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Installing or removing a serpentine belt is one of those tasks that can really ruin your day.  It’s such a simple task, yet it always seems to take a lot more thinking and grunting than you’d expect.  This tool won’t help you interpret the squiggly little diagram covered in years of grease to figure out how the belt goes in, but it will save you a lot of grunting.

Unboxing

GearWrench’s serpentine belt tool ships in a well-designed molded plastic case that holds all the components in easy view.  Inside you’ll find a specially-designed double-box-end ratcheting wrench, seven sockets, three adapters, three crow’s feet, and a custom breaker-bar-like handle.  There’s also a thoughtfully-laminated card in the top that explains the parts and how they work together for different applications.

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The concept behind the tool is this:  Most every vehicle with a serpentine belt has some type of tensioner that holds it in place and keeps it tensioned properly.  When you remove the belt, you start by releasing the tensioner, which loosens the belt, allowing it to move freely.  Installation reverses the process.  These tensioners often take the form of some kind of rotating arm with a locking mechanism.  What this tool does is give you an easy way to apply lots of controlled force to the arm to rotate it and hold it in position while you perform other tasks.

GearWrench takes the concept even further by adding their great ratcheting mechanism and pass-through sockets.

In Use

We tried out the tool during a serpentine belt installation on our Project Garage Yukon.  The Yukon has a relatively simple tensioner mechanism that consists of a lever arm attached to a rotating disc assembly.  The arm is connected to the outer “slice” of disc, which latches to the inner “slice” via two pins when the arm is in the correct position to apply proper tension to the belt.  A bolt holds the two “slices” in place.

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To remove the belt, you must first loosen the bolt in the center, then tap the two “slices” apart while holding tension on the arm.  Finally, you can release the tension.  Again, installation reverses the process.

As we mentioned, the kit provides a variety of different sockets, adapters, and such to help you hook the included wrench on the tensioner.  One of the sockets fit perfectly, and inserted directly into the ratcheting end of the wrench.  We then attached the handle to the large box end of the wrench.  (The end of the handle features a large hex-ish shaped piece that fits perfectly in the large end of the wrench.)

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As you can see in the pictures, we could easily adjust the handle-to-wrench angle to get the best position and leverage, so it was quite easy to rotate the tensioner into position and hold it while we tapped the two “slices” together.  Then we just tightened the bolt.

Summary/Conclusions

This tool made the normally painful process of installing a serpentine belt an easy task, and that’s about the best praise you can give a specialty tool.  It works very well, spans a wide range of applications, and isn’t even that expensive.

Street pricing starts right around $50, which puts this tool well in the range of the hobbyist and pro alike.

Serpentine Belt Tools [GearWrench]
Street Pricing [Froogle]

 

8 Responses to Hands-On: GearWrench’s Serpentine Belt Tool

  1. James b (tool skeptic) says:

    I dunno about this one. Last time I swapped a serpentine belt I just put my 3 ft pry bar under the alternator that was used to tension the belt. For me anyway, the hard part about a serpentine belt swap is getting the radiator out of the way, not the tensioning.

  2. Chuck Cage says:

    James:

    For what it’s worth, we used this tool to put on and take off the serpentine belt on the Project Yukon at least six times. (It’s a PITA tracking down coolant leaks, and sometimes there’s no way to *really* know you’ve got it right without putting it together, filling it up, and seeing what happens.)

    It’s not that you can’t do the job without this tool. It’s just that this tool makes it painfully easy to do. Which is great when you’ve got to do it over and over again…

  3. Old Donn says:

    You might be able to improvise with a rear wheel drive, north-south engine set-up. But the limited space in most front wheel drive vehicles makes a tool like this a must-have, even if you just use it occasionally.

  4. shawn says:

    I could have used one like this when I was doing my timing belt job. I couldn’t get a regular socket in there to tighten it. I had to use a wrench, but all of my wrenches were to short to reach. I ended up buying a really long wrench but this would have worked too. But at least my 2 foot long wrench is useful for breaking loose stuck fasteners, which is something I wouldn’t use a Gear Wrench for.

  5. DavidtheDuke says:

    Since I’m regularly taking belts off this is almost a MUST considering the amount of time I save. Good thing Snap-On didn’t come along with it first since I’m a sucker for that brand

  6. Teacher says:

    I’m getting ready to replace the belt on my 2005 Grand Caravan. To do so, I have to jack up the van, remove the front passenger wheel, mudguard, tensioner cover, remove/replace belt and put it back together. What a bunch of bull! I can change the one on my Grand Prix in 3 or 4 minutes using a 3/8″ ratchet or breaker bar, but I need an entire garage to do the van. !

  7. Big Daddy says:

    Stupid…

  8. is it just me or do you guys see a lot of other potential uses beside just a serpintin belt changes,i see it being really hand for a lot of stuff?

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