The timing belt is located in front of your vehicle’s engine. It is made of a strong rubber material which includes cords that are nylon-reinforced. That way, the timing belt’s lifespan can be preserved.
While the timing belt is moving inside the motor, it is placed under a lot of stress and tends to wear out quickly for this reason. As a result, you will have to replace the timing belt on a regular basis determined by the car manufacturer.
If you let your timing belt get worn out and you don’t replace it, you can cause a lot of expensive damage to your engine.
How a Timing Belt Works
The timing belt links the camshaft to the crankshaft, which manages the pistons of the engine. As for the camshaft, it is responsible for opening and closing the valves.
Overall, the timing belt makes sure the engine performs the best that it can by controlling the timing of the crankshaft and camshaft.
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 from further damage, shut off the engine immediately once you experience this symptom and there’s a chance you may avoid major engine damage.
Average Cost to Replace a Timing Belt
The replacement cost of a timing belt is dependent on the number of labor hours that were spent on the replacement job. After all, with some cars, it is a lot harder to gain access to some of the components like the timing belt.
For economy cars with small engines, the labor should be cheaper for this because they are easier to disassemble. But if you’re driving an SUV or a truck, they have bigger engines which mean you’ll be paying more money.
The average cost to replace a timing belt will be anywhere from $300 to $500 in total (more for larger cars, trucks, and SUVs). The timing belt itself will usually only cost less than $50 but the majority of a timing belt job is spent on labor.
The cost of the labor will be anywhere from $250 to $450 or more. There will likely be taxes and fees added onto these prices too.
NOTE: It’s often recommended to replace the water pump at the same time while in there since it’s in the same area. It may cost a bit more for a new water pump but you’ll save a lot of money on labor costs if you were to do it later on.
Read also: The Average Steering Column Replacement Cost
When Should a Timing Belt Be Replaced?
A timing belt is one of those things that’s critical to replace according to the auto manufacturer’s schedule. Most often this will be between every 75,000 and 100,000 miles. Check your owner’s manual for the exact schedule for your vehicle.
Replacing your timing belt is not one of those things you can just put off indefinitely. Eventually, the belt will break and you may have thousands of dollars in engine damage. It’s simply not worth the risk.
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.
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 the mechanic and then you are done.