Your timing belt is an integral part of keeping your vehicle running smoothly. A timing belt – sometimes called the timing chain or cam belt — is the part of your engine that synchronizes the rotation of the crankshaft and the camshaft(s) so your engine’s valves open and close at the correct intervals during each cylinder’s intake and exhaust strokes. Without this notched belt, the engine can’t run.
Two types of engines use timing belts, interference engines and non-interference engines. The difference between the two is the nearness of valves to pistons. On an interference engine, even a slip by one notch can cause significant engine damage. In contract, non-interference engines shut down when the timing belt breaks and you are stranded, but there is a less chance for massive damage.
Good belts can last 100,000 miles, but in Arizona, where extreme heat takes a toll on rubber belts and hoses, it is better to replace more frequently. We suggest checking your owner’s manual for your specific vehicle for its recommendation and conferring with a trusted mechanic prior to the recommendation to review the condition of your belt. If you’re manual says to change at 45,000 miles, for example, we suggest checking with a mechanic at 30,000 miles to be safe.
Failure to take care of this important part of your car can result in several expensive repairs, such as replacing bent valves or blown gaskets — repairs that can be triple the cost of replacing just the belt when it needed to be. Replacing a timing belt for preventive reasons typically costs $500 to $900. However, replacing a broken timing belt may cost up to $2,000 or more if it also caused damage to the valves, pistons or water pump.
- Checking your timing belt for wear or looseness will let you know if the belt may likely break soon or if it may possibly jump a notch. We recommend a qualified mechanic do the inspection.
- A slapping sound coming from your engine, could be the result of a loose timing belt, which is hitting the plastic timing belt cover. To determine if your timing belt is loose, ask your mechanic to check its tension.
- Belt wear is like tire wear. As the rubber belt becomes worn, it will lose traction and slip or break, possibly causing extensive valve damage.
- Cracks in the rubber, shiny or glossy appearance on the underside or flecks of rubber building up are all indicators that it is time to replace the belt.