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How to change the serpentine belt on a Toyota Camry 4 cyl. car

by Contributor

I am not a mechanic and I hate to work on cars, but when the Toyota garage told me they would charge me $125 to change the serpentine belt on my 2002 Toyota Camry 4-cylinder engine, I revolted. I knew I could buy the belt for about $30. So for a potential savings of nearly $100, I was willing to give it a try. It's a bit challenging, but I paid for some expert advice and learned a lot, and now am willing to pass it on to you. If I can do it, you can, too.

Step 1

 This is what it looks like under the hood of a 2002 Toyota Camry 4 cylinder engine. Arrow points to the serpentine belt. Study the belt wrap so you know how it goes. It might be good to take a picture before you disturb anything. Also, the cardboard sleeve your new belt comes in should have one or more diagrams of how the belt should be wound. Note the diagram that matches your vehicle. The motor is mounted laterally, that is, across the engine compartment of the car. So the "front" of the engine actually faces the right front tire. I will call this the "end" of the motor. The side of the engine faces the front of the car. I will call this the "front" or "front side."

Step 2

 I have worked on older model cars, and I falsely assumed the first thing I had to do was loosen the alternator. Wrong! Leave the alternator alone! The first thing you have to do is remove this bracket on the front side of the motor using a 14 mm wrench. These and the next two brackets you will be removing are mounts to help keep the engine steady.

Step 3

 Next, remove the two bolts (red arrows) holding this bracket in place. There is a third bolt, slightly longer, that goes straight down just to the left of the picture. Before removing the bracket, remove the bolt holding the grounding wire to the bracket (yellow arrow). I suggest you put the bolt back in the hole so you don't lose it. Keep track of all your bolts.

Step 4

 Once you have removed the black bracket, there will be another bracket of machined metal under it. Remove the three bolts holding this bracket in place. Make sure you keep your bolts with their corresponding bracket.

Step 5

 All of this is to give you room to operate the tensoin control device (red arrow). Place a 19mm wrench (a 3/4" does just as well) on the nut and press forward (clockwise-note yellow arrow) hard for at least three seconds. The end of the handle will move three to ten inches, depending on how long a handle you have. The nut does not come off, but pressing forward allows it to release the tension on the belt. It helps to put a pipe over the handle of your socket wrench to give you more leverage. I used an 18" long piece of almuinum tubing from the leg of an old Weber grill, and once I had it pulled forward my wife was able to hold it in place while I slipped the belt off the top right pully (green arrow). Or you might be able to hold the wrench with one hand while you remove the belt from the pully with the other. Once the belt is removed from one pully, you can release the tension control nut. Finish removing the belt from the rest of the pullys, noting how it is wrapped as you remove it.

Step 6

 Next you loop the new belt around the respective pullys starting at the bottom and proceeding toward the top. There are two kinds of pullies. The pullies that have a little lip on the edge of the wheel do the actual work (red arrow). The pullies that are smooth and have slightly rounded edges are "idler" pulleys (green arrow): They just position the belt so it can grip the working pullies effectively. The grooved edge of the belt goes against the working pulleys; the smooth side of the belt goes against the idler pullies.

Step 7

 Once you have wrapped the belt around all the pullies except the top right one, you will have to release the tension control device, again, using your 19mm (or ¾") wrench (with extended handle). You have to hold it for at least 3 seconds before it releases. I actually managed to hold the wrench down with one hand while I slipped the belt over the last pully with the other hand. Then replace all the brackets and wire in the reverse order you removed them. Photo shows the new belt on and all the parts replaced.

I didn't know all this when I started, and it took me the better part of a Saturday afternoon. But I had removed some bolts I shouldn't have (I started to loosen the alternator), and forgot to put one back. So I had to undo all the brackets to replace the left-over bolt. I don't think it took me more thatn 20 minutes the second time. I didn't know all this then. I'm sharing what I learned so you can do it faster and with confidence. You can do it.


  • Don't mess with the alternator. On the old cars, you replaced the V-belt by loosening the alternator. Not this one. Leave it alone. That's what got me in trouble.
  • Some people I consulted warned that the wrench could slip off the tension bolt and the wrench handle could spring up and hit you in the face. That was never even close to happening. But it is good to be reminded that that tension bolt has a very strong spring on it, so treat it respectfully, and make sure the wrench is squarely on it.

Items you will need

  • Set of metric wrenches, including short and long extensions, and...
  • 18mm or 3/4in. socket wrench
  • piece of pipe to extend wrench handle
  • courage, patience and endurance

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