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Can You Drive Without An A/C Belt? (Answered)

Can You Drive Without An A/C Belt? (Answered)

You might be tempted to believe that the AC belt in your car only powers your air conditioning system and that driving without it won’t have any significant effects. Well, think again!

The role of the AC belt in your vehicle’s functioning is far more critical than just keeping you cool during sweltering summer heat waves. It plays a vital role in the overall health of your engine, which may make you wonder:

Can you drive without an AC belt?

Driving without an AC belt isn’t ideal if it’s part of a serpentine system powering other vital car components. Moreso, ignoring a failing belt can lead to severe mechanical issues and expensive repairs. If you don’t need the AC, a V-shaped belt won’t be of much concern because it controls just one or two components.

So not having your AC belt means many other components will suffer and malfunction.

In this comprehensive guide, we delve deep into the specifics of what an AC belt is, its primary functions, and the implications of driving your vehicle without it!

What Is An AC Belt?

An AC belt is a rubber belt that helps connect different car parts to a car’s crankshaft. The belt helps to power the engine’s accessories like the AC compressor, alternator, water pump, radiator fan, etc.

This belt could be a V-shaped or Serpentine belt, depending on your car.  You will find the V-shaped belt in older cars, while the serpentine in newer cars.

V-shaped Belt

The V-shaped AC belt is used by ancient cars to transfer power to the engine’s accessories. They are thin and small compared to the serpentine belt.

Older car engines use multiple V-shaped belts to power the engine’s components. So each belt powers one or two components in your car.

For example, the belt that powers your alternator might not be the belt that powers your power steering or AC compressor. 

So without an AC belt, you can drive your car and be at peace. Just that your AC compressor won’t work, which means your AC won’t work as well. So if you can stay without the AC working, then you’re good to go.

The Serpentine Belt

The serpentine belt is used by newer vehicles. It also transfers power to the engine accessories. But you need one serpentine belt to power all your engine accessories. It has the shape of a winding snake.

It can drive many engine accessories like the alternator, water pump, power steering, etc., at the same time. In some cars, it also powers the radiator fan, and supercharger (for supercharged cars)

This means without your AC belt many other engine components won’t function.

Is It Safe To Drive Without An AC Belt?

Driving without your AC belt is safe. The belt doesn’t control the movement of the engine or brake system. But it will cause much damage to your car, especially if you’re using the Serpentine Belt.

This is because the serpentine belt is a single belt that controls many other car accessories. So without it, those components would malfunction.

Is It Illegal To Drive Without An AC Belt?

There is no law as regards the use of an AC belt. So it’s not illegal to drive without it. However, not having it is that some components connected to it will not work smoothly.

Should You Drive Without Your AC Belt?

I won’t advise you to drive without an AC belt. Most car parts are placed in a car to serve a purpose. If it’s not essential, the manufacturers won’t put it there.

The AC helps dehumidify the car’s temperature, so without your AC belt, the AC won’t function. This is even little compared to the damage it will do to your car. What do I mean?

If your car uses the V-shaped belt and you do not bother about the AC working, you can drive without it. This is because each V-shaped belt has a particular accessory it powers. So if the belt that powers the AC is bad, you can drive with the other ones.

But if your car uses the serpentine belt, then know you’re giving yourself many problems driving without it.

The serpentine belt does not control only your AC compressor but also controls the alternator, water pump, power steering, etc.

Now, what happens if the belt is not there?

All the accessories that the belt powers will not function properly. Again, other accessories that these accessories control will also not work well.

For example, the serpentine belt keeps the alternator running smoothly. Without it, the alternator won’t work well. Since the alternator charges the battery, your battery won’t charge well. If your battery doesn’t charge well, it dies. If it dies and gets damaged, you will need to spend money on buying another battery. Engine Battery is quite expensive, by the way.

V-shaped Or Serpentine Belt: Which Is Better?

This totally depends on your car and your preference.

Some cars (ancient cars) come with a V-shaped belt. Some people like the design of multiple V-shaped belts on their car’s hood.

Again, since each belt has a particular accessory it controls, all your engine parts won’t have to malfunction if one goes bad.

Just that it slips easily, which after some time affects the other belts, so if you do not want this, it means you must fix any belt that goes bad before it affects the others. This task is challenging, though.

Unlike the V-shaped, the serpentine belt is single and controls many other accessories at the same time. So instead of having to maintain several belts, you get to maintain just one. But if it gets bad, other components will also stop working smoothly.

However, this belt hardly slips because it has enough pressure to avoid slippage as your accessories spins and turns. If changing belts all the time scares you, then the serpentine belt is your best bet.

This is because they are made with strong, high-quality material that makes them last longer. If your serpentine belts get bad easily, it could be that you bought a fake one which, of course, will quickly get damaged. Most recently manufactured cars come with the Serpentine belt.

So you see, it all depends on the look you want and how you can manage these belts.

Why Are You Driving Without An AC Belt?

If you are driving without an AC belt, it could be that

  • The belt is damaged or bad (burnt, torn)
  • Or the belt is removed

The belt could get worse because of different reasons. And if you remove yours, it’s likely a bad V-shaped belt. And since it only controls the AC, you may not see it as essential.

What Causes Damage To AC Belts?

If your belt easily breaks or gets burnt, it could be caused by any of these.

Poor Quality Material

If the belt is made of sub-standard materials, then it will easily tear or get fried.

The serpentine belt, for example, is made with high-quality material. So if it quickly gets worse, it means the one you probably bought during replacement is fake.

So it would be best if you met your mechanic who can distinguish between the original and fake belt during replacement.

Problem With The Accessory Connected to The Belt

When the engine accessory connected to the belt is faulty, it also affects the belt.

For example, if your alternator is bad and you do not fix it, it will damage the belt that runs it too.

So ensure that all engine components connected to the belt are all working properly.


Every car part has a duration created to last. Once it’s past time, it begins to wear out. So ensure you check your car’s manual to know how long a belt is supposed to last.

What Are The Symptoms Of A Failing AC Belt?

The smooth running of your car might jeopardize if your AC belt is torn, burnt, cracked, or damaged.  Below are signs that your belt is getting bad

Non-Functioning Air Condition

If your AC is on yet, it doesn’t blow out cool air; it could be that your belt is bad.

For vehicles using the serpentine belt, try checking it out. If it is cracked or damaged, you should replace it.

For vehicles with a V-shaped belt, try checking the belt that connects to your AC compressor. Replace it immediately if it’s faulty before it affects others.

Squeaking Sound

If an annoying creaking sound comes out from the car’s hood, you might want to check your belt.

The belt might have slipped, been misaligned, or been completely damaged, as you can also see in the video:

If it slips or misaligns, you could realign or tension it properly. But if it is terrible, then you will need to replace it.

No Power Steering

For cars using the serpentine belts. Remember, this belt also powers your steering to work smoothly. The power steering enables you to drive easily without exerting much strength from your arm.

If the serpentine belt is faulty, you will experience difficulty moving the steering wheel to drive your car.

However, power steering issues can also be caused by low power steering fluid. So if you’re experiencing this, try to check if this fluid is at the recommended level.

Overheated Engine

For cars with serpentine belts. This belt helps in activating the water pump, which helps in cooling the engine.

When it becomes faulty, it lacks the strength to activate the water pump. And when this happens, your engine won’t be able to cool anymore, making the engine overheat.

How do you know this? When you see the needle from the temperature gauge moving toward the red zone, act fast.

If you continue like this for too long, it could damage your engine.

Physical Cracks On Belt

The serpentine belt is easily accessible. When you open your car’s hood, it is the belt you see.

To know if it’s faulty, check the belt for tears or cracks. If you see them, then maybe it’s time to have them replaced.

Dead Engine Battery

If you are driving and your car stops, then maybe your engine has died.

The serpentine belts power the alternator, which in turn charges the battery. If this belt is faulty, the alternator won’t work well to charge the battery.

Since the battery doesn’t get adequately charged, it may die. In some cases, you would need to change an entire engine.

Aside from the battery, the alternator also powers your radio, spark plugs, and headlights. So with a faulty serpentine belt, the alternator won’t supply the electricity needed by these components to work.

In a nutshell, if your alternator doesn’t work well, your car will only run for a short time.

Note that a loose belt will also show signs that the belt has snapped. This is because the loose belt won’t be able to grip the alternator pulley properly.

Pulley Whine

If your serpentine belt is faulty, you may hear a cry-like sound from the engine. This sound often changes as the engine speeds change. When this happens, you may have to check the tension of the belt.

If the belt is too tight, the load on each accessory’s pulley bearing becomes too much. And as such causes, these components fail prematurely.

For example, the water pump. One reason it often fails is bearing failure resulting from a very tight serpentine belt.

If you notice the belt is too tight, have it fixed immediately to avoid engine damage caused by overheating.

How Much Does It Cost To Replace An AC Belt?

You will find the V-shaped belt for older cars, which will cost between $25-$50 to replace.

For newer cars with Serpentine belts, the cost varies from car to car. The replacement for Ford might be different from a Toyota.

However, you may spend between $100 -$200 to have it replaced. The cost of the belt may be between $28-$80, with labor costs within $75 – $120.

Another thing that influences labor cost is the accessibility of the belt. If the belt is located where it can easily be accessed, it is way cheaper. But if it is located in a complicated area, then you might be charged more.

If your belt is easily accessible, you can replace it yourself with fewer tools. Yes! You can remove some belts by just loosening a bolt. For other belts with tensioners, you will have to slack the belt with a wrench.

A repair manual for your car will be handy to do this. Please consult it to see if you can do it yourself. But if you can’t, try consulting an expert mechanic.

How Long Does AC Belt Last?

Generally, vehicle belts can last 30,000 – 40,000 miles. But this should depend on the type of belt you use, how long you drive, and the contaminants you expose it to.

The belt’s life span also depends on how frequently you use your AC or defroster.

When Should You Replace Your AC Belt?

For cars with a V-shaped belt, a none functioning AC should let you know. While for vehicles with the Serpentine belt, watch out for all symptoms listed above. This is because you have just one belt controlling all engine accessories.

If it’s completely damaged, please replace it immediately. The belt is one of the cheapest car parts ever. But if left unattended, it can cost you other expensive car parts.

Last Thoughts

Yes, you can drive without an AC belt if you feel you don’t need the AC. However, remember that the AC also helps to reduce moisture in your car. And it was placed there to serve a purpose, even if it can be a bit hard on your fuel efficiency.

If you are using the V-shaped belt, you might not have an issue with other components. But if you’re driving your engine’s accessories with a serpentine belt, then you should be worried.

Driving without the serpentine will affect other car components connected to this belt. Plus, other parts attached to these components will also be affected. Hence, your car will not run smoothly.

Worse, you may end up changing too many engine parts, including your engine. Because of what? Are you really willing to take that chance?

If you’ve got more questions then consider checking our articles on whether you can drive a car without a title, if it’s legal to drive a car without a bumper, or a muffler, and many more!

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