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What Should I Know About Timing Belt Replacement?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 04 November 2016
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The most important thing to know about timing belt replacement is that it is not an optional piece of car maintenance. Having the timing belt replaced at recommended intervals is critical to the smooth operation of a car. At the very least, a failed belt can put a car out of commission until a new one can be installed, but in some types of engines, it can cause a catastrophic engine failure, which is definitely undesirable.

Timing belts are used to coordinate the crankshaft and the camshaft in a car. These toothed belts coordinate the opening and closing of the valves in the engine to keep it running smoothly. The timing belt design is built to last, with sturdy rubber and reinforcing metal strips, but eventually the belt will wear out, and the engine will not be able to function. Timing belt replacement is ideally performed before the timing belt fails. Some cars use a timing chain or timing gears instead of a timing belt, in which case their maintenance recommendations are a bit different, depending on the car.

As a general rule, timing belt replacement should occur every 60,000 to 100,000 miles (96,561 to 160,934 kilometers). Different manufacturers have their own recommendations, making it advisable to consult the owner's manual for a vehicle. If the owner's manual is not available, a dealer or mechanic should be able to provide information about when the timing belt needs to be replaced.

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When the timing belt is replaced, the mechanic also replaces the tensioner, a device which keeps the timing belt tight. Many mechanics also recommend replacing the water pump, because the water pump is linked to the timing belt, and it tends to wear at about the same rate. The procedure does not take very long, although in cars with cramped engine compartments it can be difficult due to the limited room to work. Skilled mechanics can perform timing belt replacement at home.

Some cars have what is known as an interference engine, which means that the valves and the pistons share the same space. When the timing belt is operating correctly, the pistons and valves cannot contact each other. If the timing belt breaks, however, they can collide, causing serious and very expensive damage to the engine. For cars with interference engines, it is especially important to perform timing belt replacement on a regular basis before it fails. In a noninterference design, replacing the timing belt when recommended is still important for the longevity of the car, but a breakage is unlikely to destroy the engine.

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Sporkasia
Post 3

I know several people who have replaced their own timing belts. And these were not people with tons of mechanical knowledge. For this reason, I think DIY timing belt replacement is a viable cost-cutting measure for many people.

I have not tried this repair before, but after reading this article and several others I feel confident enough to try replacing my own timing belt. I am going to download some step-by-step instructions so I don't get lost or mess something up.

Drentel
Post 2

To save a little money, I sometimes do repair work on my own vehicles. I don't do this as much anymore, but when I was younger I was always trying to cut corners on car repairs. One thing I learned about car repairs from trial and error is never to attempt to replace a timing belt unless you know what you are doing, or you are working with someone who knows what he or she is doing.

Timing belt replacement cost can be expensive, but you are better off paying up front and having the job done the right way. The alternative is likely to be much more expensive in the long run.

Feryll
Post 1

My sister was driving her car back to college after having spent the holidays at home with our parents when we got a big surprise. Her car had recently been serviced and as far as she knew the vehicle was in good condition. About halfway back to campus she heard a loud noise coming from under her hood and then the car locked up.

She was able to get off of the road, and eventually a tow truck came and carried the car to a garage. Later that week she got the bad news. Her timing belt had broken and when it broke the entire engine was ruined.

I can remember she had to get a new motor

, a new water pump and of course she had to replace the timing belt. I think there were some other repairs, but I can't remember exactly what they were. Before then, she had never heard of a timing belt and she had no idea she needed to have it changed before it wore out. This was a very expensive lesson for her.

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