|Drive belt cover removed to show the power steering|
& alternator belt (left) and air conditioner belt (right)
|I don't believe drive belts are supposed to look quite like this...|
Getting the right replacement belt was harder than the replacement itself. My understanding from much consultation with the Internet tubes is that the generic aftermarket belts from auto parts stores don't quite fit right compared to the OEM ones, and unlike most parts debates across Subaru forums, almost everyone agrees on that point. I drive right past a Subaru dealership on the way to work, so figured I'd stop in and that their service department would have something like that in stock, but alas, they "were at the warehouse," already closed for the day--and come Monday, the same tech greeted me with the same line he'd given me a few days before: "Oh, I've got some bad news on those belts... they're at the warehouse." Yep, closed for the day again, too.
The delay pushed back the repair until after I got back from a trip to Vegas with my sister (that's a long story involving a skinny ginger git from Harry Potter and worthy of its own blog post). Facing a commute to the office with a seriously-deteriorated belt, I decided to tackle the job before going into work.
|Under the hood with the belt cover still in place|
|Bolts which need to be loosened to remove the power steering & alternator drive belt (red circles)|
Before you get too far and wonder why the belt doesn't seem to be getting any looser, here's something my service manual neglected to include: notice the third bolt (center right, above)? You have to loosen it as well so that the alternator can pivot as you adjust the long bolt on the left; a half turn or two is all it should take. I had to really lower the alternator to be able to get the old belt out and the new one in, running that long bolt nearly all the way out.
While you've got the power steering and alternator belt out of the way, you should go ahead and replace the air conditioner belt, too, as belts tend to show similar wear, and you can't get to the a/c belt without first removing the power steering one. The tensioner is similar to the one for the power steering and is located just to the left of the air conditioner compressor (the thing with the big pulley on the right of the image above).
Once the new belts are in place, just reverse the process you used to loosen the components and relieve the belt tension in the first place. The belts should be tightened until they displace about a quarter of an inch under firm pressure, something you can measure by putting a straightedge between the pulleys and then pushing the belt down with one finger while measuring the distance it moves down with a small ruler (easier said than done). Don't forget to tighten the bolt which allowed the alternator and compressor to pivot down.
I did the change-out in about 10 minutes before going to work one morning, so it should be easy for anyone to accomplish. No special tools are required--just a socket wrench--and the parts aren't particularly expensive (both belts together set me back around $25 from a local Subaru dealership). Replacing the belts eliminated my car's squeak, smoothed out the steering system, and should be good for another 90,000 miles or so.