Most people have probably heard of the timing belt when it comes to their vehicle.  However, many people do not realize the vital role that the timing belt has in the operation of the vehicle’s engine.  In this blog, we explain the purpose of the timing belt, signs to look for when there are problems, the importance of timing belt replacement, and guidelines to follow for preventative maintenance.

What is the timing belt and what does it do?

Think of the timing belt in your vehicle as a lengthy, somewhat rigid, and notched “rubber band” that synchronizes the engine valves to open and close.  The term timing belt is derived from its purpose of supporting the movement of the camshaft and the pistons.  Some vehicles may use a timing chain to perform a similar function. 

If the timing belt is unable to keep the valves open and closed in parallel order with the camshaft – the engine will experience total and possibly catastrophic failure.  This makes the timing belt a very important component of your overall vehicle’s safe and effective operation.

What signs indicate a timing belt problem?

Over time, the timing belt can wear down or break.  There are some signs that may indicate a problem with the timing belt that should not be ignored.  The following are some of the more common signs:

  1. Ticking Sound:  If a timing belt is beginning to wear out, you may hear a ticking sound coming from the engine.  It is advisable to have this checked out by the certified auto technicians at Campus Auto Repair right away, because a worn timing belt will eventually break.  If it breaks during operation, there will be serious damage to your engine.
  2. Engine Misfires:  If the engine misfires, this could be a sign of a failing timing belt.  A worn belt can contribute to the loss of synchronization of the valves opening and closing, and result in an engine misfire.  If this is happening, have your vehicle checked by our auto repair shop in Ft. Collins, CO, right away.  
  3. Engine Does Not Turn Over:  If the timing belt is already broken, the engine will not start when you turn the ignition.  Depending on when the belt broke, there may be other damage to your engine.  

The timing belt is an internal component of the engine and requires a significant amount of time, money, and labor to replace.  Unfortunately, because of the timing belt location in the vehicle engine, it cannot easily be inspected for wear and tear.  

If you notice signs of a worn or broken timing belt, consider yourself lucky, especially if there was no additional damage to the engine. 

When does a timing belt need replacement?

The timing belt is subject to wear and tear because of the constant motion and heat during vehicle operation.  Additionally, the timing belt is comprised of synthetic rubber materials that are exposed to oil and dirt that may break down the rubber fibers. 

While replacing a timing belt can be expensive, the cost of replacement is a lot less than the cost of dealing with an engine failure.  The average lifespan of a timing belt is about 60,000 to 100,000 miles.  Each vehicle manufacturer may suggest a different timetable, so make sure to check your owner’s manual.

If you have questions or concerns about your vehicle’s timing belt, call or stop by Campus Auto Repair to schedule an appointment for a full-service inspection and recommendations for timing belt replacement.