Car Owners – What You Need to Know About Timing Belts

Timing BeltsMany car parts show the need for repair or replacement during routine service checks or by clear warning signs that something is wrong. However, a worn timing belt is easy to ignore, often showing no symptoms until it is too late, and the belt breaks. This could seriously damage other engine parts and pose a safety hazard.

What is a timing belt?
In simple terms, the function of the rubber timing belt is to synchronize the engine’s workings. It is instrumental in controlling the rotation of the camshaft and the opening and closing of the engine’s valves which let air and gas in and out, and allows the fuel to ignite in order to run the engine.

Inspection of the timing belt by a mechanic:
The condition of the timing belt can be inspected for wear and tear. Mechanics look for worn tensioners and idlers, leaking water pumps, improper tension, or a belt that is covered by engine oil or is full of cracks. In addition, old belts tend to stretch, and a driver might notice a rattling sound or slow power and pick-up.

When is the best time to replace a timing belt?
This can be a tricky question to answer. Your car’s owner manual will tell you the recommended mileage range when a timing belt should be replaced. As a rule the time range is from 60,000 to 106,000 miles. Some cars have high mileage and the timing belt is still intact, although there are many instances when the belt breaks at a lower mileage than the minimum recommendation. A mechanic’s recommendation should be taken seriously if he tells you the timing belt operation is compromised. If it’s not replaced as soon as possible, the car owner runs the risk of having a belt break while on the road, resulting in major, expensive repairs.

Decision to replace the timing belt:
Fortunately drivers have become more aware of timing belts, how they work, when replacement is necessary and what can happen if they are not replaced before they break. Imagine taking your car into a repair shop; the mechanic tells you the timing belt needs to be replaced and that he will do the job for $1,000. If you know some things about a timing belt, you could at least ask why this repair is being recommended. But if the timing belt truly is in poor shape, it’s crucial to get it replaced. If it breaks while you’re driving, it could cause serious damage to your engine because the valves won’t open at the correct time, and will strike and crack the pistons. Also, as a safety issue, having your belt break while you’re cruising down the freeway could result in car body damage or personal injury.

It’s a good idea for all drivers to become familiar with timing belts, how they work, when they should be replaced, and the average cost. It’s a lot more expensive to repair them after they break than it is to do it on a preventive basis. Some knowledge of this engine part will help you to discuss the matter with your auto mechanic and make an educated decision about replacement.