Cars have more than 10,000 parts ensuring they stay operational for many years.
Some components you understand you’ll have to replace from time to time. You replace motor oil, windshield wipers, and tires on a routine.
But what about a timing belt? (Sometimes referred to as a timing chain.) How much do you know about timing belts? Or what the maintenance schedule looks like?
The more you know, the better prepared you’ll be to recognize the warning signs of a timing belt failing, and what you should do along the way.
What is a timing belt?
Every internal combustion engine has a timing belt. It synchronizes the rotation of the crankshaft and the camshaft(s), ensuring that the engine’s valves open and close properly during the engine’s operation.
The timing belt is typically made of rubber with high-tensile fibers, and it is driven by the crankshaft and wraps around the camshaft(s), keeping them synchronized with the crankshaft.
Timing belts are crucial components of an engine, as they ensure that the valves open and close at the correct time. This prevents collisions between the valves and the pistons.
If the timing belt breaks or slips, the engine may stop working or suffer serious damage, so following the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule to replace the timing belt is essential.
What function does the timing belt play in a car’s operation?
The timing belt plays a crucial role in a car’s operation by synchronizing the rotation of the engine’s camshaft(s) and crankshaft. The camshaft(s) control the opening and closing of the engine’s valves, while the crankshaft controls the movement of the pistons.
The timing belt ensures that the camshaft(s) and crankshaft are in the correct position, so that the valves open and close at the right time with the movement of the pistons. This is important because if the valves are not properly timed, they can collide with the pistons, causing severe damage to the engine.
Regular maintenance, including replacement of the timing belt according to the manufacturer’s recommendations, is essential to prevent potential damage to the engine and ensure reliable performance.
Signs a timing belt is failing
Luckily, a timing belt rarely fails without warning signs of a potential problem. Listen to your car – is it making noises? Take a whiff – do you smell something that’s not quite right? Your vehicle provides lots of guidance – if you pay attention.
Manufacturers recommend replacing the timing belt every 30,000 to 120,000 miles, depending on the make and model. Manufacturers base this engine performance and driving conditions, which change in every situation. Start by checking your owner’s manual. Then pay attention to your car, especially if you start to notice:
- Engine misfires – A worn or damaged timing belt can cause the engine to misfire or run erratically, leading to poor performance and reduced power.
- Ticking noise from the engine – A ticking noise from the engine can indicate that the timing belt is loose or damaged and is not properly controlling the opening and closing of the valves.
- Difficulty starting the engine – A worn timing belt can cause the engine to struggle to start or not start. This is because the belt may have stretched, causing the engine to be out of sync.
- Oil leaking from the engine – A damaged timing belt can cause oil to leak from the engine, which can be a sign that the timing belt needs to be replaced.
- Visible wear or damage – It is time to replace it if you can see signs of wear or damage to the timing belt, such as cracks, missing teeth, or fraying.
When should you replace a timing belt?
The timing belt is a critical component in a car’s engine, and it is essential to replace it before it fails. The manufacturer’s recommended replacement interval for the timing belt varies depending on the make and model of the vehicle. It can range from 30,000 to 120,000 miles or 5 to 10 years, whichever comes first. It is essential to refer to your car’s owner’s manual to determine your vehicle’s recommended replacement interval.
It is generally recommended to replace the timing belt as a preventative maintenance measure before it reaches its recommended replacement interval. This is because a failed timing belt can cause severe damage to the engine, resulting in expensive repairs.
If you notice any signs of a failing timing belt from above, you should have it inspected by a qualified mechanic as soon as possible. Additionally, if you purchase a used car and do not know the service history of the timing belt, it is recommended to have it replaced as a precautionary measure.
Should you replace your timing belt yourself?
In most cases, the answer is: No. The timing belt is complicated to replace and is often in a place that makes it difficult to service.
Special tools are often needed to install a timing belt correctly. Plus, other parts may need replacement while installing a new timing belt. Aligning the camshaft gears with the crankshaft gear should follow the manufacturer’s specs. Even if a gear is one “tooth” off, it has the risk of running rough.
And that could be detrimental to the overall operation of your vehicle.
When the pros replace the timing belt, they often replace things like the drive belts, water pump, change the motor oil and filter, and flush the cooling system. It all depends on the timing belt’s location and what makes the most sense for your vehicle.
What condition is your timing belt in?
Those 10,000 parts go through a lot each day.
- They take on the hottest days and the snowiest conditions.
- They hit potholes, speed bumps, and road construction.
- They drive to work, sit in the carpool line, help you run errands, and sit through miles of traffic.
Each moment impacts your car differently. How is each part still working together?
The only way you’ll know is through regular servicing.
It’s the one way one of our trained mechanics can determine if each part on your vehicle is still working together.
How well is your timing belt working? If you have any questions, bring it in for an inspection.
We’re here to help keep you driving, regardless of road conditions.