What Is a Timing Belt and When Should It Be Replaced

The timing belt is a rubber belt alongside the engine belt that synchronizes the actions of the camshaft and crankshaft to keep your valves safely moving and your engine running. In older vehicles, the timing belt may be a chain. But the purpose is the same, and it is vital for the functioning of your car. Learning about what belts do and when they should be replaced will help in keeping your vehicle running while avoiding costly breakdowns.

The Function of a Timing Belt

The timing belt keeps the camshaft and crankshaft turning at the correct rate. The crankshaft moves pistons up for compression and exhaust cycles, while the pistons move down for power and intake cycles. Depending on the vehicle make, a timing belt will also run the water pump, oil pump, and injection pump. The camshaft controls the opening and closing of the valves for intake and exhaust. The valves must open at the correct time to allow fuel to enter the chamber and then close to allow for compression. If the timing cycle is off, fuel may not enter the cylinder or could escape through an open exhaust valve. If the valves are not fully closed during compression, the majority of the engine’s power will be lost.

Replacing a Timing Belt

Every manufacturer has a different timeline for when they recommend you replace the timing belt. However, newer cars can usually go 100,000 miles before the timing belt needs replacement. Older vehicles may need it replaced at 60,000. Depending on your car's make and model, replacing the timing belt by a professional can cost hundreds. That's why it's good to know the signs of a bad timing belt so you can save on your budget.

Symptoms Of a Faulty Timing Belt

Faulty timing belt symptoms include a loss of power, loss of fuel economy, misfiring, and engine vibration. Timing belt noise is one of the most noticeable indicators of potential belt failure. If your vehicle has a chain instead, it may make a lot of noise if it is loose. If this chain breaks, you will often hear the crack. Nowadays, most vehicles are using belts, so you are less likely to hear when it becomes loose or cracks. Belts can create a mild chatter sound but nothing in comparison to the sounds of a timing chain.

It is essential to know as well if the water pump goes wrong, the timing belt will usually need to be replaced as well. This is because most often the belt has to be removed to replace the water pump. When you are replacing a timing belt, you should consider having the water pump replaced at the same time.

Depending on what type of engine you have, a broken timing belt can cause bent valves and camshaft damage. You can spend hundreds or even thousands to repair the damage, or you may have to replace the whole engine.

Can I Replace the Timing Belt Myself?

You can replace the timing belt on your own, but it's not an easy task. It requires some mechanical knowledge and specific parts. However, if you have these skills, you can save a lot of money. Buying just the parts and doing it on your own will cost significantly less; the parts are usually around $200.

If you're not confident in your abilities, better contact your trusted mechanic, if you make a mistake during the replacement, you could end up with costly problems.

It is recommended to replace the belt as shown in your vehicle owner’s manual. Just follow this guideline, and your vehicle will last you longer.


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