Car help: How do fanbelts get wrecked?

My car is in the garage again. It was showing the exact same symptoms as before when the problem was a broken fanbelt. The garage replaced it, but it seems to have happened again and rather soon too (I’d say last time was about six months ago).

I’m an inexperienced driver and I’m wondering:

Is there anything in driving style that would cause excessive wear on the fanbelt?

If that’s not possible or if it is something I don’t do I can at least tell the garage with confidence that it wasn’t me and maybe question last time’s repairs. Or can this just happen to older cars?

If it is something in my driving style I will make the utmost effort to stop doing whatever causes this.


The most likely thing that would cause a fanbelt to fail prematurely would be something misaligned along the path of the belt, causing it to rub or wear unevenly. There is nothing you could do as a driver that would have any effect on the performance of the belt.

It’s unlikely that your driving style is shredding your fan belts in six months. I can think of two things that your mechanic might look for.

  1. Is the belt tensioned properly (neither to tight or loose)?

  2. Is the path of the belt straight – that is, are all the pulleys, rollers, etc. lined up in exactly the same plane with each other?

Fan belts should last years, not months. I think you’ve got something else going on. Could be that a pully has been bent or damaged, or maybe the bearings in something that the fan belt turns are starting to go, making the pully wobble and chew up the belt. It could also be that the alternator or air compressor or whatever the fan belt is turning besides the fan has a problem, and that the excessive loading is causing the belt to slip.

Another vote for misalignment. Have you had a belt driven accessory replaced lately?

If it’s a serpentine belt, the tensioner may also be at fault - both too tight and too loose are problematic.

What is the symptom that brought you to the garage? Overheating? Dead battery? Hard steering? Chunks of belt being ejected from the engine compartment?

This was the opinion of the garage also. They replaced the fan belt and the alternator. Hope that does the trick. Wasn’t too pricey, thank goodness.

Thanks for all the help. As a young female driver it really helps to at least know a small bit of what’s going on. When the garage told me about the alternator, at least I knew it was unlikely they were making it up altogether.