Understanding the Importance of a Timing Belt

The timing belt is a critical component of the engine that all drivers should be aware of. If the belt snaps, the valves will begin to open and close at the wrong time. The engine will run, but the pistons and valves will not be in sync, which can lead to serious damage to the engine.

Like any rubber belt, the timing belt must be replaced periodically. As the rubber gets older, it becomes more brittle and may snap. If this happens while the engine is running, the timing belt fails and the pistons and valves may collide, which can cause engine damage. The timing belt should be inspected at regular intervals (usually every 20,000-30,000 miles) and replaced when necessary.


What is a Timing Belt?

The timing belt is a rubber belt that loops over the top of the engine, typically between the camshaft and the crankshaft. It is responsible for controlling the opening and closing of the valves; in this case, the intake and exhaust valves. It also synchronizes the opening of the valves with the rotation of the crankshaft.

Over time, the timing belt will break down. This is due to the heat that is generated during the combustion process. Unlike a chain, which can be removed and replaced while wear is occurring, the timing belt must be in place while the engine is running. If the timing belt breaks, the valves will not be synchronized with the pistons and the engine will not run smoothly.


Timing Belt vs. Timing Chain: What’s the Difference?

Timing belts and timing chains are both used to synchronize the opening and closing of valves in an internal combustion engine. The engine will not run if the timing is not correct. The two parts also perform a similar function in that they help to distribute the power from the crankshaft.

The primary difference between the two is that timing belts are made of rubber, while timing chains are made of metal. Also, timing belts need to be replaced at regular intervals while timing chains do not. When the timing belt is replaced, it should be replaced with the same belt to ensure proper placement. 


Tell-Tale Signs That You Need to Replace Your Car’s Timing Belt 

In some instances, your car’s engine may run smoothly even though the timing belt has worn out. While this can be an inconvenient problem, you may be able to ignore it for a while. If you experience any of the signs below, however, it is time to see a mechanic:

  • Reduced engine power;
  • Overheating;
  • Vibrating or shaking;
  • Problems starting the vehicle; 
  • Squealing noises; 
  • Ticking noises;
  • Oil leaks; 
  • The engine light is on;


Why Timing Belt Replacements are Expensive

Besides being inconvenient, timing belt replacements are expensive because they require the removal of the cylinder head and the valve cover. The timing belt must be replaced at the same time the valve cover gasket is replaced.


The Bottom Line: Why You Need to Pay More Attention to Your Timing Belt

A broken timing belt may not immediately cause major damage to your engine. However, if the timing belt breaks while the engine is running, there is a chance that the pistons and valves will not be in sync. 

A misfire can lead to serious engine damage, which can be costly to repair. Therefore, it should be inspected at regular intervals and replaced when necessary.


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