Timing Belts and Why Replacement Is Needed

What does a timing belt do?

Most cars today have timing belts which have evolved from timing chains.  They are called “Timing” belts because, like chains, they keep the camshafts in time with the pistons and crankshaft to keep the valves from hitting the pistons.  Manufacturers started using timing belts instead of timing chains because they are quieter, lighter and overall more efficient than chains.

Why should timing belts be replaced?

Timing belts, like any other belt, wear out.  When a belt wears, it can stretch and cause the camshaft(s) to jump time, or in the worst case, they can break.  Most engines are “interference engines” which means that if the belt breaks internal engine damage will occur.  This is caused by pistons hitting the valves and in many cases requires expensive engine repairs or even replacement.

Where is your timing belt?

Timing belts are under a cover, usually plastic, at the front of the engine.

Maintenance Schedules give replacement intervals

Automobile manufacturers typically give Maintenance Schedules that outline when timing belts should be replaced as well as many other preventative maintenance items.  I can tell you what the recommended replacement interval for your timing belt is if you do not know.  It is not something you want to put off, when a timing belt breaks, your engine stops.  Even if your car has a “free-running” engine, it will at a minimum have to be towed to a repair shop, and if it is an “interference engine” that is just the beginning of the costs.
Preventative Maintenance

The timing belt is one example of why you should do preventative maintenance and follow your manufacturers recommended maintenance schedule.  It is far less costly to maintain your vehicle than to forgo maintenance and incur high expense repairs.