Can You Drive With a Broken Serpentine Belt?

It is possible to drive with a broken serpentine belt but doing so will endanger multiple systems in your car like the water pump, alternator, and power steering.
Written by Andrew Hobson
Reviewed by Georgina Grant
While it is possible to drive with a broken serpentine belt for a short amount of time, it is absolutely not recommended, as doing so will definitely cause harm to your vehicle.
The serpentine belt is responsible for providing power to your car’s water pump, air conditioning, alternator, and power steering systems. If this component breaks, you can technically still drive for a short period of time, but this can lead to serious problems. Instead, take your car to the mechanic as soon as possible for an inspection and a possible serpentine belt replacement.
Here’s what you need to know about driving with a broken serpentine belt.

Can you drive with a broken serpentine belt?

You should absolutely not drive your car with a broken serpentine belt unless you’re going directly to a nearby mechanic for repairs. Even then, you may find that your broken serpentine belt means the steering wheel is stiff and hard to maneuver. If that is the case, call for roadside assistance.
It may be more expensive than visiting a mechanic, but you won’t risk driving with a non-responsive steering wheel or further damaging your vehicle. 

What does your car’s serpentine belt do? 

Your car’s serpentine belt is a durable belt that provides energy from the engine crankshaft to all the engine’s systems. Systems such as the power steering, air conditioning compressor, engine cooling system, alternator, and, in some cases, the water pump, all depend on the serpentine belt for energy. If the serpentine belt isn’t working, these systems suffer and could face catastrophic and costly damage.
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How long can you go without replacing your serpentine belt?

Technically, your car should be able to run with a broken serpentine belt for 20 to 90 minutes before you run into some serious issues. If the weather is on the colder side and your battery is fully charged, your car may last up to 90 minutes before the battery is completely depleted. If it is hot outside, you have very little time—the serpentine belt will not be able to power your engine’s cooling system and your engine will be in danger of overheating and facing some costly damages.
Again, it should be noted that you should not test how long you can drive your car with a busted serpentine belt and that if you must drive your car, it should be to a mechanic ASAP!
Remember that with the serpentine belt busted, your car’s battery is not recharging. So if you do drive your car, turn off all electrical systems to make sure your car reaches the mechanic in time. 

How to tell if your serpentine belt is broken

Luckily, your vehicle’s serpentine belt will display a few “red flags” before breaking. Here are some telltale signs that there’s a problem:
  • Your vehicle’s engine bay emits a squealing noise. This squealing noise could be from the serpentine belt slipping. 
  • Your vehicle’s engine is overheated. Since the serpentine belt powers the system that cools your engine, this will happen if the serpentine belt starts to malfunction.
  • The air conditioning is not working properly. A damaged serpentine belt will not be able to fully power your vehicle’s air conditioning.  
  • The steering wheel is stiff or hard to maneuver. Along with the air conditioning, the power steering system derives its power from the belt.
If you notice any of these signs, it might be time to get your serpentine belt replaced.

How much does a serpentine belt replacement cost?

With most serpentine belt replacements costing around $50 and labor costs running an average of $150, you are looking at a serpentine belt replacement cost of about $200 for parts and labor.
This may seem pricey but it's nowhere near as expensive as replacing a water pump system, power steering system, or the entire engine of your car.
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