A car’s electrical system is a veritable merry-go-round of energy transfer. When you turn the key to start your engine, the starter motor uses mechanical energy to crank the engine. Once it is running, the rotation of the engine turns a series of belts that drive the alternator to charge the battery to store electrical energy. The electrical energy is stored in the battery and dispensed to run all of the electrical systems of the vehicle.
Since the belt (or belts) that run the charging system are under constant use, we inspect them for defects and wear at every oil change to make sure they are still able to handle their duties. Many new cars use what is called a serpentine belt that goes from the crankshaft to the alternator, air conditioner, power steering pump, and water pump, and some older cars might have one belt for the alternator and separate belts to run the other components. Here is what we look for when we do an inspection:
When your vehicle is in for an oil change we do a visual inspection to determine the performance of belt-driven components. If it looks like the belt(s) are getting worn, we use a tool that measures the depth of the treads to see if it is time for a replacement due to the risk of slipping. Sometimes belts or the tensioners and pulleys run by them become noisy from being worn or loose, so we inspect each of the pulleys, tensioners, and bearings to make sure the belt is on tight enough and is operating without excessive noise.
When you are in for your oil change you will get a full inspection of your electrical and charging systems. This way we can insure that your battery is holding a full charge (here is how we perform a load test), we can inspect your battery, since even maintenance free batteries need periodic inspection (here is everything you need to know about battery up-keep), belts are inspected for signs of wear and proper adjustment, and we look for any loose and corroded cable ends that might be preventing your battery from maintaining a full state of charge.