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Old 11-08-2010, 05:47 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Question Newbie questions - changing serpentine belt on 2003 Echo

My wife and I recently bought a used 2003 Echo, and I am starting to catch up on a bunch of maintenance that the previous owner may or may not have done. This is the the first car I've ever owned, so I am learning as I go along. I've done a few basic things like changing the oil, filters and spark plugs, and at our last safety inspection the mechanic mentioned that we should change the serpentine belt.

I have the Toyota repair manual for the 2002 Echo, which I'm assuming is more or less the same, and it makes it look like changing the belt (which it calls the air conditioning drive belt) is a fairly simple procedure. Here's what happened when I tried it this afternoon:

The belt tension is released by undoing the pivot bolt (12 mm) on the bracket just above the alternator and then by turning the adjusting bolt just underneath the alternator. I could undo the pivot bolt easily, but tried for about 20 minutes to turn the adjusting bolt and simply couldn't. Here are my questions:

  1. There are two bolts underneath the alternator - a 14 mm one, and another one a bit lower and farther back that I couldn't quite access. Should I be trying to turn the 14 mm one? The diagram in the manual isn't very clear here.
  2. Overall, there doesn't seem to be very much space at all in the serpentine belt region. Should I be doing everything from above, or should I be removing some access panels? There is so little space in there that I had a lot of difficulty getting a socket wrench onto the adjusting bolt.
  3. Speaking of space, I can barely get my hands down between the gaps to touch the belt. Can I really remove and replace such a long belt with so little room to work? Again, nothing in the Toyota manual about removing the engine.
Any help here would be great! I am a little nervous about simply using as much force as I can muster, as the limited space means that I can only use a 1/4" drive socket wrench and there isn't much leverage at all.
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Old 11-14-2010, 11:07 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Any luck?

Hey, doc_ido. Have any luck with the belt? I'm going to attempt to change mine this week and found this thread.

I also found something on wiki.answers.com that might answer your question. Mentions the 3rd bolt below the alternator.

"Loosen (do not remove) the two bolts above the alternator that are attached to the metal bracket that allow the alternator to slide (the alternator is attached to the topmost pulley that the drive belt touches, it is at the top front passenger side of the engine compartment). There is a 3rd bolt below the alternator, slightly difficult to see, loosen it using the 14mm wrench, it is often difficult to turn, I recommend penetrating oil and a breaker bar, you only need to turn it a little bit to allow the alternator to pivot. Once all three bolts are loose, you can easily rock the alternator back and forth (same procedure is used to tighten the drive belt). You want to push the alternator back to remove the belt."
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Old 11-15-2010, 07:59 AM   #3 (permalink)
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No luck so far! I saw that wikianswers thread and tried it again this weekend, but the 14 mm bolt it still too stiff to move. I'm starting to think I'll need a specially-shaped box end wrench or something.

I used some WD40 on the adjusting bolt, but I think the problem is that I just can't get enough leverage with only a 1/4 " drive socket wrench.
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Old 11-15-2010, 09:18 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Try some "PB" penetrating spray (better than WD-40 for this) and slip a pipe over the wrench for max leverage.
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Old 11-15-2010, 01:06 PM   #5 (permalink)
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PB is good stuff -- still, not good enough so far. I've been trying this morning to turn the 14mm alternator bolt and have nearly stripped it. Not good!

It's hard to reach, and hard to get any leverage. Just be sure when you think you feel it turning that it isn't the bolt head stripping...
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Old 11-18-2010, 03:05 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Victory is mine.

Hey Doc, I managed to find just the right tool to make the job easy (relatively easy.) It's from Harbor Freight Tools, and it's their Serpentine Tool Kit. Really, it's the long 15" bar you can stick a 14mm socket on and easily get to the bolt underneath the alternator (the pivot bolt.) Gives you soooo much leverage that you'll be amazed -- I nearly cried out of joy. $16.

Here's a pic of the tools I used to finish the job of changing the belt.

Steps:
1. Put the 14mm socket on the 15" serpentine tool and remove the alternator pivot bolt entirely. Add anti-seize to that puppy and reinstall, leaving it loose enough to allow it to pivot.
2. Loosen the two 10mm bolts above the alternator (the sliding bolt and bracket bolt that holds the slide in place.)
3. The belt is easily loosened by moving the alternator. Take it off, but take note of how it fits on.
4. Install new belt, making sure it's seated properly. It's a little difficult to reach some of the areas it has to snake around, but take your time and position yourself however you need to in order to see what you're doing.
5. Adjust position of alternator (bringing it forward) to remove the belt slack. Should be around .3" slack, if you know what I mean. A new belt will be tighter than one that's been in use for even five minutes. .5" slack for used belt. Tighten all bolts at this point. I started with the sliding bolt, then the bracket bolt, then the alternator's pivot bolt.
6. Make sure you've gotten your tools and things out of the way, double-check the belt tension and start her up.

This did not completely fix my squealing problem -- it may be my water pump bearings, though it seemed to rotate without issue while the belt was removed. Oh well, I'm just happy to have conquered the bolt from hell, without completely stripping it.

Hope this info helps!
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Old 11-19-2010, 08:30 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Great info Squidink, thanks! Unfortunately we already took the car to our local mechanic as we have to do a long trip this weekend and don't want to risk the belt breaking - they had to lift the whole assembly out and get an acetylene torch on the bolt to loosen it! I'm glad it's done, though $120 vs. $15 is a little hard to think about...
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Old 11-19-2010, 12:15 PM   #8 (permalink)
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at least...

Hey, at least it's fixed, right?

Did that get rid of the squeal?
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Old 11-21-2010, 08:28 PM   #9 (permalink)
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There wasn't any squealing or anything - the belt was just wearing out (cracks on both sides) and was due to be replaced. We haven't noticed any reduced noise since the new one was installed though.
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