A timing belt is a toothed belt that connects the engine crankshaft to the camshaft or camshafts as you can see in the picture.
Timing belt or timing chain?
Not all cars have a timing belt - many newer cars use a timing chain instead of a belt. A timing belt wears out over time and needs to be replaced at a certain mileage. A timing chain can last as long as the engine itself and doesn't need to be replaced unless there is a problem with it. If you don't know if your vehicle has a timing belt or a chain, you can check your owner's manual. If you don't have an owner's manual, many car manufacturers offer to download it from their websites. Here is the link: Where to download an owner's manual. You also can call your local dealer service department or ask your mechanic - they have this information. We also have this information for many cars in our used car reviews section.
When a timing belt must be replaced?
A timing belt must be replaced at recommended by the manufacturer intervals, usually from 60,000 miles to 105,000 miles (from 96,000 km to 168,000 km). You can find the recommended replacement interval in your owner's manual. In addition, the timing belt must be replaced if it has any damage like cracks (see the picture), cuts, or if it is soaked in oil leaking from the engine, or if it shows any signs of excessive wear. If not replaced in time, the timing belt can break. If you are approaching the mileage for a timing belt change, or if you bought a used car and you don't know if the timing belt has been replaced, it's good idea to have your mechanic to inspect the timing belt condition.
What happens if the timing belt breaks?
If a timing belt breaks, the engine will no longer work. If a timing belt breaks while driving in an interference engine, the camshaft stops turning leaving some of the engine valves in the open position. The heavier crankshaft will continue to rotate by inertia moving pistons up and down. This will cause the pistons to strike the valves that left open. This may result in a heavy damage to the engine with broken or bent valves, damaged pistons and, possibly, destroyed cylinder head and block.
Timing belt replacement cost
The cost to replace a timing belt may vary from about $200 to $750 depending on a model. Often your mechanic may recommend replacing a water pump or some other parts, such as, a tensioner, seals idlers, etc. along with the timing belt; this obviously will cost more. You can just call your local dealer service department or a repair shop for an estimate.
Q: How can I set the timing belt
A: When the timing belt is replaced, the new belt must be set according to the timing marks so the camshaft(s) will be precisely timed with a crankshaft. Each vehicle has a way to align the timing belt with the camshaft(s) and the crankshaft. In some cars, the intermediate shaft or the balance shaft must also be aligned with a camshaft and the crankshaft. If you don't have the service manual, one way to set the timing is to mark the position of all sprockets with the old belt still installed and then use those marks to set the new belt properly. Of course it's best to use the service manual, as it has all the diagrams. If you cannot find a service manual for your vehicle, you can quickly get an access to an online service manual, for example at ALLDATAdiy.
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