All about the Timing Belt of a Car
A car timing belt is an essential part of the internal combustion engine. It ensures the valves and pistons of a car are functioning properly. A minor fault in the timing belt can lead to a major engine problem if not resolved on time costing you a lot of time, money and energy.
Here is a detailed guide about timing belts, signs of a failing belt, replacement cost and all you need to do to stay on top of your car maintenance regime.
How does a car timing belt function?
The timing belt of a car is a drive belt that connects a camshaft gear to the crankshaft of the car engine. These two parts of the engine remain synchronized because of the rotation of the timing belt. The resulting turns of the crankshaft allow the pistons of the car to pump up and down causing the valves to open and close. These simultaneous reactions of valves and pistons power the combustion reaction.
Also known as a rubber belt, the timing belt is actually made of a composite material. It is further reinforced with nylon thread for longevity and durability. Nonetheless, it is constantly under stress and operates at high temperatures making it impossible for it to last forever.
What happens if the timing belt stop functioning?
A vehicle timing belt maintains the timing of the entire system of a vehicle. The car functions optimally because the time belt ensures everything happens at the right moment. If it stops , the whole car system is likely to fail. A malfunctioning belt will eventually damage the engine.
If a timing belt slips off or breaks while the car is moving, the crankshaft and camshaft go out of sync. Since most modern cars have an interference engine, the crankshaft keeps working in such a situation while the camshaft stops. This means the pistons will rise but the valves will not open resulting in their collision. Ultimately, the pistons or valves will warp, destroying the engine. Depending on the model of your vehicle, repairing the engine can cost you as much as AED 8000. Therefore, it is crucial to keep your timing belt in working condition and replace it when the need arises.
How long does car timing belt last?
Knowing when to replace a vehicle timing belt is quite important. In general, you should replace it after the certain mileage intervals as recommended by the vehicle manufacturer. This interval is different for different vehicles but typically, it is somewhere between 90k to 160k km. The exact intervals after which the timing belt of your car needs to be changed is usually mentioned in the manufacturer manual of your vehicle.
However, sometimes the timing belt of a car may be damaged or broken before the designated time interval. Since neglecting its replacement can result in major damage including engine failure, you are required to change it immediately.
What are the warning signs of a bad car timing belt?
Unfortunately, a lot can go wrong with the timing belt of a car even before a certain mileage is covered. The overheating can damage the belt or the teeth of the gear can crack the inside of the belt. Either way, the belt may break completely or slip off from the gear and cause serious engine damage – something you need to avoid at all costs.
While you must change the timing belt once the distance mentioned by the manufacturer are covered, you will have to determine if it is time to change it even before that. Luckily, there are some warning signs of a damaged car timing belt. Knowing these, you can identify when the timing belt needs to be changed. These signs include:
1. Unwanted Noises
One of the most common ways to identify a problem is to listen for abnormal sounds emanating from your vehicle. You are familiar with how your car engine sounds when it is operating normally. However, when unexpected noises come from under the hood, it is time to take precautions.
A repetitive and sustained ticking noise arising from the engine is indicative of a problem with the timing belt of your car. In case the noise is akin to a spinning roulette wheel, the problem could be with the teeth of the belt as it rotates between the gears.
2. Oil leaks
An oil leak from the front of a motor is usually because of a faulty timing belt. In most cases, it happens when the teeth of the timing belt breaks off and falls into the oil pan beneath it. This can cause the oil pan to clog, preventing the proper circulation of the oil through the vehicle. This may also cause overheating of the engine and serious damage to it. Bad oil pressure can result from this clogging of the oil pan as well.
Find out more on how engine oil works for a better insight.
3. A misfiring engine
When the timing belt wears out, the sync between crankshaft and camshaft goes out. This results in the injection of air/fuel mixture into a chamber at the wrong turn giving an out of sync combustion reaction with the engine further leading to a misfire in that particular chamber. Unsynchronized opening of the cylinder can cause the vehicle to lose considerable power depending on the number of cylinders in your engine.
This means a drop of 25% in the power of an engine with 4 cylinders on that stroke. This is an indication for you to change the timing belt because if it continues to go on for too long, it will end up destroying different engine parts of your car beyond repair.
4. Engine won’t turn over
If the timing belt breaks entirely when you are not driving the car, the engine would be unable to turn over whenever you try to start the vehicle even if the starter motor is engaged. This can happen if you turn on your car when the pressure hits the belt. This is a definitive sign you need to change the timing belt of your car.
5. Rough idling
Rough idling usually happens when the teeth of the belt loosens and are stuck in gears. As a result, you experience vibrations and jerks while sitting in the car. When this happens, it is time to get your car timing belt examined.
Car timing belt replacement cost
Timing belt replacement is a complicated process and may take a lot of time to be done properly. The cost of the timing belt alone is between AED 200 to AED 500 while the replacement cost depends on the make and model of the car. It can range anywhere between AED 1000 to AED 3000 and even more.
Moreover, it is a complicated and lengthy process and will take around 3 to 4 hours depending on the make of the vehicle. Also, if you check any website selling automobile spare parts, you will see timing belts are sold with water pump kits. This is because both the timing belt and water pump are located adjacent to each other and have similar lifespan. A majority of mechanics will replace both simultaneously since it takes a lot of time to get to the timing belt.
Does the timing belt of a car last 30,000 km?
The average lifespan of a timing belt is between 90k to 160k km or 4 to 7 years irrespective of mileage. Anything more than that is usually out of the question because of the wear and tear.
Does a new timing belt improve car performance?
No, installing a new timing belt does not affect the performance of a vehicle. Its purpose is to keep the functioning time in check. Any improvement in the speed and running of the car is either a result of engine service or merely a placebo effect.
Can I replace the timing belt myself?
No, unlike other minute auto repair services such as changing tail lights of a car, timing belt replacement is not recommended as a DIY job. It is a complicated process and incorrect installation can damage the engine in the long run. Therefore, it is better to consult a professional.
Which cars have timing chains instead of timing belts?
Some car models come with a timing chain instead of a timing belt. The most popular among these are Chevrolet Corvette, all Cadillacs, some Toyotas, BMWs and Mercedes, Mazda with Skyactiv-G engine and Honda Jazz.
Check out this listing of a few used cars with timing chains :
This tells you all there is to know about the timing belt of your car and why it should be a part of your car maintenance checklist. Make sure to change it on time or when it gets damaged and your vehicle is good to go.
In addition to the timing belts of a car, you can also buy automobile engine parts to ensure a perfectly running vehicle. Also, if your current car requires too many replacements including the timing belt, check out these used cars for sale to get one at an affordable price.
For more information on car parts, their cost, function and more, stay tuned to the best auto blog in the UAE.