A serpentine belt (also known as the accessory belt) is a continuous belt that winds its way along the front of the engine (it is often close behind the radiator fans). The belt goes round and round. With a belt tensioner (or an idle pulley for diesels) it drives such things as the; alternator, power steering pump, water pump, a/c compressor, air pump, starter motor, etc. Serpentine belts are so called because they look like a snake winding around. Serpentine belts need to be made from heat withstanding rubber, because the friction will fray or cause a fire to a less hearty substance.
With cars 25-30 years or older, there could be a belt for every two or three accessories. In the old days, with no housing around a belt, they would pop off and get shredded by the radiator fan! When that happened, call a tow truck and expect a large mechanic’s bill!
One of the good things about a serpentine belt is that, since it is only one belt, it is much easier to maintain than 8 belts. But, it can break under low tension. High tension is best, but if it is too high, the belt will shred itself. If you are worried about the belt breaking, look on the side with the little ribs.
Off topic and addressing my previous post. A good-to-know fact: Chevy has figured out what the cause is for all the Volt fires. They have announced a recall for every Volt sold in any market (this includes the European Opel version). It is the housing that holds the battery coolant. It cracks, allowing coolant to escape out and wreak havoc. So, I thought those Volt owners might want to know from another source… Plus, to add to Chevy’s embarrassment, they are telling owners that Volt owners should bring their Volti in for repair. Basically, that means Chevy’s too embarrassed to say that it’s a recall…