How to Inspect Car Belts and Hoses

Check under the hood to prevent problems

A belt or hose failure can cause an overheated engine, loss of power steering, and loss of the electrical charging system. If a hose leaks coolant or the belt turning the water pump snaps, the cooling system is inoperable. If the engine overheats, it can suffer serious internal damage that requires expensive repairs and can ruin a summer vacation.

Overheating can occur anytime, but usually happens in the summer. Underhood temperatures are much higher, and heat can trigger or accelerate deterioration of rubber compounds.

Coolant and Heater Hoses

Hoses are the cooling system’s weakest structural component. They are made of flexible rubber compounds to absorb vibrations between the engine and radiator, or, in the case of heater hoses, the engine and body’s firewall. Designed to hold coolant under pressure, hoses are also subjected to fluctuating extremes of heat and cold, dirt, oils, and sludge. Atmospheric ozone also attacks rubber compounds.

The most damaging cause of hose failure—electrochemical degradation (ECD)—isn’t easy to detect. According to engineers for the Gates Corporation, a parts maker, ECD attacks hoses from the inside, causing tiny cracks. Acids and contaminants in the coolant can then weaken the yarn material that reinforces the hose. Eventually, pinholes can develop or the weakened hose may rupture from heat, pressure, or constant flexing.

Some easy, basic maintenance can help prevent coolant hose failure:

  • Check the white coolant-recovery tank often to ensure proper fluid level. Marks on the tank indicate the proper level for when the engine is cold or hot. If the tank is low after repeated fillings, suspect a leak. Also check for white, light green, blue, or pink coolant tracks in the engine bay, which is residue left from leaking coolant.
  • When the engine is cool, squeeze the hoses with your thumb and forefinger near the clamps, where ECD most often occurs. Feel for soft or mushy spots. A good hose will have a firm yet pliant feel.
  • Inspect for cracks, nicks, bulges usually while hot), or a collapsed section in the hose and oil contamination, or fraying near the connection points.
  • Look for parallel cracks around bends (caused by ozone), a hardened glassy surface (heat damage), or abrasive damage (hose is rubbing).
  • Flush and replace the coolant according to the owner’s manual. Clean coolant is less likely to support ECD.
  • Never remove the radiator cap when the engine is hot, as the hot coolent will be under pressure. Also, be aware that an electric cooling fan can come on at any time.

The upper radiator hose fails more often than any other hose, followed by the water pump bypass hose (if your vehicle is so equipped), and the outlet heater hose from the engine to the heater core. Experts recommend, however, that all hoses be replaced at least every four years or when one fails. Always use replacement hoses designed to fight ECD. Trademarks will vary among hose manufacturers. (Gates uses “ECR” for Electro-Chemical Resistant). Look for a “Type EC” label on the hose or its packaging. That is a Society of Automotive Engineers standard signifying “electrochemical.” Most vehicles built after 1993 come with ECD-resistant hoses.

Accessory Belts

Many of the same elements that attack hoses also attack belts—heat, oil, ozone, and abrasion. Almost all cars and trucks built today have a single multi-grooved serpentine belt that drives the alternator, water pump, power-steering pump, and air-conditioning compressor. Older vehicles may have separate V-belts that drive the accessories. The Car Care Council says chances of a V-belt failure rise dramatically after four years or 36,000 miles, while the critical point for a serpentine belt is 50,000 miles. Any belt should be changed when it shows signs of excessive wear. But many new composite belts don’t show signs of wear until the failure occurs.

Here are tips for inspecting belts:

  • Look for cracks, fraying, or splits on the top cover.
  • Look for signs of glazing on the belt’s sides. Glazed or slick belts can slip, overheat or crack.
  • Twist a serpentine belt to look for separating layers, cracks, or missing chunks of the grooves on the underside.

Replacement belts should be identical in length, width, and number of grooves to the factory belt. Serpentine belts are usually kept tight with an automatic tensioner. Signs of a belt-tension problem include a high-pitched whine or chirping sound and vibration noises. Without proper tension, belts will slip and generate heat or fail to turn the accessories.

If in doubt, check with a qualified technician about any cooling problems, and always consult your owner’s manual for routine maintenance procedures.

Happy Driving!


Warning signs that your nose can recognize

Most cars start out with a “new car smell,” but there are other specific odors that should never ignore. Identifying these smells early on can help car owners be car care.

warning signs

“Unusual smells can be the sign of serious, and potentially costly, trouble for your car. By acting quickly and making necessary repairs, you’ll be able to breathe easy knowing there is no harmful damage to your car.”

Following are the warning signs that your nose can recognize:

• The smell of burnt rubber could be slipping drive belts or misplaced loose hoses that might be rubbing against rotating accessory drive pulleys. Do not reach in if the engine compartment is hot.

• The smell of hot oil could mean that oil is leaking onto the exhaust system. To verify the leak, look for oil on the pavement or smoke coming from the engine area.

• The smell of gasoline is likely the sign of a gas leak in some area of the car such as a fuel injector line or the fuel tank. Any smell of fuel can result in a possible fire hazard, so immediate attention should be given.

• The sweet smell of syrup may be a sign that your car is leaking engine coolant from a leaky component related to the car’s cooling system. Do not open the radiator cap when it is hot.

• The smell of burning carpet could be a sign of brake trouble and a safety hazard. Have your brakes checked right away, especially if this smell is happening during normal driving conditions.

• The smell of rotten eggs is never a good one and, if you smell it coming from your car, it could mean a problem with your catalytic converter not converting the hydrogen sulfide in the exhaust to sulfur dioxide properly. This smell can also be attributed to a poor running engine, causing the catalytic converter to become overloaded and fail due to meltdown.

“When you smell any peculiar odor, you should not ignore it. Instead bring your car to a professional service technician.”


Five myths and realities of car care

There is no question that if you want your car to go the distance, you need to take care of it. But even with good intentions, you may be spending extra money on car care that isn’t necessary. Here are five maintenance myths and the money-saving truth behind them.

car care

• Myth: Change your oil every 3,000 miles.
Reality: Car Service Stations put those 3,000-mile reminder stickers on the cars after each oil change, but it’s usually not necessary. Their profits depend on not low-cost oil changes. The smart money is on sticking to the service intervals recommended in your car owner’s manual. More frequent oil changing doesn’t hurt engine, it can cost a lot of extra money and consume more petroleum.

• Myth: Air conditioning will hurt fuel economy
Reality: There has been much debate about whether to drive with the air conditioner on or keep the windows open in order to save gas. Using the A/C does put more load on the engine, but in our tests, we found just a slight decrease in fuel economy and no measurable difference when opening the windows.

• Myths: You’ll get more gas for your money if you fill up in the morning
Reality: A common tip is to buy gasoline in the morning, when the air is cool, rather than in the heat of the day. The theory is that the cooler gasoline will be denser, so you will get more for your money.

• Myth: Inflate tires to the pressure shown on the tyre’s sidewall.
Reality: The figure on the side of the tyre is the maximum pressure that the tyre can safely hold, not the automaker’s recommended pressure, which provides the best balance of braking, handling, gas mileage, and ride comfort. If the tyre pressure is down 10 psi, our testing has shown that it can make a 1 mpg difference in fuel economy. But far more significant is the impact on handling, braking, and wear–all of which can cost you one way or another. Check the tyre pressure monthly after the car has been parked for a few hours.

• Myth: Premium gas is better for your car.
Reality: Most vehicles run just fine on regular-grade fuel. Using premium in these cars won’t hurt, but it won’t improve performance, either. A higher number simply means that the fuel is less prone to pre-ignition problems, so it’s often specified for hotter running, high-compression engines. Some cars truly require premium, meaning you’re stuck paying extra.


Tips to save fuel and money

Across the country petrol prices are cover higher and higher resulting in motoring costs being at an all-time high. We have some fuel saving tips to make your tank go that much further.

Save fuel

1. Regular check-ups: Service your car regularly using a reputable and recognized local car service centre. Engines in modern cars are a lot more complicated than they used to be and these need to be correctly maintained.

2. Check tyres: At least once a month check your tyre pressure and make sure your tyres are inflated to the correct pressure. Tyres which are slightly under inflated can increase your fuel costs. Cold tyres give a false low pressure reading so check the tyre pressure while they are still warm – take a short drive.

3. Reduce weight: Efficiency is reduced if carrying unnecessary excess weight. Remove roof racks, cycle tracks and storage boxes when not in use as these affect the aerodynamics of your car.

4. Temperature: Warming the car before setting off on a journey burns fuel. However, a warm engine is much more efficient than a cold one. Where possible try and make all your trips in succession so the engine does not get cold in between stops.

5. Forward planning: Spend time planning your trip and try and avoid peak times and the congestion that comes with it. Make sure you know exactly where you are going, if you get lost then you end up wasting fuel.

6. Reduce speed: Reducing your average speed by a few mph can have a noticeable effect on your fuel consumption and more importantly on your wallet! If you drive at 70 mph you burn 9% more fuel than when you drive at 60 mph. If your average motorway speed is 80 mph you are burning 25% more fuel than when driving at 70 mph.

7. Nice and easy: A significant amount of fuel can be saved if drivers try and read the road that lies ahead. For example, try slowing down earlier when approaching traffic lights. This avoids unnecessary acceleration, heavy braking and then quick acceleration when pulling away from the lights. If your car becomes stationary for more than a few minutes then switch off the engine to save fuel. However, the best fuel efficient tip is to drive more ‘gently’, avoiding heavy acceleration and using the gearbox to gain a higher speed more quickly. Always try changing gear before reaching 2,500 rpm if driving a petrol and 2,000 rpm if driving a diesel car.

8. Keep it cool: Most modern cars are fitted with air conditioning. When the air conditioning is on it places considerable demand on the engine, so when not required switch it off. However, if the air conditioning is left off for long periods of time, harmful bacteria can build up in the system; this can result in expensive repairs. This can be avoided, try and use the system for a few minutes every two or three weeks.

However, if you are thinking of changing your car to fit in with your lifestyle, you may be better off purchasing a smaller, more fuel efficient model. The newer the model of car the more fuel efficient it will be (this all depends on the car).


Check your car lights and wipers

Check your car’s lights and wipers, as the chance of an accident increases if you can’t see or be seen. It’s more important that your car’s lights and wipers are working properly so you can be seen by others. From the driver’s seat you may not notice a light that is not working, so inspect all of your car’s lights and replace those that are out. Also, inspect and replace wiper blades so you can see clearly when wet weather hits.

Wiper & Lights

Lights are normal wear items that require periodic inspection and replacement. The lighting system provides nighttime visibility, signals and alerts other drivers and supplies light for viewing instruments and the car’s interior. In addition to replacing dimming, rapidly blinking and non-functioning lights, the following tips can help keep you safe:

1. If there is any doubt on whether or not your headlights should be on, turn them on. Lights not only help you see better in early twilight, they also make it easier for other drivers to see you.

2. Keep headlights, tail lights and signal lights clean. External dirt and garbage can dim operational lights from being seen by others.

3. Make sure that your headlights are properly aimed. Misaimed headlights blind other drivers and reduce your ability to see the road.

4. Don’t overdrive your headlights; you should be able to stop inside the illuminated area, otherwise you are creating a blind crash area in front of your car.

The wiper system keeps excessive water, snow and dirt from building up on the windshield, maintaining clear visibility. Many factors can accelerate the replacement interval of wipers, including operating conditions, frequency of use, material and type of wipers and sunny weather. In fact, wiper blades can deteriorate faster and need more frequent replacement.