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Squealing belts

You don’t need to be a cast member of Top Gear to respect cars for the impressive mechanical inventions they are.  Our organic human anatomy is weak by comparison, too small too match the velocity of a 2000kg speeding chunk of metal.  We depend on our cars to be the strong ones of the relationship and not be vulnerable to grand public displays of instability.

Naturally, it can be more than a little unsettling when your mechanical baby is involuntarily screeching with sufferance and can’t tell you where it hurts.

You may be content with the charade that your daily routine involves inhumanely torturing a stuck pig in your car every morning as you hurriedly reverse out your driveway. Nothing to see here, Richard. Just taking Mr Bacon McSqueal on the school run with us today. Well if you must know, Richard, yes, it is for disciplinary purposes. He’s fallen in with the wrong crowd and he needs to learn consequences. It’s tough love, I know, but the Mrs and I run a tight ship and he’s testing the boundaries. It’s called parenting, Richard, and if you don’t mind, just keep this between us as it’s a bit of a sensitive issue. Bye now.

The whole street knows there’s no misfit piggie punishings in your car and if there is, for the love of lamingtons, please refer to Issue 13 Chapter 5 of my self-help blog, entitled Breaking the cycle of Belittling your Bacon when your Pork Pushes You to the Limit. Totally imaginary, but well worth the read if I do say so myself.

Don’t be quick to begrudge the neighbourly judgement. The affirmation that others can too hear the horrendous plea of tortured souls should be considerably comforting. Definitely preferable to suspecting you’re harbouring a porthole to the underworld under your bonnet, because that could be an awkward conversation with Richard. This topic is discussed at length in Issue 5, chapter 8 of my blog ‘Inadvertently Hosting a Highway to Hell – Social Do’s and Don’ts’.

Again, imaginary but tackles the issue unapologetically.

Moving right along as this is a mechanical blog and not merely creative writing therapy for a socially inhibited office lady endeavouring to compensate for her lack of mechanical knowledge with exaggerated literary dramatics.

A squealing sound often indicates a problem with your engines’ belts, especially if the horrendous screech is more prominent when you first start the car. Belts cop a fair bit of wear, and eventually will need replacing, but aren’t too expensive and it’s not normally a big job.

If your car is squealing when you turn the wheel you may simply be low on power steering fluid.  It may be that your power steering system may need attention. This may be accompanied by increased difficulties turning the wheel.

Most cars today have a single belt that drives the accessories on the motor.  Things like your alternator, air conditioning compressor and power steering pump are all considered accessories.

That single engine belt is called the serpentine or drive belt.  This belt is different from your timing belt because if it breaks it won’t do any immediate damage to your engine or car.  If this belt breaks, your alternator will no longer charge your battery causing the battery light to come on in your car.  Also, your power steering pump will no longer be pumping so your steering wheel will be very difficult to turn.  If your water pump is driven by the serpentine belt then your engine will also quickly start to overheat.

Belt tension is important. If the tension is too low, the belt will wobble and won’t have enough friction to drive the pulleys it’s running on.  If this is the case, the engine belt will slip on the pulley causing the annoying squealing noise you hate.

In most newer cars, the engine belt tension is created by an auto belt tensioner.  Once the belt is fitted over the pulley the spring pressure on the arm puts the correct amount of tension on the belt for everything to run smoothly and quietly.  If your engine belt seems loose, squeaks, or wobbles or flaps while your engine is running it’s possible the tensioner either has a worn out bearing or the spring has lost its ability to create the proper tension.

Another possible cause of engine belt noise would be if you have a failing accessory that is causing extra drag on the belt or has a wobbling pulley or you could simply have an old belt.  The rubber the belt is made out of wears out over time, can become glazed or even cracked which can all cause noise.  If your engine belt looks shiny on the ribbed side or has cracks in the ribs, consider replacing it to see if that quiets things down.

Now focus, good people. This next bit is important.  If your wheels are also vibrating, or dwindling, the bushings or ball joints of your power steering system might need replacing. Seek the advice of a mechanic promptly, as your safety is being compromised.

A short 30 minute diagnostic appointment with us can pinpoint the cause of your squeal.

Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security because the offensive sound lessens as your car warms up. Ain’t nobody got time for limping a poorly, children laden minivan home in 300m bursts, tears of self pity clouding your vision with yet another affirmation that this is why you can’t have nice things. Perhaps you were too complacent/miserly/naive to commit to regular engine services or seek proper mechanical advice when your car was behaving abnormally. Perhaps you were keen to take out the crown in the Procrastinator of the Year Awards. Sorry not sorry. These unfortunate inconveniences can be easily minimised.

Regularly having your car serviced is the best way to plan for future inevitable expenses. It really will save you money in the long run and you’ll absorb less damage costs to other parts of your engine.  Having your car regularly serviced by Townsville Mobile Mechanic will save you both money AND time as we come to you at your convenience. Keep your car happy and it’ll return the favour.


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