2014 SLP Panther Camaro: Roadside Repair
February 26, 2014
So, this happened. But what, exactly, is this, and what happened?
Here's the situation. There I was, driving our long-term 2014 SLP Panther Camaro on side streets in Orange County.
The car sounded a rather urgent chime. I instinctively lifted and looked down to the display in the instrument cluster to see this:
Sure enough, the coolant temp gauge was pegged. Fortunately, the road on which I was traveling at the time had ample street parking, so I immediately swung the big coupe alongside the curb.
Upon reaching a halt, the engine ran roughly for a second before quitting. I attempted to restart it (idling allows the coolant to keep circulating...assuming there's still coolant to circulate) but it wouldn't start. It was then that I took the lead photo.
Popped the hood and half-expected a geyser of steam, but no such thing happened. Instead I found the serpentine drive belt shredded and shoved into one side of the engine bay.
Okay, so that explains the overheating warning. With nothing to drive the water pump, the ECU saw that coolant temp was rising faster than it liked and threw up the alert. That the alert was raised in less time than it took for the belt to make a complete departure and stall the engine suggests to me that true overheating never actually occurred, only that the potential for overheating is what triggered the alert. Especially since the overflow bottle hadn't puked a drop of coolant.
So there I was. Stranded. Call AAA? Hell no, I don't give up that easily. Besides, this is an easy fix. All I needed was a new belt. And some basic hand tools. Of which I had none. Hmm.
It turns out I was only about four miles from Specialty Cars, a shop which has been instrumental in a couple of our project cars. I rang the owner, John, and asked him if he wouldn't mind terribly running a ratchet and a socket rail out to my location so that I could move the belt tensioner. Endlessly helpful, John immediately dropped everything and headed out to my rescue. John is good people.
Another silver lining here is that a major auto parts store was located, I kid you not, about two hundred feet from where the Panther was parked. That never happens. I grabbed the shredded belt, headed over and bought a new belt. John showed up minutes later and we popped the new belt on.
In the process, I discovered what caused the old belt to be chucked off. The alternator pulley was loose. Bingo. Belts will walk right off of loose pulleys. In yet another silver lining, the nut that secures the pulley had backed off a few turns but was still in place. Had it flown off and bounced down the road like it should have, the pulley would have made a similar hasty exit from the Panther and I'd have been pretty much boned.
Anyway, the alternator shaft needs a T50 torx bit to properly secure the nut, and that's not something any rational person would ever in ten thousand years bring with them anywhere. Instead I spun the nut down by hand, installed the belt and then gave the nut as much torque as the tensioned pulley would hold.
Started it up and it ran fine. After giving the alternator nut a proper tightening at home later that day, I drove the Panther to San Diego and back with no issues whatsoever, and it ran the same as it always has.
It's not clear yet whether the (aftermarket) alternator pulley simply wasn't fully torqued at SLP in the first place or if there's something else more nefarious afoot.
Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor @ 4,248 miles