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Old 03-15-2005, 07:47 PM
easy e easy e is offline
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My car squeals when it first starts up

I've got a problem in which my car squeals for a while when I first start up. If I'm standing still, it's louder if I'm in park or neutral than if I'm in gear. It generally seems to get louder as RPMs increase. It will go away after about 30 seconds if I start driving (I've never just idled and seen how long it would take for it to go that way), though sometimes it will come back if I have to idle again. It does seem to be somewhat temperature related--we had some -20F weather a few months ago and the squealing lasted longer then. However, it didn't squeal this morning (when it was still below freezing) but it did on my way home this evening (when it was warmer).

I had my serpentine belt replaced about 4500 miles ago (back in November or December). It did it then, and the mechanic said that one of the reasons was because the belt was bad. I opened up the hood this evening while it was squealing and it did seem to be coming from that general area.

Any ideas? Did the mechanic put on one that was the wrong size or put it on incorrectly? Is it a sign of damage? I know serpentine belts are important--should I have this looked into right away? Or is it just something that will make me feel slightly embarrased when I start my car around people?

I've heard other cars in my neighborhood with the same problem, so maybe it's just something with old cars. Oh, I have a '93 Saturn with around 169k miles (though a new engine was put in at ~130k). I've been following the maintenence schedule in the owner's manual.
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  #2  
Old 03-15-2005, 07:52 PM
Morbo Morbo is offline
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My first thought would be a fan belt. It's entirely possible the mechanic put one on that was the wrong size or put in on incorrectly.

It could also be that something else is pushing up against the belt causing it to wear out faster than usual, although the mechanic should have noticed something like that.
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Old 03-15-2005, 07:55 PM
Library Boy Library Boy is offline
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Very often belts will loosen after they have been replaced, usually after a few weeks. I would have the belt checked again to see if the tensioner pulley needs to be adjusted.
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Old 03-15-2005, 09:19 PM
aaelghat aaelghat is online now
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I'll also chime in that it's a fan/alternator belt. If it's extremely annoying, auto parts stores sell something called "belt conditioner" that you spray onto the belt. I don't know if it's harmful to the belt long-term, but it will cure the squealing in the short-term.
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Old 03-15-2005, 09:26 PM
Gary T Gary T is offline
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It's a virtual certainty it's the belt making the noise. The most likely causes are a faulty belt tensioner or a defective belt. And yes, a certain (small) percentage of new belts make noise because they're defective. If the belt is the cause, I would assume it would be replaced under warranty.
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Old 03-15-2005, 09:26 PM
Large Marge Large Marge is offline
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Definitely the belt.

It's a horrible screeching noise, isn't it?
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  #7  
Old 03-15-2005, 10:22 PM
Thinktank Thinktank is offline
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Ok,
yeah, it's the belt, but which one is the question.
I had several of them changed-out when I got tired of it. Believe me, If belt dressing fixed the belt squeals for even a little bit then it should have done so for me, even after using half the can and hoping I could just DROWN the noise away... no joy.

I don't know about your Saturn, but my car has two belts in the general region of the alternator. Power steering also has belts, you should be sure you are having all of them checked out, even if it costs you around 40 bucks. I had Pep boys do this for me so it's not an incredibly difficult thing to get done; no specialist required. In fact the guy that did my belt inspection showed me how to do half of it by myself just by looking. The others were under the car with the power steering assembly.

So sure, the belts could have loosened-up due to wearing-in but I would just get all your belts checked out first and if they find a bad one (one that was possibly not replaced yet), they usually give you a discount on the labor since they are down there already.

I wanted to believe my belt was "just loose" but it wasn't, it was shredded and totally FUBARed... so this is something you might want to attend to shortly, if you want your car to keep going that is.
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Old 03-16-2005, 05:46 PM
engineer_comp_geek engineer_comp_geek is offline
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Belts squeal for 3 reasons.

1. The belt is worn out (very common on older cars)

Everyone else seems to have covered this one pretty well.

2. The belt tensioner is too loose

Maybe the belt wasn't tensioned properly when it was installed, and as it has worn in it now slips because the tension isn't tight enough on it. You can often stop an old worn belt from squealing by increasing the tension, but often this is hiding the fact that the belt is really worn out and needs replaced.

3. Something that the belt turns is too hard for it to turn, so it slips

You said you had a serpentine belt, which means instead of having a seperate belt for the alternator, etc. you have one belt which goes around everything (that's why it's called a serpentine belt, it snakes its way all around everything). If the water pump, air compressor, alternator, or power steering pump are starting to fail, they'll be harder to turn, which will cause the belt to slip. I have an old truck that the power steering pump is starting to go out on it. When it first starts up, the belt squeals quite a bit, and I can feel jerkiness in the steering wheel (which is how I know it's the power steering pump). Once it warms up, the pump loosens up a bit, the wheel turns freely, and the squeal goes away. You can get similar symptoms from any of the components turned by the belt. The power steering pump is kinda obvious since you can feel when it isn't working right, but any of the other components won't be so obvious. Note that if something is starting to go south on you, it could have prematurely killed the previous belt and the new one as well, so you may end up replacing the new belt as well as fixing whatever problem is behind it.

If a serpentine belt breaks, you lose everything. You can drive for a bit without the alternator and power steering, but the water pump is crucial. Without it functioning the engine is going to overheat very very quickly. I don't mean "drive to the next exit 5 miles down the road" quickly either, I mean "pull over now because you aren't going to get to the next exit" kind of quickly. It's very important that you get this looked at soon. It's not so critical on cars that have multiple belts, because usually you'll have one belt that turns both the water pump and the alternator, and another belt that turns the water pump and the power steering pump, for example. Since both belts go around the water pump, if one belt breaks, the other one will still turn the water pump, so the engine won't overheat. Newer cars often only have one big belt though, and if it breaks, everything goes.

Any of that spray on crap from the auto parts store is just going to hide the problem. Stay away from stuff like that.
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Old 03-17-2005, 07:19 AM
easy e easy e is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by engineer_comp_geek
3. Something that the belt turns is too hard for it to turn, so it slips

You said you had a serpentine belt, which means instead of having a seperate belt for the alternator, etc. you have one belt which goes around everything (that's why it's called a serpentine belt, it snakes its way all around everything). If the water pump, air compressor, alternator, or power steering pump are starting to fail, they'll be harder to turn, which will cause the belt to slip. I have an old truck that the power steering pump is starting to go out on it. When it first starts up, the belt squeals quite a bit, and I can feel jerkiness in the steering wheel (which is how I know it's the power steering pump). Once it warms up, the pump loosens up a bit, the wheel turns freely, and the squeal goes away. You can get similar symptoms from any of the components turned by the belt. The power steering pump is kinda obvious since you can feel when it isn't working right, but any of the other components won't be so obvious. Note that if something is starting to go south on you, it could have prematurely killed the previous belt and the new one as well, so you may end up replacing the new belt as well as fixing whatever problem is behind it.
This sounds like it could be the problem. My car does feel a bit sluggish to turn. I've also noticed that if I'm parallel parking, after I've moved the wheel quite a bit without moving forward, it becomes harder to turn. I've been fanatical about keeping the level of power steering full, but didn't think about a failing pump.

I'll get my car looked at. Thanks everyone.
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