It is important to inspect and replace the air conditioning belt at recommended intervals. Failure of this belt will not leave you stranded, but it will prevent the air conditioning from working. A belt that is too loose can cause the system not to work properly. While a belt that is too tight can cause major air conditioning parts to wear out prematurely. According to Haynes, the belt should be replaced every 30,000 miles. This job can be performed with basic mechanical skills. You will need to know how to remove the accessory drive belt. A ratchet set, jack, jack stands, and belt tension tool will be required for this job. It is a good idea to take pictures throughout the process to avoid confusion during installation.
How to Check
Raise the hood. The belt is located on the lower passenger side of the engine. It is connected to the air compressor, idler pulley, and crankshaft pulley. Check the belt tension. According to the Haynes manual, the tension for an old belt is 80lbs +/- 20lbs or 125lbs +/- 25lbs for a new belt. The manual states that if you do not have a tension tool, push down on the belt with moderate hand pressure at the midpoint between any of the pulleys. If the distance is 7-11 inches between the pulleys the belt should deflect ¼ inch. If the distance is 12-16 inches the belt should deflect ½ inch. Inspect it for cracks, breaks, deterioration, and any other obvious damage. Start the engine and listen for any squeaks, or squeals coming from the belt. Also look for any slipping or jumping of the belt.
Raise the hood. Jack the right side of the vehicle and secure it on jack stands. Remove the front passenger wheel and lower splash guards. It is always a good idea to disconnect the battery when working under the hood, but it is optional in this case due to the low risk of contact with any electrical connections. The belt can be replaced without removing the wheel and splash guards, but it is more difficult. Remove the accessory drive belt. This is a good time to check and replace it also if necessary. Locate the idler pulley above the air compressor. Loosen the nut on the pulley. Turn the adjuster bolt above the pulley until the belt is loose enough to remove. It is a good idea to take the old belt with you when buying the new belt for comparison. I have had occasions where the incorrect belt was purchased.
The installation of the new belt will be in the reverse order of removal. It is important to set the correct belt tension for proper air conditioning operation and to extend the life of the components connected to the belt.