An Easy Serpentine Belt Upgrade For Your Engine

Concept One

Whether your engine is dressed for show or if it is all business, it is equipped with a pulley and belt system to spin accessories such as air conditioning, power steering, the water pump, and alternator. Even if your engine runs with bare essentials like just the alternator and water pump, it still needs pulleys and belts. Accessory drive belts are typically something you don’t give much thought, unless they are squealing or they break.

V-belts

When a belt “squeals,” the noise is created by vibrations, much like that of a guitar string when it is played. This squeal could be an early warning sign of an impending belt failure. Since your engine’s belts are made of reinforced rubber, they will inevitably stretch over time. This stretching causes the need for frequent tension adjustment. If not properly adjusted, as the belt slips on the pulley, it creates heat. This heat causes a glaze to form on the belt, which causes it to slip even more. When the belts glaze and slip, you have no recourse but to replace them.

When it comes to our classic cars, depending on how many accessories there are to operate, the engine is equipped with anywhere from one to four V-belts.Tension-Drawing With the V-belt design, belt tension is created by individually adjusting each accessory. The problem with tensioning the belts in this fashion is that the tension generated can be too tight, resulting in damage to the accessory. Also, all rubber belts are prone to vibrate (they create a standing wave). This standing wave travels the belt’s circumference, and as it travels, it eventually arrives at the pulley. When it reaches the pulley, if not given enough tension, the wave allows the belt to momentarily raise off of the pulley, and the belt’s tension is reduced, causing it to slip.

Sometime in the mid-’80s, Chevrolet stopped using the V-belt drive system, and adopted the serpentine belt-drive system. This system uses a single belt that is flatter and wider than a traditional V-belt to drive the water pump, alternator, P/S, and A/C.

When using a serpentine belt system, all of the accessories that are being driven are fixed, they do not adjust in order to tension the belt. In this system, there is typically one spring-loaded tensioner located somewhere in the system that the belt travels over. The benefit of a spring-loaded tensioner is that it instantly compensates for the standing wave vibration, and maintains belt tension.

tensionerWhen serpentine systems first appeared, not only did they look strange and bulky to classic car guys, they were expensive. Today, modernizing a classic car has become mainstream, and the serpentine system is not only widely accepted, it is almost a necessity when building a custom car. Concept One is a company that was founded by Randy and Kevin Redd. They have been building serpentine systems for Chevy and Ford vehicles since 2001. The company was founded on the premise of developing high-quality components for enthusiasts. We were impressed with what we saw in regards to the Concept One kits, so we decided to install one ourselves, to see just how easy it really is. According to Kevin Redd, “There are several reasons to convert from V-belts to serpentine belts. Serpentine systems are much cleaner looking, are easier to maintain, the belts get better grip, and are more efficient. Not to mention they tend to be quieter and last longer.”

Concept One's Victory Series (left), and the Basic Series (right)

Concept One offers their systems in two designs: the Victory Series and the Basic Series. The Victory Series is their top-of-the-line system, and this single-belt design utilizes the best components the aftermarket and OEM has to offer. It is available in several finishes ranging from simple anodized to polished aluminum, and it fits systems with an alternator, A/C, and P/S. 

The Basic Series is a dual-belt configuration that combines the performance of serpentine belts with a traditional dual-belt design. The Basic Series is a compact kit for use with just an alternator, or alternator and P/S.

The first thing to do is install the 3-inch-long water pump studs. They go roughly ¾-inch deep into the block. Do not use an Allen wrench or a jamb nut to tighten them. Instead, use blue Loctite or an equivalent thread locker to seal the holes to prevent the studs from loosening.

All kits are CNC-milled from 6061 billet aluminum, and are available in either a raw or polished finish. Each kit comes complete with an Edelbrock aluminum water pump, a P/S pump, alternator, all brackets, an A/C compressor, a remote P/S pump reservoir, Goodyear Gatorback belt(s), and chrome-plated hardware. To say that these kits are all-inclusive is an understatement.

The A/C compressor and alternator and P/S pump brackets slide over the new water pump studs and attach with the supplied 1 ½-inch flat-head bolts. All water pump mating surfaces need to be free of debris, old gasket material, paint, and grease so that the O-rings in both brackets can properly seal to the block. This kit does not use gaskets.

Before assembly can begin, you need to remove the old V-belt system. Fortunately, the small-block engine we are using to install the kit did not have any belts or pulleys on it, so that step was easy. One thing we did have to do was remove the stock water pump. The Concept One kit is designed using Edelbrock’s reverse-flow water pump, and since that is the case, they supply the pump with the kit.

The Edelbrock water pump will work properly without modification. Make sure that the O-rings are installed in the brackets, and then slide the new water pump over the studs. Now, thread the hexagon standoff nuts to secure the water pump.

Both the Victory and Basic Series’ feature Concept One’s overdrive technology. It essentially reconfigures the pulley ratios to increase water flow and electrical system charging at idle and slow speeds.

The crankshaft pulley installation is really straightforward, and mounts with the socket-head bolts supplied in the kit.

The crankshaft pulley installation is really straightforward, and mounts with the socket-head bolts supplied in the kit.

IMG_0123

Water pump pulley installed.

Before you mount the P/S pump to the driver’s side main bracket, you must place the spacer as shown in the photo group below. Be sure to run the pump mounting bolts through the pump and spacer, and then into the main bracket. We learned that it is easier to attach the P/S pump pulley to the pump after you physically mount the pump and reservoir to the bracket that is already attached to the engine; this way, you can easily access the mounting bolts.

Concept One uses GM-style alternators from Powermaster for their kits. They are CS130 style with a 6.14-inch straight mounting pattern. While Powermaster offers great alternators, it’s nice to know that a factory GM unit can be installed if trouble arises when traveling. The alternator does not come with the alternator fan and pulley attached, so you will need to purchase those separately.

Mounting of the pump.

IMG_0131

The alternator bracket is installed next. This is done by way of an alternator spacer and five socket head bolts.

To mount the alternator fan and pulley to the alternator’s shaft, you need to slide the fan and pulley onto the shaft, and then torque the alternator-shaft nut to 65 ft-lb of torque. Make sure to use the lock washer and a thread locker like Loctite when tightening the nut. After you torque the nut to spec, install the nose cover and make sure that it is fully seated on the pulley.

You will need to install the alternator fan and pulley assembly to the alternator before you install the alternator to the bracket.

Moving on to the A/C bracket on the passenger’s side of the engine, the compressor arm bracket is mounted to the engine via one of the water pump standoff nuts, and three 3/8-inch socket head fasteners. One thing that we need to mention, is that any bolts that are screwed into aluminum parts, such as cylinder heads or other brackets, should be coated with anti-seize to prevent galling.

Install the A/C compressor bracket next, and then the Sanden A/C compressor.

With a serpentine belt system, the belt is kept taut with a single spring-loaded tensioner. With a multiple V-belt system, each unit must try to tension each belt individually. By using a spring-loaded tensioner, belt and accessory life can be drastically longer than when using a V-belt system.

The spring-loaded tensioner gets mounted to the compressor arm bracket using the supplied 3/8-inch flange bolt.

Connecting the A/C hoses to a Sanden compressor requires a specific connector bulk head system. To make the hose connection easy, Concept One designed and includes this A/C compressor manifold in the kit. The manifold allows the connection of a standard A/C line with -8 and -10 female O-ring style fittings.

The Sanden SD7 A/C compressor is the standard in aftermarket automotive air conditioning. The kit comes with the compressor, and the refrigerant oil is installed by Sanden at the factory. That means there is no need to add oil when you get your A/C system filled. By using an over-the-counter compressor, if it ever needs replacing, a quick trip to the auto parts store is all that is required.

We’re almost finished with the installation. All we need to do is install the P/S pump pulley, and the belt. The Gatorback belt is also a standard over-the-counter belt that you can get at almost any auto parts store—replacement does not require a special-order item. Once your installation is complete, always check and retighten all bolts, and recheck belt tension after an initial break-in period.

All Three

Concept One wants to make sure that everyone who wants to upgrade their engine is included, so they have Victory and Basic Series’ kits for small-block, big-block, and LS-series engines, which means that anyone can have their accessories, and drive them, too.

Article Sources

About the author

Randy Bolig

Randy Bolig has been working on cars and has been involved in the hobby ever since he bought his first car when he was only 14 years old. His passion for performance got him noticed by many locals, and he began helping them modify their vehicles.
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