What is a Timing Belt?
A timing belt is a rubber belt with teeth that helps the engine operate smoothly by linking the camshaft(s) and crankshaft. The camshaft is a spinning shaft that helps with the proper timing of the valves inside the engine to open and close. Meanwhile, the crankshaft helps the pistons move up and down. Connecting the camshaft to the crankshaft with a belt keeps the two assemblies in sync. That way, the valves open and close at the correct time.
It’s worth noting that not all cars have a timing belt. Some have a timing chain (or in rare cases, a set of gears) instead.
How does it break?
The timing belt breaks most often due to lack of maintenance. The timing belt will wear and tear over time because it is made of rubber. When the engine is extremely hot, it causes the belt to naturally lose its strength and texture which results in a snapped belt. As such, the timing belt should be replaced in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommended service schedule. The information is outlined in your car’s owner’s manual.
Another reason for breakage is water pump seizing, which is caused by a lack of coolant system maintenance. When the water pump seizes, it causes the gears to instantaneously come to a halt which will automatically cause the belt to snap.
How do I know it needs to be replaced?
Some common signs that indicate replacement are:
- Dealer recommends replacement based on time and mileage
- Water pump leakage
- Engine cranks, but doesn’t start
- When the belt is cold at start up, a ticking sound will occur from the timing tensioner, but will then disappear when warm
- Timing tensioner leakage
- An engine misfire and rough running
How much does it cost to replace and why?
The cost of a proper timing belt replacement can cost between four hundred dollars to over a thousand dollars. Timing belt replacements can take several hours, based on the intensity of labor. It is also highly recommended to replace the water pump, serpentine belt, timing tensioner and several seals also as those parts are time and mileage sensitive and will save you money on labor costs in the future. The overall cost will vary, depending on the parts you replace. Using dealer recommended parts or going with the lesser option of using aftermarket parts is another factor which affects pricing.
What happens if I don’t replace it?
The timing belt can become more expensive if it is not replaced. If the timing belt snaps, the vehicle will have to be towed. The results of a snapped timing belt can cost thousands of dollars. Also, the valves can bend and ruin the engine, which can result in engine replacement.
Is it different on any car?
The difference is whether or not your vehicle is equipped with a timing belt or a timing chain. The timing belt operates the same in any vehicle. The timing belt is belt-driven while the timing chain is chain-driven.
Can I replace them by myself, or is there something else I can replace it with?
It’s highly recommend to have your timing belt replaced by a professional technician or mechanic. Proper tools, skills and knowledge are needed. If the replacement is not done properly and the timing is off on the vehicle, it can result in engine damage and be more expensive in the future. The timing belt cannot be replaced with alternatives.
How can I save on the replacement?
The best option to save money now is to replace just the timing belt. If you are replacing the timing belt and other recommended parts, choose to use aftermarket parts rather than manufactured parts.