Change belt difficulty?

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Old 07-11-04, 10:48 AM
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Change belt difficulty?

I've changed a car tire and changed the oil and that's the extent of my car repair experience. I have a broken alternator belt. There are 2 on my 1983 van, one that is small and a larger one that goes at an angle up to the alternator from other wheels. The larger one is the one that's broken. The only reason I know it's an alternator belt is it's what the guy in the auto store told me it was when I took the broken one in for a replacement.

Is it a difficult repair to do yourself? Even if I shouldn't tackle it, I'd like to learn how to change a fan belt in an emergency. Can a small woman remove the parts or does it take a lot of muscle (changing a small car tire is just about my limit).

I've gone around the internet and looked for any site that shows how to change a belt....even a fan belt. I can't find one. I'd like to know how to take off the metal wheels and what tools I'd need.

I'd appreciate it if anyone could recommend any site on the Internet that has basic auto repair illustrations. I'd like to know how to replace one of those rubber belts even if I can't replace the current one. When I bought my second hand van it came with an extra fan belt tucked under the seat and I'd like to know what to do with the thing if I ever need to. Thanks.
 
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Old 07-11-04, 12:19 PM
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You didn't say what make/model van, but it sounds like you are describing a serpentine belt. If the belt in question is about an inch wide, smooth on one side and with several ridges on the other, and runs over about 5 pulleys, that's a serpentine. Two things you'll need to know: (1) the routing of the belt (over some pulleys, under others - if the pulley is smooth, it gets the smooth side of the belt; if the pulley has grooves it gets the grooved side), and the location of the tensioner. The tensioner will be one of the smaller pulleys and will have nothing connected to it (there may also be a second "idler" pulley). The tensioner can be relieved normally in one of two ways - either with a 1/2" drive ratcher or breaker bar in a square hole cast into the tensioner or with a wrench on the bolt in the middle of the pulley. What you do is route the new belt over/under all the pulleys and accessories, take up tension on the tensioner pulley, slip the belt under it, and then release you hold to apply the tension to the belt. Most parts places should be able to print you out a routing diagram, but check around under the hood; some vehicles have it on a decal.

If it's a v-belt rather than the serpentine, all you need to do is locate the accessory (alternator, etc) it goes to and loosen the adjusting bolt so you can move the accessory far enough to get the new belt on. Then take tension with the accessory and retighten the adjuster. There are too many adjuster types and arrangments to describe them all here.
 
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