Just yesterday I replaced all of the drive belts on my 1998 Kia sportage because they were old. Now when I start my car I get a little bit of a burning smell, but there is no squealing noise whatsoever. I had a difficult time getting the steering pump belt tight enough, so I suspect it might be that. Except the power steering works fine and there is no squealing noise at all.

My first question is has anyone ever heard of a belt burning but not making any squealing sound? I also just changed my oil and spilled a little bit, so it might just be oil burning off the exhaust, but it seemed to me to have the distinct smell of rubber.

Second, for the steering pump, there is no tensioner and the manual instructions to tension the belt are simply "Rotate power steering pump to tighten belt, then tighten the two attaching bolts." I wasn't able to fit any sort of pry bar in the very small space. It is difficult to access from below because of suspension components, and difficult to access above because of the air conditioning compressor. I got it as tight as I could with my hand as I simultaneously tightened the bolt going through the mounting bracket. The manual says the belt should have 10mm play in it but I probably have 15mm.

My second question is should I try again to re-tension the belt? If so, has anyone worked on a Kia Sportage that might know a trick to getting this belt tight? I spent close to an hour trying to tighten it more before I decided I must have gotten it as tight as it gets. Would it hurt to unbolt the AC compressor and suspend it with a wire so its out of the way and isn't hanging from the hoses? The manual says nothing about removing any other parts that I didn't already remove.

  • Isn't the power steering and alternator ran off the same belt? Mar 19, 2017 at 3:48
  • 1
    @Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 it's three separate belts on those older kias. To the OP how much deflection is there on the PS belt? Spec is 8-10mm
    – Ben
    Mar 19, 2017 at 13:49
  • @Ben I didn't measure it exactly, but its about 15mm or so, definitely a little bit loose on there. I drove it again today some and the smell was less pronounced, but still a hint of it
    – rviertel
    Mar 19, 2017 at 18:34
  • You shouldn't have to remove the ac compressor to tighten the belt, try getting your prybar on the washer for the adjusting bolt. or tighten the lower so that it'll still move if force is applied but won't return under tension.
    – Ben
    Mar 19, 2017 at 18:40
  • Removing the compressor sounded like a bad idea to me so I didn't do it. The manual says very little about the whole issue, but I really struggled to find enough space to get some good leverage on the steering pump. If the smell doesn't go away within the next day or so, I'll give it another go
    – rviertel
    Mar 19, 2017 at 18:57

1 Answer 1


So as a follow up, yes the belt can burn without squealing, but not for long. After two weeks of driving, the belt started squealing when turning sharp or while cornering under acceleration.

To tighten the belt, I found that I was able to snake a piece of nylon string through the wheel well and through a hole in the bracket attached to the power steering pump. I tied the other end of the string to a wrench and had my wife pull on it while I tightened the power steering bolts. Worked like a charm, my belt deflection is now within specification.

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