What Causes Power Steering Belt Noise?

Unexpected noises in the engine compartment can be unnerving and frustrating. There are several reasons for these noises, one of which is issues with the power steering belt.

If you hear chirping or squealing noises in the engine compartment, especially upon startup or when turning the wheel, you are either dealing with a weak or loose drive belt or damaged pulleys or rollers.

Below, you will learn the causes of power steering belt noise, how to address the issues, and maintenance tips to prevent your belt from making noises upon startup.

Power Steering Belt Noise

What is a Power steering belt?

A power steering belt can either be a V-belt or a serpentine belt. It transfers power from the main engine pulley to the power steering pump. In some engines, the same belt will drive other components like the water pump, alternator, and AC compressor.

How Do I Know If My Power Steering Belt Is Bad?

If your power steering belt is worn or bad, you will notice one or more of these symptoms:

Intermittent loss of steering power

One of the common bad or loose power steering belt symptoms is sporadic or intermittent loss of power steering. If your power steering is sporadically losing power, it’s an indication of a slipping or stretched steering belt.

Stiff or hard steering

Another common sign of a loose or bad steering belt is difficulty in turning the steering wheel. If the same belt drives the AC, alternator, or water pump, these other components will also stop working and may trigger a warning light on the dashboard to let you know that something is off.

Chirping or squealing noise

If the belt is cracked, stretched, or too tight, it will result in squealing or chirping noises that will coincide with the engine speed. In some cases, the noise will be too loud when you start the vehicle but will reduce after a few minutes.

Damages on the belt

One of the bad power steering belt symptoms anyone can tell is physical damage on the belt. Generally speaking, cracks on the ribs of a drive belt is a sign that you should replace the belt.

What Causes Power Steering Belt Noise?

Many things such as loose steering belt, wear and tear, misalignment, issues with pulleys, and fluid leaking on the belt are the common reasons you hear steering belt noise upon startup, when turning, or while driving.

The best way to stop the steering belt noise is to first understand the root cause of the problem. In some cases, all you need to stop the noise is to adjust the belt. If you don’t know that improper tension is the culprit, the noise will likely continue even when you replace the belt.

Wear and tear

The most common reason for steering belt noise is normal degradation over time. Because of the friction belts are subjected to, they will develop cracks, become glazed, or stay frayed as they age. When this happens, the belt will start making noise upon startup and as it becomes obvious, you will also hear the noise when turning and while driving.

What are the symptoms of a bad steering belt? Cracks on the belt’s ribs, squealing noise, frayed or glazed ribs are the common signs you have a bad belt.


Replace the drive belt if you see visible cracks or damage on it. Cracks and damages on the belt are a sign that the belt is weak and should be changed.

Improper tension

Serpentine belts should not be too tight or too loose. If the belt is too tight, it will make continuous squealing noise and wear out faster. Also, if the belt is too loose, it will make squealing noises when you start up the vehicle. Depending on how loose it is, it can cause a non-stop squeaky noise once you start the vehicle.

In a worst case scenario, the belt can slip off the pulleys and damage the crankshaft sensor or other components within that area.


Check the belt tension by pressing the longest space between a pulley and a tension or between two pulleys. If the belt is too tight, adjust it to the manufacturer’s specification by loosing it a bit. And if it is too loose, adjust it until it is normal and the noise is no longer there.


Misalignment is one of the easiest ways to damage a serpentine belt. The steering belt has ribs while the engine and other pulleys have grooves, where the belt ribs will sit. If the belt is not aligned correctly with the pulleys, it will not only cause a squealing noise but will cut the belt before you know it.


If the noise starts after changing the belt, you are most likely dealing with a misalignment. Remove the belt and re-align it. That could be all you need to stop power steering belt from squeaking.

Defective pulleys or tensioners

Sometimes the belt noise you are hearing is not because the belt itself is bad. In some cases, it could be the bearings on the pulleys or the belt tensioners are bad. In other cases, it could be that pulley teeth are deformed and need to be replaced.

If you change the belt without replacing the defective pulley or tensioner, the belt noise may stop at the moment but will start again after covering a few miles.


Inspect all the rollers and pulleys to see if they are in good condition. To inspect the rollers, insert one of your fingers into the bearing hole at the center and spin it. If you hear any noise, the tensioner or roller is bad and should be replaced.

You can hold the bearing at the center and play the tensioner. If it wiggles much, the tensioner is bad. Also, take a closer look at the teeth of the pulleys and ensure they do not have any mechanical impact.

Fluid leaks

While not common, the steering belt can make noise due to fluid leaks. If, for any reason, the power steering fluid or the engine oil leaks on the steering belt, it will cause increased friction and heat—which will exacerbate belt wear and noise.


If you suspect there’s a fluid dropping on the belt, visually inspect and check the condition of the belt. Trace where the fluid is coming from and fix it. After that, consider replacing the belt because there is a high chance that it’s weak already and will break at any time.

power steering belt cost

What To Consider When Buying A New Power Steering Belt

It can be challenging to choose the right power steering belt for your car because of the countless options available. But to make your shopping a lot easier, here are the things to consider;


When getting a new belt, ensure you are getting the right size for your vehicle. As an automotive mechanic with over a decade of experience, I can say for a fact that some mechanics use any available belt without minding if it is the right fit.

Sometimes, a mechanic can get a shorter belt and force it on the vehicle because the right size is not available. But the effect is, the belt may be too tight for the vehicle and could result in squealing noise after running for a few miles. In the same manner, using an oversized belt is not good either. It can also result in a squealing or chirping noise. Only get a replacement designed for your car year, make, and model.


Always choose a brand you can trust. Brands with household names will not risk their Solid Gold Reputation by producing a belt that will fail you when you least expect it. These brands produce their belts with quality materials that can stand the test of time.

Cheap brands, on the other hand, are just after the money. They have nothing to lose as they produce their belts with cheap materials, and that’s why they are cheap in the first place.

Final words

To sum up, normal wear and tear and any faulty component in the drive belt system are the primary causes of belt noise and premature wear. Power steering fluid, antifreeze, and oil leaking onto the drive belt will quickly cause the belt to expand and deteriorate. You must repair the leak before installing a new belt. If not, the problem will persist.

Other issues like damaged tensioners, pulleys, and bearings can also be the causes of power steering belt noise when accelerating. While the drive belt fails faster than these components, the belt is not always to be blamed. They could be the reason the belt keeps wearing off.

Osuagwu Solomon

Osuagwu Solomon is a certified mechanic with over a decade of experience in the mechanic garage, and he has over five years of experience in the writing industry. He started writing automotive articles to share his garage experience with car enthusiasts and armature mechanics. If he is not in the garage fixing challenging mechanical problems, he is writing automotive repair guides, buyer’s guides, and car and tools comparisons.

One thought on “What Causes Power Steering Belt Noise?

  1. I am a mechanic and I really gets help from your post on the Facebook when you post and I normal get clear understanding of the diagnostic process and rectify problems in a car. Thanks rxmechanic team for the posts. It’s not a wast but it’s too useful…

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