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Belt and hoses might need replacing

Ray Magliozzi
Ray Magliozzi

Dear Car Talk:

In 1999, I purchased a 2000 Chevrolet Silverado pickup. I bought it because, at that time, styles were changing, and I didn’t want to drive something that looked like a semi. It was a good purchase. I have done the maintenance on it the entire time, and it is in good shape. It is garage-kept and has fewer than 40,000 miles on it.

Two years ago, I replaced all the tires. They still looked almost new, but I was cautious because of the age. My question: Since the tires might have needed to be replaced due to age and not mileage, what about the belts and hoses in my engine? Is there a way to check and see if they need to be replaced? I’m hoping to keep this truck a lot longer. Thanks. – Chuck

RAY: Belts and hoses are two completely different animals, Chuck. Belts are part of the genus Beltasorus, and include species such as Beltasorus AirConditionus. Whereas hoses fall under the Hosiforus family, which includes Coolanthus and Gardenus.

Let’s take belts first. Belts typically do wear out after a while. They get a lot of use and operate under a lot of friction and heat. But it’s very easy to inspect your belts and see if they show any signs of wear and tear, drying or cracking.

Your Silverado, Chuck, has just one belt; a single, serpentine belt that runs the alternator, the power steering pump, the water pump and the air conditioning compressor. And any good mechanic can have a look at it and let you know in a couple of minutes if it looks ugly and needs to be replaced. Even though they’re under the hood and protected from direct sunlight, your belts ARE still exposed to ozone in the air, which degrades rubber over time, regardless of your car’s mileage. So they’re worth checking.

Hoses, on the other hand, almost never need replacing these days. Twenty-five years ago, we’d see hoses that got so dried out and brittle that you could snap them like a twig. And obviously, hoses like that were prone to cracking and leaking. But they’ve improved rubber compounds so much that we rarely replace a hose anymore. And my retirement fund has suffered tremendously as a result.

That said, some (maybe all) of this stuff under your hood is 20 years old now, Chuck. And if you really intend to keep the truck for a lot longer, for a few hundred bucks, you can have your mechanic replace your serpentine belt and every one of your hoses.

And if you’re the kind of guy who sleeps better after doing things proactively, and you’ve already stocked up on 244 rolls of pandemic toilet paper and don’t have an urgent need for the money, you can go ahead and change all your belts and hoses and then never think about them again.

Or if you’d rather not spend the money, just ask your mechanic to inspect your belt and hoses next time you’re in for service, and do what he recommends, which may be nothing.

This reader is getting warmer

Dear Car Talk:

I’ve got a 2009 Toyota Venza. The right front likes to vibrate a lot. I’ve tried a lot of things over the years: new tires, rotating the tires, rebalancing the tires, new brakes, checking the wheel bearing, checking the ball joint, checking the flatness of the wheel against the hub, new tie rods, checking the steering system. Shops can’t figure it out.

It comes and goes as though there’s something harmonic going on. The only thing I haven’t looked at yet is if the axle is slightly bent. This issue has been going on for as long as I’ve owned the car. I bought it with 60,000 miles on it, and now it’s got 215,000.

Obviously, it’s more of an intermittent annoyance than anything else. But it’s still annoying. Especially when I go on road trips. Otherwise it’s been a very solid vehicle. It’d be nice to finally get that sorted out. You guys have any ideas? – Paul

RAY: Well, you’ll be glad to know that after checking and replacing almost every other part of the front end, you’re finally getting warmer with the axle. It sounds to me like a bad constant velocity (CV) joint.

At the end of each axle is a CV joint. It’s a sealed connector that allows both flexible movement of the joint and the transmission of power through it. Your car has two axles up front. At one end of each axle is an inner CV joint that connects the axle to the transmission. And on the other end, a second, outer CV joint connects the axle to a wheel.

Gradually, those CV joints wear out. And when they wear out, they can occasionally bind up and vibrate. If your mechanic removed those CV joints and flexed them manually, he might notice that one of them – probably the outer right one – sometimes binds up or “catches.” Those CV joints should flex perfectly smoothly. If there’s any “catch” or rough spots at all, that could cause your problem.

So, what do you do? You replace the whole right-front axle. A new axle comes with two new CV joints. And the whole thing pretty much bolts into place.

By the time you’re done, with parts, labor and the waiting room May 2014 People Magazine reading fee, you’re probably talking a good $400. But if the vibration is really bothering you, and you’re certain that all those other parts you mention check out, the CV joints would be the next thing I’d ask my mechanic to look at.

Got a question about cars? Write to Car Talk write to Ray in care of King Features, 628 Virginia Drive, Orlando, FL 32803, or email by visiting the Car Talk website at www.cartalk.com.