Iowa Snow Drift Busting and the Dreaded ‘S’ Belt
Well, the beautiful, light, powdery snow has officially been replaced by solid ice hardened drifts. And I see some of you brave souls out there have taken to an art form of road travel I also once enjoyed. I will say that again, I ONCE enjoyed it. The proof of your exploits was seen this morning while I was traveling Sundown Road. Quite a significant snow drift had been "busted" by someone traveling the road before me.
Too be honest, I was just fine with it. It provided me with tire tracks to follow, and it had significantly reduced the height of said snow drift. As I mentioned, I used to enjoy this very same experience when I was younger, fool-hardy, and, let's just cut to the point, less than brilliant.
Drift busting can be great fun, but it's dangerous and a big reason why, has nothing to do with getting stuck and a lot to do with a "dead" car via a jammed and derailed serpentine belt. And I should know, having enjoyed the experience in a 1992 Dodge Dynasty back in college on a fairly frigid day. Mind you, the snow drifts were not very high (I was driving in town) but the continual process of having snow pressed up into the "empty" space of the engine housing caused catastrophic vehicle failure.
A serpentine belt, also known as a drive belt, is a continuous belt designed to power various peripheral devices in an automotive engine, including the alternator, power steering pump, water pump, air conditioning compressor, and more. Idler pulleys and belt tensioners are incorporated to guide the belt and maintain a serpentine shape, allowing it to pass over multiple pulleys.
The multi-groove construction enables multiple components the necessary force for multiple functions. However, a significant drawback is the instant loss of critical functions if the belt breaks or becomes dislodged. The result? The loss of essential vehicle components such as the water pump, power steering, and alternator. Basically, it renders the vehicle unusable due to the loss of engine cooling. Long story short, if the serpentine belt stops running the alternator, the battery can’t be charged. As the power depletes from the battery, the car won’t run anymore. Plus, if you try to restart it, there won’t be enough power.
Moreover, the failure of a single accessory component, like a power steering pump or air conditioning compressor, can lead to the entire accessory drive system failing. While a visual warning of guaranteed failure is often provided by dashboard warning lights, the risk of being stranded arises. And in winter, especially these conditions (-30) it can be life threatening.
Once your 'S' belt is derailed or snapped, roadside repairs are challenging to say the least. Have you ever tried to install a serpentine belt, in negative degree weather, and lacking the correct tools? It's no fun and often times impossible to accomplish. But if you like busted knuckles, hours of frustration, and frost-bitten appendages, be my guest and hit that snow drift going 55 at least (please do not do this, heavy sarcasm implied).
So fair warning to you parents, or the adventurous kids and young adults that happen to see this, even if you drive a jacked-up truck, maybe avoid smashing into snow drifts head on. Let the plows do that. Your vehicle and your wallet will thank me.
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