My family owns a new 2013 Dodge Caravan. We bought it this summer. Lately, as the winter cold has set in, each time we start the car in the morning, it makes this god-awful screaming noise. The mechanics at the dealership said that it's no big deal, that's it's only moisture on the fan belt. We're still nervous though. A brand-new vehicle, or any vehicle should not be making noises like that. We live in Canada, and the temperature lately ranges anywhere from -10 Celsius to -30 Celsius. I've read on several forums that a car screaming on a cold start is due to a loose fan belt. However, all the questions were from people with older vehicles, and ours is only a few months old. That and the dealership mechanics never said anything about a loose fanbelt- they only mentioned the fan belt being wet. Does anyone have any thoughts? Any advice would be much appreciated.
As stated, this is most likely a slipping serpentine belt, but there could be other reasons besides moisture on the belt causing this problem. This is especially true if this is happening every day. The problem can also be caused from a weak tensioner pulley (the part which keeps the belt tight). I know this is unlikely, considering it's a new vehicle, but it is also unlikely that the belt should be slipping in the first place. Serpentine belts are very efficient at what they do. Something else to consider is there may be a small power drain at play, like a light left on inside the vehicle. This would cause an extra load on the alternator upon start-up until it catches up with electrical demand.
At the temperatures you are talking about, any moisture on the belt should be frozen and would fall off as the belt moves upon engine start. Even if it does squeal, this noise should be very short lived (no more than one to two seconds). (NOTE: So people who do not live in this cold of an environment understand, most cold climate places like this do not use ice-melt as the temperature there is cold enough to freeze this as well. Sand is used to aid in traction. Due to this, any moisture on the belt or anywhere on the vehicle would be frozen.)
Something else to consider is you are not obligated to use the dealership where you bought the vehicle (assuming this is the case). If there is another Chrysler/Dodge dealership in the area, take it there and get a second opinion. This should be covered under warranty, so should cost you nothing but your time. It has been my experience new vehicles do not squeal. For it to continually do this upon start-up is abnormal. You will not have moisture on your belt every morning you go out to start the vehicle, no matter what the outside temperature. Something is making the belt slip, that's for sure.
Well, they didn't lie to you. Which is a good start. I don't know anything about how cars behave in that temperature range, but I do know that that sound is made by a slipping fanbelt.
This is a typical case of the serpentine belt slipping. In the very cold the efficiency of the battery drops off. When you start your vehicle the alternator has to deliver the load on the system. The extra load caused by the cold battery causes the slip. It would be made worse by a moist serpentine belt.
Check with your dealer if a updated belt is available, more slip resistent, or, a belt made for your geographical region.
One other thing to ask the dealer to check: the alternator pulley. These days, they have a one-way clutch in them, that is supposed to reduce belt vibrations and improve smoothness. If it seizes up (or in your case freezes!) it will make the engine shake and sound like a tractor. On the other hand, if the clutch in this pulley fails (not uncommon) it will scream it's little lungs out. A brand new vehicle shouldn't scream, period.