How to visually inspect your belts and hoses

February 29, 2012 12:00 AM

Most auto maintenance is better off left to the experts, but checking the belts and hoses are one visual inspection that even amateur mechanics should think about performing. These parts are prone to breaking down, and it's a good idea to inspect them for cracks and wear before a serious issue develops.

Hoses are responsible for carrying the coolant through the engine, and despite their name they become quite hot. Make sure your car is completely off and has been sitting for some time before you pop the hood. Hoses are most susceptible to corrosion from the coolant over time. They should feel relatively firm in your hands - if you can squeeze them and they feel mushy or soft, it might be a good idea to think about a replacement. Regular radiator flush & fills can also add fresh coolant that won't corrode hoses.

Belts are similar in that they suffer from wear and tear over time, says Consumer Reports. Look at the belts for cracks and fraying, as these could eventually lead to the belt snapping or coming off of the pulley. Check the tension on the belt by pushing your finger into the center - it shouldn't move more than one inch.

Belts and hoses aren't designed to last forever, and it might pay off to replace them sooner rather than later. Next time you get an oil change or tune-up, ask your local auto maintenance expert about their opinion on the condition of these critical parts.

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