Alma Location
1210 East Superior St.,
Alma, MI 48801
Mon - Fri: 7:30 AM - 5:30 PM
Mt. Pleasant Location
120 South Fancher St.,
Mount Pleasant, MI 48858
Mon - Fri: 7:30 AM - 5:30 PM
ATS Fleet Service - Mt. Pleasant
1011 Industrial Drive,
Mt. Pleasant, MI 48858
Mon - Fri: 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Sat: 8:00 AM - 12:00 PM
ATS Fleet Service - Gaylord
1180 Milbocker Rd.,
Gaylord, MI 49735
Mon - Fri: 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Sat: 8:00 AM - 12:00 PM
ATS Fleet Service - Saginaw
3733 Wolf Rd.,
Saginaw, MI 48601
Mon - Sat: 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM

Alma, Gaylord & Mount Pleasant Auto Repair

Timing Belt vs. Serpentine Belt: What's the Difference?

Timing belts and serpentine belts are both vital in keeping a car running. Both are driven by your engine's crankshaft but both belts serve completely different functions and are not the same in any way. The serpentine belt is a friction drive belt, and the timing belt is a direct drive belt. Failure of either the timing belt or the serpentine belt will cause your vehicle to not run.

Serpentine Belt

Named serpentine belt because of the way it winds, like a snake, around several pulleys which help power your car's accessories like your air conditioning, alternator, power steering, and water pump. The serpentine belt is made of a stretchy rubber compound and has grooves cut into it that match up with the grooves which are on your accessory pulleys. These are all external to the engine and can easily be seen. If your serpentine belt breaks, your car may run for a short time but will eventually overheat. Avoiding situations like this is easy by replacing the belt every 7 to 9 years or 90,000 miles.

Timing Belt

Named timing belt because its job is to maintain proper timing of the engine's valves in the engine combustion chamber. When the gears are unable to move, the timing belt helps move the camshaft and allows the camshaft to open and close the intake valve and exhaust valve at the right times, so as to avoid getting hit by the piston.

Visual Differences

Visually, the difference between the serpentine belt and timing belt is obvious. Where the serpentine belt is smooth and stretchy, the timing belt is smooth on one side, and on the other side has gears that have been built into it. These gears fit like a puzzle with the gears of the timing belt crank pulley and the camshaft pulley.


A failed serpentine belt will result in an overheated engine. Overheating can damage the timing belt. A bad timing belt can cause your valves to stay open and end up getting struck by a piston. The health of both your serpentine belt and timing belt is critical in keeping your car running. If you are in need of serpentine belt repair, we invite you to bring your vehicle to Alma Tire Service today.

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