A conversation about timing belts: to replace or not to replace

A conversation about timing belts: to replace or not to replace

Over the course of the past couple of months, with COVID19 keeping more of us at home, it seems that more people are having necessary tasks accomplished: ones that they did not have the time for before.

This month, I will be sharing a conversation I had with Roger, one of our regular readers of this column. He had a question about timing belts and when they should be replaced. I told him that the two factors for replacing this belt was mileage and age. As he did not drive much, mileage-wise his belt should be fine. It was the age of his belt that gave me worry. Still, he elected not to replace it until after he came back from a scheduled road trip. Unfortunately, you guessed it, the timing belt broke during the middle of his trip leaving him stranded on the side of the road.

What does a car’s timing belt do?

Your car’s timing belt is responsible for making certain the valves open and close in time with the motion of the pistons. Timing belt replacement is usually among the higher-priced maintenance items, and for that reason, many car owners postpone its replacement. This can be bad and here’s why. If the timing belt breaks, its failure could cause serious engine damage.

When should I have the timing belt replaced?

Timing belts are made of rubber and over the years, they can become cracked and wear out. When they do, serious engine damage could be the result. That’s why it’s important to replace the timing belt before it slips or breaks. The schedule for timing belt replacement depends upon the make of your vehicle.

Recommended replacement intervals range between 60,000 to 100,000 miles. You can find this information inside your owner’s manual. Your Dealership Service advisors are also pleased to answer any questions you may have about timing belt repair.

Why does it cost so much for timing belt repair?

In most car engines, a timing belt isn’t easy to get at, making it a labor-intensive job. When it comes to timing belt repair, it may be advisable to replace additional parts, like the tensioner, idler arm, and water pump. This is all part of what we refer to as “preventive maintenance.” The purpose of preventive maintenance is to replace a part or component before it fails. The cost to replace a timing belt is much less expensive than replacing an entire engine that fails because the timing belt breaks.

Can you inspect the belt to find out if it needs to be replaced?

No, most timing belts are hidden behind covers and other engine parts that prevent us from seeing its condition.

What kind of damage can occur if timing belt breaks?

The extent of engine damage from a broken timing belt depends on the type of engine in your vehicle.

If it’s an interference engine, the timing belt keeps the values and pistons from smashing into each other. If the timing belt snaps, you’ll end up with bent valves (at the very least), cylinder head or camshaft damage, and possibly damage to the piston and cylinder wall.

In a non-interference engine, the pistons and valves don’t occupy the same space, so they won’t slam into one another if the timing belt breaks. Though there won’t be extensive damage to the engine, you will need to have your vehicle towed in for timing belt repair.

Is a timing chain the same as a timing belt?

Some cars are equipped with a timing chain instead of a timing belt. A timing chain is a fairly maintenance-free component and will rarely need to be replaced. If you don’t know whether your vehicle has a timing belt or chain, you can find the information in your owner’s manual or ask your Dealerships service advisor.

Thank you again for reading. I appreciate your feedback and questions. Please feel free to reach out to me via email: fergusonautobrokers@gmail.com or on my website: fergusonautobrokers.com. If anyone would like to save time or money, I would love to help you with the purchase or lease of your next vehicle. Have a car you’d like to sell? I can also help with that too!