwest: $90–150
- The West Coast: $100–170
- The East Coast: $110–220
Serpentine Belt Replacement Cost By Popular Auto Shops
It’s no secret that different companies, shops, and services have their own prices. Here’s a quick breakdown of the most popular auto shops and their current prices for parts and labor. As a bonus, you’ll get a 12-months warranty (a 24-months deal with NAPA):
- Midas: $90–170
- NAPA: $80–180
- Your Mechanic: $100–160
- Tire: 100–165
Serpentine Belt Replacement Cost By Popular Car Models
Alright, before we move on to the additional expenses, check out how much serpentine replacement costs for some of the most popular vehicles on American roads:
- Ford F-Series Truck: $120–160
- Chevy Silverado: $110–160
- Honda CR-V: $100–130
- Ford Explorer: $90–150
- Toyota Land Cruiser: $150–210
- Lincoln Navigator: $120–160
- Ford Focus: $70–150
- Toyota Camry: $125–160
- Honda Accord: $100–130
- Ford Fusion: $75–150
- Nissan Altima: $100–125
- Toyota Corolla: $120–180
- Honda Civic: $100–125
- Subaru Legacy: $160–220
How Much Do Mechanics Charge for Serpentine Belt Replacement?
It takes an experienced mechanic 1–2 hours to get this done. First, they’ll loosen the tensioner then remove the old belt and install the new one. For that, they’ll charge you $80–90, again, depending on the condition of the engine and the various parts, and your location. As for the belt, it will cost roughly $50–65. Yes, auto shops charge more for the work than for the actual belt!
Additional Costs to Anticipate
Serpentine belt replacement doesn’t include any additional costs per se. That’s because in most cases, replacing this one single component will solve the problem. However, if you’ve been driving around with the same parts for 5–6 years, you might want to at least consider a full inspection of the engine bay. Or, if you have the budget for that, have the “adjacent” parts replaced as well.
How Often Should the Serpentine Belt Be Replaced?
On average, serpentine belts last for 60–100K miles, while the regular American drives 15K miles a year. So, that means the belt will serve you for 4–7 years. In contrast, the alternator lasts for 80–150K miles. But the belt is still considered one of the most durable and long-lasting parts in a modern-day car. A quick note: older vehicles used to have more than one belt, but these days, one single unit handles everything.
Now, the real-world lifespan will depend on your driving style, the road (do you mostly stick to highways or off-roading trails), and the climate. Over time, the belt wears, cracks, and snaps, while the rubber slides off the serpentine belt. But, as we just learned, a thorough belt inspection won’t cost you much. That’s exactly why we recommend regular maintenance.
How Do I Know the Serpentine Belt is Failing?
The following list includes the most common symptoms of a faulty belt. If you notice any of these signs, have it replaced as soon as possible to avoid costly engine repairs:
- The Engine Light keeps popping up. While this light may very well be triggered by other malfunctioning components, if you’re having trouble with the AC or with handling, have the belt checked. Is the drive/fan belt working flawlessly? Then it could be the plugs, alternator, or the wire harness, to name a few.
- Severe performance issues. If power steering is acting up, that’s a common side effect of a bad serpentine belt. In a more severe case, the battery will lose its charge quickly and fail to recharge through the alternator. Or the engine will just stop working and you won’t be able to start it again.
- Squealing noises. Weird noises coming from the engine could be a sign that the belt is dying. If you hear a chirping noise, that means the belt is slipping because of wear, tear, or low tension. Coolant and oil leaks are also known to cause this problem, but they don’t happen very often.
- Engine overheating. Do you see smoke coming out from the hood? It might be that the belt has fallen and now the water pump can’t keep the motor cool. Keep your eye on the temperature meter on the dashboard. Once the belt fails, it will go down rapidly. When that happens, call a tow truck instead of trying to make it to the dealership on your own.
Does Car Insurance Cover Serpentine Belts? What About the Warranty?
Sadly, no, you can’t rely on car insurance to cover serpentine belt replacement. The most common cause of belt failure is wear-and-tear, which is not covered by standard insurance. The same is true for other parts made of rubber, including light bulbs and hoses—they fall into the category of Maintenance Items. The only time when you can expect someone else to pay for a broken belt is if you have an extended warranty on your car.
You’ll still have to double-check and make sure that it does, indeed, include the belt. Ideally, it should also cover the alternator and the pumps. This is important: if you get in an accident and the serpentine is damaged, the repair/replacement cost will, most likely, be handled by the insurance company. But, again, you’ll have to pay for a worn-out/torn belt from your own pocket.
Serpentine belts are just as important as alternators, crankshafts, valves, fuel injectors, and plugs. When the belt is working properly, you won’t even know it’s there. However, when it breaks down or starts to malfunction, you will be forced to park on the side of the road and call for help. Thankfully, a brand-new belt doesn’t cost much to replace.
Mechanics don’t charge a lot, either. So, make a habit of running regular maintenance checks and replacing the belt the second it starts acting up. Or, better yet, install a new one when you reach the end of the factory belt’s lifespan. That will save you from an expensive trip to a repair shop later.
Featured Image Credit: J.J. Gouin, Shutterstock