Timing Belt Replacement – How to Know and When to Replace It

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In the last decade, more people in Inverness are keeping their cars longer instead of trading in for a newer model vehicle. We also are buying older, used cars for teen drivers to save money as well.

Keeping cars longer usually equates to operating them at higher mileage points. One “must do” service operation that all car, truck, and vehicle owners need to know about is timing belt replacement. Knowing about timing belt replacements here in Inverness will, at a minimum, save you from unexpected breakdowns and in the extreme can help you avoid thousands of dollars in repair costs.

Without getting too technical, one of the crucial things to know is whether the engine in your car is considered an interference engine or not. The synchronization between two internal engine parts (the crank shaft and the cam shafts) is accomplished with the help of the timing belt. In the process of these two parts moving, the valves open and close in proximity to the pistons.

This constitutes an interference engine, because if the timing belt jumps a tooth on the sprocket it rides on or the belt fails altogether, the valves and pistons will “interfere” with each other.

If the belt breaks, this “interference” will cause major damage to your engine. The repair costs for this on older vehicles will often exceed the value of the car. On the other hand, a car with an engine that is not configured this way (not an “interference” engine) will simply lose power or will not start. While this is more desirable than huge repair costs, it is best to be avoided.

Obviously, preemptive replacement of the timing belt is the best policy altogether. It is not a question of “if the timing belt will break,” but rather “when will it break.”  Since the timing belt is only partially visible even if the timing cover is removed, replacement is determined by age of the vehicle (or time since last timing belt replacement) and/or miles of vehicle.

So how do you know when to replace your timing belt?

General Rule

It’s important that you inspect your timing belt regularly to ensure that it’s in proper working order. This small part is critical to your engine running properly, and if it breaks the results can be catastrophic.

Your timing belt should be replaced every 60,000–100,000 miles, depending on your car’s make and model. Also, make sure you understand if your engine is an interference engine or a non-interference


Symptoms of a Bad Timing Belt

If you have a bad or worn out timing belt, the following are symptoms that may occur. Once you experience one or more of these symptoms, have a certified auto technician or mechanic inspect the timing belt and then replace it if necessary.

1. Rough Idling of the Engine

There are teeth on timing belts which grip gears as they’re rotating various engine parts and components. If these teeth ever start falling off or become brittle, the timing belt will start to slip away from the gears.

Once this happens, the teeth will fall directly onto the gears and form a jolt in the engine. Worst of all, the engine will begin to stall because the camshaft timing is off.

2. Misfire of the Engine

The fire rate of the engine could be jeopardized from the timing belt being worn out. If the timing belt were to slip away from the gears and fall onto the camshaft, one of the cylinders will open and close too soon.

If that happens, an engine misfire could occur which means the belt needs to be replaced right away. If you don’t replace the belt soon; the engine could be permanently damaged.

3. Smoke from the Engine

If it is wintertime and cold outside, it may be hard to tell if the vast amounts of smoke coming from your tailpipe are actually harmless steam or water vapor. But if you see too much smoke that looks unusual even for the winter, then it might have to do with a timing belt problem.

The top of every cylinder has two holes which are responsible for letting out the exhaust and letting in air. The opening and closing of these holes are synchronized with how the cylinders move and how the camshaft rotates.

If you have a worn-out timing belt then this will become unsynchronized, which means that exhaust will be let out and air will be let in at inappropriate times. The result will be lots of smoke coming out of your exhaust system.

4. Oil Pressure Decline

The timing belt spins the gears of the camshaft. If the timing of the belt is off, it can skip and break off pieces of the camshaft. Some of these pieces might fall into the vehicle’s oil pan, resulting in the oil pressure to drop in the bottom of the engine.

This will cause the engine to fail altogether. The only way to recover from this is to rebuild the entire motor.

5. Pistons or Valves That Are Broken

The worst symptom you can experience is having the timing belt cut off or broken completely. If this is the case, the crankshaft will end up turning on its own and not be in sync with the motion of the camshaft.

Once this happens, the piston will come in contact with the valves as they open. This could end up bending the valves or damaging the piston.

If you want to prevent your engine from further damage, shut off the engine immediately once you experience this symptom and there’s a chance you may avoid major engine damage.

Importance and Benefits of Replacing Timing Belts at the Right Time

Your timing belt helps run many fundamental parts of your car, including the vehicle’s engine, alternator, air conditioner and power steering pump.

To confirm your vehicle’s recommended timing belt replacement interval, you can check your vehicle’s owner’s manual, or simply call IT Garage Services to have an expert look into your car.

Replacing your timing belt will provide you and your vehicle with many benefits, including:

  • Improved horsepower and acceleration
  •  Increased gas mileage
  • Prevent unexpected and/or more costly auto repairs

Timing Belt Replacement Process

Unless you have a lot of auto repair experience, a timing belt replacement is not an easy DIY job and should be handled by a professional mechanic from a trusted auto repair shop in Inverness like IT Garage.

The mechanic needs to gain entry to the timing cover of the engine by removing various accessories. After removing the cover, the mechanic will analyze the timing belt and its pulleys to see what is in need

of replacement.

At this point, he will begin to remove the timing belt and replace it with a new one. They will likely replace the pulleys, tensioners, and water pump if they feel it is important to do so.

Once all the new parts are in, he will put the timing cover back on and any other parts that were removed. Now that it is all put back together, it can be tested with the start of the engine.

Is the engine running like it should? Is the timing of the engine good? If the answer to both of these is yes, then you are in good shape. Pay your IT Garage mechanic and then you are done.

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