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2006, 2.5 Ltd, 4-Auto
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Discussion Starter #1
Hi All,

Sorry for my ignorance. I tried searching the boards but couldn't find a topic that matched.

A few months ago I had the original serpentine belt replaced on my 2006 OBX (~60k miles). The shop I went to used a third party belt. Almost right away it caused steering problems (heavy, not fluid steering) . I took it back into the shop and one of the mechanics (who was the "subaru guy") said that non-OEM belts have a tendency to act funny. He adjusted it and it solved the problem for a little while (a month), but it soon went back to where it was before -- tight steering, not fluid turning, etc.

Has anyone heard of non-OEM belts causing problems? I am thinking about taking it back in to have them put an OEM belt on. Thoughts?
 

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Lawn ornament XT
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Hi All,

Sorry for my ignorance. I tried searching the boards but couldn't find a topic that matched.

A few months ago I had the original serpentine belt replaced on my 2006 OBX (~60k miles). The shop I went to used a third party belt. Almost right away it caused steering problems (heavy, not fluid steering) . I took it back into the shop and one of the mechanics (who was the "subaru guy") said that non-OEM belts have a tendency to act funny. He adjusted it and it solved the problem for a little while (a month), but it soon went back to where it was before -- tight steering, not fluid turning, etc.

Has anyone heard of non-OEM belts causing problems? I am thinking about taking it back in to have them put an OEM belt on. Thoughts?

This doesn't add up for me. Belts are an old technology, there are a half-dozen brands out there which have been turning out quality product for 60 years and some of them closer to 100.

That said, it's still possible to have a belt of the wrong size installed by mistake, or there could be another issue altogether. I would bet on this last case- the problem isn't the belt. Your problem may have been made more apparent by the installation of a new belt, but I would seriously doubt that the belt itself is contributing to the issue.

You didn't mention any squealing noises in your post- probably the most common problem with belts is insufficient tension, resulting in slippage which typically causes a shrill squeal sound. When the belt slips, not enough power is transferred, and the power assist can take a very irregular feeling.

Overtensioning a belt can also cause trouble, but this is much less common. The trouble usually shows up as premature wear on the steering pump, and eventually that can cause irregular feel at the wheel.

I'd start with having someone check the tension.
 

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03 H6 OBW & 06 WRX Sportwagon
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what brand was the belt? better 'third party' manufacturers often make OEM equipment anyway.

also, on some older models, I've read that disturbing the top-front area of the engine can cause air to be sucked into the power steering pump. Not sure if 06es are prone to that, but it cause odd steering feeling and often a whining sound. Easy to look into PS tank while idling and see bubbles or foam. Sometimes the hose is cracked or new hose clamps or o-rings in a fitting are needed.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Rasterman - The installation or fitting of the belt would make sense, as after I brought it back in, they adjusted it and it solved the problem temporarily. Is it possible that a third party belt would be more prone to slip, etc?

Also, I have not experienced any squealing or abnormal sounds - just steering 'sluggishness/heaviness'.

1 Lucky Texan - Not sure the brand of the belt. I'll check the PS tank and report back.
 

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FWIW, there are many aftermarket choices for a serpentine belt, and, at least in the case of H6 engines, there are some variations in overall length specification. I can't imagine though that it would prove enough to cause this type of problem.
 

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Has anyone heard of non-OEM belts causing problems? I am thinking about taking it back in to have them put an OEM belt on.
Is this an H6 or 4-cylinder?

There's a few recent threads here where aftermarket accessory belts for the H4 haven't fitted properly even though listed for that Subaru in the belt manufacturer's listings. As a result, the tensioner adjusting bolt will come very close, or perhaps even touch, the belt when fully tightened.

See: http://www.subaruoutback.org/forums/66-problems-maintenance/40587-alternator-belt-tensioner-too-close-belt.html#post448992

However, this shouldn't cause any change in the feel of the power steering, unless it's preventing the belt from turning the PS pump, but noise from the bolt rubbing on the belt could lead one to think the PS is noisy and therefore not working as it should.
 

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If H6 - what about the idle pulley problem?
 

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I concur with others that, IMO, aftermarket belts that are of any quality at all will be as good as an OEM Subaru Belt!

In the 40+ years that I have been driving, I have replaced many belts and hoses, most of which were aftermarket and the rate of quality I have experienced has been 100%, in other words, I have NEVER found an aftermarket belt or hose not work properly or in some other way fail on me -- even with a few engines that saw a lot of racing and above-red-line (tachometer) engine screams. :gasp:
 

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Discussion Starter #10
@plaim OM - 4 cylinder

@Saint JVT - what you said makes perfect sense and what makes the "non-oem problem" seem unlikely.

---

So I guess my question now is, what should I do?
1) take it back to shop and have them adjust the belt
2) have them put an oem belt on
3) adjust the belt and have the shop do a full diagnostics of the PS pump. (while the pump isn't squealing, perhaps it's going bad? And further on this, does a PS pump always squeal when its going bad - only 60k miles on it)
 

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Is there ANYTHING visible that looks like it may have been done when they replaced the belt? Have someone sit in the car and steer it back and forth while parked (parking brake on). See if the PS pump pulley stops at all. If by yourself, set a video camera aimed at the pump pulley with good lighting and see if you can detect the pulley stopping.

Also, scrutinize the belt to see if they might have installed the grooves of the belt off the grooved-pulley in some way. Also, look carefully for any other damage that they might have done while they were working on it.
 

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I concur with others that, IMO, aftermarket belts that are of any quality at all will be as good as an OEM Subaru Belt! . . .
The issue that I referred to was not that the aftermarket belts weren't of adequate quality; it was that the particular belt listed for that particular engine was too long. This meant the tensioner adjuster had to be turned up further and that brings the bolt close, or in contact, with the belt.

This is not unusual. Many aftermarket suppliers produce (or buy) a limited range of products, and then list them for different applications as long as they fit.** A belt that is longer than the original, but within the apparent adjustment range of the tensioner would be listed in place of the supplier buying and listiing a belt with the original Subaru dimension which would mean special production, stocking etc. But because the tensioner can handle the extra length doesn't mean it will work well. That was the point in the thread I linked to in my post above, which has photos showing the problem. (Solved by buying an aftermarket belt of smaller length even though not listed for the car!)

** That's why we see aftermarket engine oil spin-on filter numbers listed for use on Subaru automatic transmissions. They fit, and will filter, but the internal design differences can raise questions whether they will perform as needed over the long term.
 

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yeah. actually, my limited experience is that, properly sized and correctly installed CHEAP belts will work fine - but they don't last as long.

And others are correct that there have been belts installed that seem to be too long. They can rub on a bolt IIRC.
Also, if someone unfamiliar with or confused by the tensioner design on the H4 doesn't loosen the pulley and then retighten it after adjustment - they can strip the tensioner 'follower' or cause the pulley to be misaligned.
 

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The issue that I referred to was not that the aftermarket belts weren't of adequate quality; it was that the particular belt listed for that particular engine was too long.listed for the car!)......** That's why we see aftermarket engine oil spin-on filter numbers listed for use on Subaru automatic transmissions. They fit, and will filter, but the internal design differences can raise questions whether they will perform as needed over the long term.
OK, I understand, thank you for clarifying that for me and for others~!

St J
 
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