What Is A Serpentine Belt And Why Is It Important?

Have you ever wondered how different components in your engine work together? The answer for some parts is the serpentine belt.

A serpentine belt may look like a simple part, but it's the only link between several moving parts in your engine. What is a serpentine belt, and how does it work? Read on to find out.

What Is A Serpentine Belt?

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Image credit: Una Smith via Creative Commons

The serpentine belt is a durable rubber strip, resembling an oversized rubber band. It has grooves on it's inner surface that mate to grooves in pulleys. Internally, it is highly reinforced so that it will not stretch.

The serpentine belt is snaked through the engine, where it loops around many pulleys. (Fun fact: that's why it's called the serpentine belt!) It's set up in a way that when the serpentine belt spins at a certain speed, all the pulleys connected to it to spin, too. Each pulley connects to a component, and the spinning pulley powers the component.

In other words, the serpentine belt is a rubber belt that powers various parts at the same time. The serpentine belt typically drives the following parts:

  • Power steering pump
  • Cooling system water pump
  • Alternator
  • Air conditioning system

There may be more parts connected to the serpentine belt. It depends on your Mazda's engine design. Most newer cars have one serpentine belt.

Why Your Mazda Needs A Functioning Serpentine Belt

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A serpentine belt will break sooner or later. The most common reason this happens is because of wear and tear. Rubber degrades over time, and your serpentine belt will crack and then break.

If the serpentine belt breaks, none of the pumps or other parts connected to it will work. For instance:

  • You won't have an alternator to help keep the battery charged.
  • The power steering is lost and you'll have a hard time steering.
  • Your engine won't have a water pump to keep the engine cool.

Basically, your serpentine belt needs to be in a good shape in order for your Mazda's engine to run at all.

How Does A Serpentine Belt Work With Other Parts?

The process goes like this:

  1. You turn the ignition on.
  2. The motor starts running.
  3. The crankshaft pulley starts spinning.
  4. The serpentine belt, which is connected to the crankshaft pulley, starts spinning too.
  5. All the other pulleys connected to the serpentine belt start spinning. That powers other parts.

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