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Overview of V-Belt, Serpentine Belt, and Timing Belt

Most vehicle engines today often have two to three belts. It is common to find a timing belt, a serpentine belt, and a V-belt or two. Many car owners are often confused between these three. Therefore, it is important to be familiar with their differences and specific functions. 


The V-belt was invented as a replacement for the flat belt in 1917. Its name was inspired by its V shape and its production was started because it has a bigger surface area compared to a flat belt with the same width.

However, you have to be extra careful because while the V-belt makes more contact, using the right size is imperative. A size that is too small will make the belt bottom out and unable to grab. A properly fitted V-belt must extend out of the pulley groove a bit. The belt might end up worn under the cord member if it extends out too high. 

A V-belt is often used to rotate the accessories of a car’s engine such as the AC compressor, water pump, alternator, and power steering pump.

A V-belt that rides under the edge of the groove is often an indication of an incorrect belt size, a worn pulley, or a worn belt. Although it might sound somewhat complicated, don’t worry because many V-belts today are already premeasured for specific vehicles. You can also order them using a part number rather than a specific size. This saves you from fussing over it. However, you still have to keep an eye on the fitment characteristics. 

V-belts are often used to rotate the accessories of a car’s engine such as the AC compressor, water pump, alternator, and power steering pump. Ask your car’s manufacturer or refer to the owner’s manual for recommended intervals for replacement. 

Serpentine Belts

Serpentine belts are modern-day belts that were first produced during the late 1970s. It is a V-ribbed belt, with only one ribbed side, and is often thinner than V-belts. It allows easy bending and is also more flexible, letting it wrap around the smaller accessory drive pulleys. The ribbed side often comes into contact with grooves used on accessory drive pulleys, while the flat side comes into contact with the tensioner roller. 

It was named serpentine because of how the belt can weave its way around different pulleys. These belts are also longer lasting than V-belts. Serpentine belts are easier to install or remove and can transmit more power. 

Timing Belts

Timing belts are the most important belts. The crankshaft drives the timing belt that links the bottom and top of the engine to keep everything well-timed or in sync. 

The timing belt turns the camshafts from the crankshaft’s rotation’s provided power and even the water pump on some designs. These belts were first introduced during the 1960s. Unlike the timing chain setup, timing belts are quieter, can resist stretching, don’t need lubrication, and are often more efficient

V-belt vs serpentine engine accessory system | Extra Good

A timing belt is easy to differentiate from a serpentine belt or V-belt because of its molded-in rubber teeth and the strong fiberglass cord line used. Despite its rubber teeth, the belt is made of highly saturated nitrile (HSN) or high-temperature neoprene.

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