Full Auto Repair Center
Kwik Kar of Richardson

Timing Belt

Timing Belt

The timing belt is a rubber or metal belt that is found in your vehicle’s engine compartment just behind the drive belts. What a timing belt does is ensure the crankshaft keeps in sync with the camshafts on the car. When it’s working properly, it will ensure proper operation and timing of the engine valves and the engine itself.

The timing belt is something that should be replaced as part of regular vehicle maintenance. Waiting for it to have trouble can cause major engine problems. It’s best to service the belt on a regular basis and not wait until something is going wrong.

What Are Signs of a Timing Belt Issue?

When considering symptoms that may point to an issue with the timing belt, the condition of the engine and other timing components will make a large difference in what sort of signs you may see. Here are some of the more common signs to look out for:

  • Hard time starting whether the engine is cold or hot
  • Gray exhaust leaving the tailpipe in large quantities
  • Problems with idle that lead car to shake
  • Split or frayed belt ends on visual inspection
  • Squeaky tensioner

In addition, for cars with a timing chain rather than a timing belt, there will be other signs that you should watch out for. Visual inspection will not be possible, so take these other symptoms seriously:

  • Poor gas mileage compared to normal
  • Scraping or rattling noises from the front of engine
  • Misfires that cause shaking during idle

When Should I Change My Timing Belt?

In the past, it was suggested that you replace the timing belt every 60,000 miles. However, in modern times, many manufacturers suggest that it be replaced every 100,000 miles instead. Of course, you should check your vehicle manual to see what the recommendation is for your specific vehicle. 

You might also choose to replace the timing belt if you are having other work done that already requires the timing belt to be removed. This might be when the water pump or a similar component is replaced. It’s not a great idea to reinstall a belt that has been used. Getting the timing set again can be complicated and it’s likely the belt will be stretched out. 

What Can I Expect if the Timing Belt Breaks?

When the timing belt breaks, the best-case scenario is that your engine will simply no longer run. The belt breaking means there is no longer a connection between the crankshaft and camshaft. However, the worst-case scenario depends upon the type of engine in your vehicle. 

Engines are broken down into non-interference or interference. With an interference engine, there is more compression as well as power. This makes it common for interference engines to be used in smaller cars. With this type of engine, the pistons in the engine go into the cylinder more than with a non-interference engine. The problem is that this can mean the pistons are not out of the way if the timing experiences problems. 

This can cause damage that includes broken valves and pistons, or it can actually lead to those valves and pistons breaching the engine cover. In some cases, this can lead to an entirely ruined engine.

With that being said, a non-interference engine might be a little less hazardous, but it can still cause major problems. This is why it’s so important that the timing belt is replaced any time that it needs to be.

Can I Drive with a Timing Belt Problem?

It is not a great idea to drive if you believe there is a problem with a timing component in your vehicle. It can lead to the engine failure we mention above. In addition, once the belt is broken, the engine is not going to start until the situation is resolved.

How Is the Timing Belt Changed?

One thing to be aware of is that when the timing belt is replaced, it’s often an excellent idea to also replace the pulleys, tensioner, and water pump. If the tensioners and pulleys fail after the belt is changed, this can cause major damage and much more expensive repairs. However, the water pump is only replaced if it is driven by the timing belt, which it is in many cases.

The first thing a Kwik Kar Richardson technician will do is remove anything required to get access to the cover for the engine timing components. That cover will be removed and the technician will then inspect the pulleys and belts to determine needed parts. He or she will remove the belt, pulleys, tensioners, and water pump and those will be replaced with new parts. At that time, the timing cover and any removed parts will be installed. After this, the engine will be started to check that the timing and operation are where they should be. 

Thank you! Your subscription has been confirmed. You'll hear from us soon.