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How to Change Serpentine Belt on Pontiac Sunfire

by Jody L. Campbell

Although it may look like a complex component in the engine, the serpentine belt in a Pontiac Sunfire is not all that difficult to replace provided you have a couple of proper tools. By inspecting your serpentine belt regularly, you can prevent breakdowns or driving mishaps. The serpentine belt controls the alternator, power steering pump, water pump, crankshaft, and with equipped models, the air conditioner compressor. Without the serpentine belt, the Pontiac Sunfire is literally crippled on the side of the road waiting for a tow truck.

Release hood latch and place hood prop in proper location. Make sure the keys to the vehicle are not in the ignition so no one will start it up by accident while you're removing and replacing the belt.

Locate the belt routing diagram. This may be in a number of locations. Usually it will be located under the hood, though sometimes on the front engine brace, or even on a small plastic tab directly covering the belt. If for some reason a belt-routing diagram is not present in the motor cavity, create your own diagram by drawing circles for the pulleys and how the belt routes around them.

Remove belt by placing a 15 millimeter adapter (13 millimeter for 2.4 liter engines, but these are very rare in the Sunfire) into the belt removal tool and placing it on the bolt head located on the center of the tensioner. The tensioner is located just above the crankshaft and just below the power steering pump, whether the vehicle is equipped with A/C or not. You can try to use a long-handled 3/8 inch drive ratchet with a 15 millimeter shallow socket, but you may be limited for room, which is why the belt removal tool is recommended. You can usually pick one of these up at most auto parts stores fairly inexpensively.

Move the removal tool or ratchet in a clockwise direction to take tension off the belt.

Remove the belt from the alternator pulley. With the belt off the alternator, work it off the other pulleys and extract it from the engine. You may need to remove the tool to get the belt off.

Compare the size of your old belt to the new one in order to ensure you purchased the correct belt.

Reinstall the new belt using the belt-routing diagram. Start with the A/C compressor (if equipped) and wrap the belt around the bottom of it, then up over and around the water pump, down around the bottom of the crankshaft, on the inside of the tensioner so the flat part of the belt is contacting it, then around the power steering pump and under the idler. Have your removal tool handy as you will need to keep tension on the belt with your hand, and place the belt tool back onto the bolt head of the tensioner and turn clockwise again. The routing schematic is the same on a non A/C system, but bypasses the A/C pulley and instead of starting to route the belt to the A/C compressor you'd start routing around the crankshaft and follow the same procedure around the other pulleys.

Place the remainder of the belt onto the alternator pulley. If you're unable to do this, there may be a problem on one of the pulleys where the ribs of the belt are not lining up properly in the ribs on the pulleys. The belt should go on tightly, but you should not have to force it on. Once it's on, inspect the belt and all the pulleys to make sure it's on securely and lined up properly.

Start engine with hood open and listen for noises or whining. If you hear any, shut motor off immediately and reinspect. That may be an indication of a bad bearing in a pulley, but you do not want to damage the motor or the new belt. If motor sounds okay, then close the hood.

Items you will need

About the Author

Jody L. Campbell spent over 15 years as both a manager and an under-car specialist in the automotive repair industry. Prior to that, he managed two different restaurants for over 15 years. Campbell began his professional writing career in 2004 with the publication of his first book.

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