The modern internal combustion engine comes with different components that allow it to transmit power to the wheels and accessories of your car. One of these components is the belt tensioner. Like all auto parts, it has a shelf life. Unusual wear and tear can shorten the life of such a device, requiring replacement sooner than expected. It is important to recognize the various symptoms of a bad or failing belt tensioner. This will help you determine the precise action to take.
Before we start looking at the symptoms of a bad belt tensioner, let’s first get to know this component.
The belt tensioner is an important part of your car’s drive belt system. This system is responsible for converting part of the power generated by the engine. This power drives the alternator, water pump, power steering pump, and air conditioning compressor, among others. It is the responsibility of the belt tensioner to ensure that the drive belt has the proper amount of tension to power the various accessories.
A belt tensioner is like a pulley that is mounted on an adjustable pivot point or spring mechanism. Both brackets allow for more efficient tension application on the belts. Pivot designs allow manual tension adjustments. The spring tensioners work automatically. This means that it adjusts the tension on the drive belts without external manipulation.
The belt tensioner in your car consists of four main parts. These include the pulley, idler arm, spring, and base. The pulley is what allows the drive belt to move. The spring keeps the drive belt in its correct tension. The tensioner arm is a mechanism that allows the adjustment or removal of the drive belt. Provides enough slack in the drive belt for easy adjustments. The foundation is what holds all the different parts together.
Symptoms of a bad belt tensioner
We now know that the belt tensioner is what maintains the correct tension in the drive belt system. If we cannot maintain the correct tension, it will be difficult to get the different components that depend on the drive belt system to work. Some of the most common symptoms of a bad or failing belt tensioner are as follows.
Screeching or screeching noise
One of the most common symptoms of a faulty belt tensioner is unusual noise coming from the tensioner or the drive belts. If the noise from the drive belt resembles a grinding or grinding noise, the belt tensioner may be loose. This is especially the case when starting the engine first thing in the morning. Since the tensioner cannot maintain the correct tension on the belts, it produces a squeaky or grinding sound. This is most evident on drive belts.
If the noise you hear is similar to a squeak, then the idler bearings or idler pulley may be the problem. These parts tend to wear out. This is what causes the squeak, as the metal parts will rub against each other.
Unusual wear on the belt
This is another symptom of a faulty belt tensioner. Depending on the type of drive belt you have in your car, then you should see uniform patterns along the belt. Over time, these belts tend to wear out. There are also cases where drive belts wear out earlier than expected. This can be due to different causes.
One of the most important reasons for unusual belt wear is a problem with the drive belt tensioner pulley. If the pulley is problematic, it can cause the edges of the drive belt to fray. In more severe cases, a faulty idler pulley can cause the drive belt to break.
Belt-driven accessories malfunction
Since the belt tensioner maintains proper rotation of the drive belts on the car engine, certain components or accessories may not work if there is a problem with the tensioner. For example, the alternator may not work. If this happens, you will not be able to turn on the electrical components of your car. You will also not be able to charge your car battery while driving.
A faulty belt tensioner can also cause water pump problems. This is a very important engine component as it circulates engine coolant through a closed system of tubes, hoses, and other components. If it does not work…