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Unread 06-06-2013, 11:00 AM   #1
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Default Squealing Serpentine Belt on Startup

I have been having a problem in which the serpentine belt squeals on startup. It started to do it for about 45 seconds, but has increased to about 10-15 minutes. I and am wondering if anyone else has had similar issues, or has found the source. Here is a little background about how far it goes back and how the mechanics are a little stumped. I have a 2007 Corolla S with about 113,000 miles on it. New Serpentine belt, hydraulic tensioner, and water pump.
About 6 months ago, this was occurring- when it was doing it constantly, I took it in. They replaced the serpentine belt and the hydraulic tensioner for the belt. This solved the problem..... for about 5 months.
It then started up again, and it has been squealing at startup for about a month now. A few weeks ago it got worse and very constant- before that it was intermittent. At that point I took it in and they replaced the water pump. They said that when they took the water pump off, the bearing on the pulley was squeaking, and verified it when they tok it off. The NEXT day, it was still doing it. So they replaced the water pump again saying it was faulty, and also replaced the serpentine belt.
It kinda fixed it..... for about 2 days. At that point it started up again, but only for a minute or 2. Unfortunately, I had already begun my 2000 mile road trip, so I hoped that it would continue to not be a huge deal.
This was last week, and over the course of the week, it has gotten worse. It now squeals for about 10-15 minutes, not just at idle, and at a faster rate. At first, once I accelerate to a faster speed, it cancels out the idle squeal, and eventually stops at all speeds. Also, If I put it in neutral after a little bit it will stop squealing, until I put it back into drive, in which it will start up again. I tok it in a few days ago, and they were stumped. They want it back again with more time.
I am going to be taking it back in to the mechanics when I have a few days off so they can have more time, but in the meantime, I was hoping one of you would be able to shed some light on the situation.
I hope I have explained it enough to get a grasp on the situation. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask, and I hope any of you can help!

TL;DR- 6 months ago- squealing at startup. serp belt and tensioner replaced- fixed issue completely. 2 weeks ago issue came back- water pump and serp belt replaced (water pump replaced twice)-- still squealing at startup. Fixed issue for about 2 days, but it came back with a passion.

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Unread 06-06-2013, 11:59 AM   #2
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Probably something else (alternator?) now, otherwise the squealing from the water pump shortened the life of the belt enough that it needs replacement.
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Unread 06-06-2013, 12:57 PM   #3
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Belt squealing is often caused by a single problem, but if not corrected quickly can create further reasons for squealing.

Whatever a belt is slipping it causes heat from friction. When the cause of the squealing is dealt with with, the possibility of damage caused by the heat and slipping must be investigated. A slipping belt creates heat so fast the belt is often damaged in a minute or so of slipping. The rubber is now hardened and now more prone to slipping on the pulleys. Replacing water pumps and alternators will not fix this.

The first step to a "continually" squealing belt is to first confirm that it's the belt and not a bad water pump bearing or alternator bearing, not your case here. I use a spray bottle of water and squirt the inside of the belt while the engine is running. Watch out for moving parts! If the noise is immediately gone or gets worse, the noise is cause by a belt to pulley problem. If the noise continues the noise is an accessory.

The way I approach a squealing belt, serpentine or not is to first confirm that the tension is correct. V-belts usually have manual tensioners and serpentine usually spring tensioners. A spring tensioner must have good resistance when pulled back and follow through the full travel. It must also be square to the belt and not angled. Replace if needed.

A manual tensioner needs to be checked regularly as in every oil change.

Then I remove the belt and check its condition. Cracks or hardness requires a new belt. Also if you are dealing with a persistent squeaking look for sand or grit in the grooves of the belt. This can be picked out if you are not wanting to replace the belt. This grit is really pieces of rock and is grinding against the steel pulleys making the noise. Clean the pulley grooves with a small wire brush.

With the belt off spin the accessories. The power steering pulley, alternator, idler pulleys, water pump must all spin with no noises or more than normal resistance.

If the above is all OK and you have a persistent squealing, even with a new belt, the pulleys are likely polished due to the slipping belt. One option is to replace the pulleys. The alternator is the smallest pulley and is the usual cause of a persistent squeal. Being the smallest it has the least surface area for gripping the belt and because the battery has sat overnight and just started the engine, the charge may be low and the alternator is put to work right away.

A squealing belt on start up is almost always the belt slipping on the alternator pulley.

A battery that is poor or run down overnight will require significant charging on the first start of the day. This creates a significant resistance of the alternator pulley, possibly inducing slippage. Also when a warm engine is shut off at night the evening dew will remain on the pulley grooves at start up. The moisture will also create a possible slippage.

Remember that once a belt has slipped the surface of the belt may be hardened by the heat and lost its grip. Repairing the cause of the slippage may not be enough to prevent further slippage if the belt is compromised. Only after you are assured that you have eliminated all possible causes of belt slippage should you install a new belt.

One thing I have found that has worked well for me, after dealing with all the above, is to coat the inside of the belt with polishing compound. On a large belt I use about a table spoon, a bit less in your case. Use a course or beginning grit, not a finishing grit. When you start the engine the belt will work the polishing compound into the pulley grooves and remove rust and oil and anti freeze deposits. The compound will also embed itself into the belts surface and create slip resistance surface.

NEVER use any belt dressing on belts. They often cause the belt to make more noise as the belt sticks and peels off the pulleys or the sticky belt will now pick up grit and the grit will work against the steel pulleys. Some dressings will soften the belt and shorten it's life.

I always use brand name belts, Gates, Dayco, Goodyear. The Goodyear Gatorback is the best that I have found but difficult to find.
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Last edited by Mr Car Guy; 06-06-2013 at 01:05 PM.

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Unread 06-06-2013, 04:05 PM   #4
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Thank you very much for your reply. I will check the alternator pulley and belt itself.
I am pretty novice to repair- is it pretty easy for me to remove the belt and test the accessories? What would bethe best way to do so?

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Unread 06-06-2013, 04:15 PM   #5
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Also, is the alternator pulley able to replaced without replacing the entire alternator? Or does it come as one unit?

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Unread 06-06-2013, 06:23 PM   #6
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You would replace the whole unit. It's slipping on the pulley, but that's because of excessive resistance in the armature itself.
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Unread 06-06-2013, 06:53 PM   #7
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I'd be inclined to try the polishing compound first, not much to lose.

If the alternator spins easily by hand I'd just replace the pulley.
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Unread 10-07-2014, 02:47 PM   #8
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Smile Can you be more specific on what Polishing Compound to use?

I tried looking for Polishing Compound to solve the squeaky belt problem, but don't know exactly what to use. Do you have any specific brand or style you use?

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Unread 10-07-2014, 04:16 PM   #9
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Any auto parts store will have paint polishing compound. A courser more aggressive compound works best.
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Unread 10-07-2014, 05:51 PM   #10
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I don't think Mr. Car Guy read your post fully as you're not talking about paint polisher.

As for solving a squeaky belt, some people have used belt dressing. It doesn't work. Buy a new belt, they're cheap and good peace of mind.
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