Belt and Hoses Might Need Replacing

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 less 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

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.

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