Let’s face it; there are literally hundreds of moving parts in a car that allow it to run smoothly on the streets. A timing belt is a crucial component of a car that keeps the car’s engine in sync by controlling the timing of the camshafts and the crankshaft. It’s made out of rubber.
So, it’s prone to wear and tear with age, which means that it requires periodic replacement. The bad news is that a timing belt doesn’t offer any kind of warning sign, alerting you of a timely replacement. It might simply break in the middle of a road trip, causing you unexpected trouble along the way.
Therefore, it’s important that you consider a timing belt replacement as a necessary part of your regular car maintenance schedule.
Do All Cars Feature a Timing Belt?
Not all cars feature a timing belt, especially not the modern ones. The timing belt has long been replaced with a timing chain, which is more maintenance-free. Not to mention that a timing chain usually lasts for the entire lifespan of a vehicle, barely requiring a replacement in between.
For you to know whether or not your car comes with a timing belt, you will have to check the owner manual. Alternatively, you can have a word with the car dealer to know if your car features a timing belt or a timing chain.
This communication can be conducted during your next periodic visit to the auto repair shop for an oil change or something else. Generally speaking, the cars manufactured prior to 1985 come with a timing belt.
When Should you Change the Timing Belt?
As a general rule, most car manufacturers recommend vehicle owners to change the timing belt every 60,000 to 80,000 miles or four years, whichever comes first. Only a few lucky people can afford to go over a little and expect no harm to their cars.
That said, the interval is much longer for the cars of today, which is to say that the advancement in technology has raised the bar over here. Many modern cars won’t need a replacement timing belt up to 1,00,000 miles.
For you to know the exact interval, you will have to check the owner manual that comes with the car.
In scenarios where the owner manual is lost, you would have to take the car to a repair shop. A skilled technician will help you figure out the suggested interval for changing the timing belt in your car.
How Much Will I Pay For The Timing Belt Replacement?
The timing belt repair or replacement cannot be done on a shoestring budget. The timing belt for a 4-cylinder engine can cost you anywhere between $300 to $750, depending on the place you get the job done. Keep in mind that the timing belt by itself doesn’t cost much. It’s the labor cost that creates a dent in the wallet.
|Midas||$320 – $550
|Your Mechanic||$300– $600
|Pep Boys||$400 – $750
|Goodyear||$350 – $700
Not to mention that the cost can shoot up to $1500 if the water pump or any surrounding part is already affected by the time you take your car to a local mechanic. What’s also worth highlighting is the timing belt replacement for older cars would be cheaper than the modern cars.
The reason being, modern cars are pretty tight around the engine area, making it difficult for a car mechanic to reach the timing belt. Needless to say, this drives up the labor cost.
What Are the Symptoms of a Failed Timing Belt?
Truthfully speaking, naïve drivers usually fail to catch the signs of a bad timing belt, which is to say that they unknowingly allow the worse to happen. The fact that it can break during normal operation, you should pay attention to the symptoms discussed below, which may be an indication of a bad timing belt.
If your car has covered thousands and thousands of miles and you are having issues starting the engine, or you notice some clicking sound coming from the engine, you should fix an appointment with a car mechanic to see if there’s an issue with the timing belt.
Upon experiencing any of these issues, you should ideally shut off the car’s engine to prevent further damage to the car.
What Can Go Wrong if the Timing Belt Breaks?
As expected, it will cause damage. But then, the extent of damage would depend on the type of engine configuration you have; interference or non-interference. In the case of an interference engine, you can expect the engine to be severely damaged as a result of a broken timing belt.
This also means that you will have to drop a lot of money for extensive repairs. Only in extremely rare cases, no damage is possible by some stroke of luck. If it’s a non-interference engine, the engine will stall, limiting the damage in the process.
Ideally, you should not allow the timing belt to break from old age, or else it will tear down your engine.
What Else Should be Changed When Replacing the Timing Belt?
Some other components will have to be repaired or replaced when changing a timing belt. Usually, the water pump, timing belt tensioner, and the front engine seal are also replaced because they fail by the time a car has done enough mileage to experience wear and tear on the timing belt.
Basically, anything that’s worn out should be replaced simultaneously to avoid extra labor charge that usually goes into treating the affected part in isolation. For instance, if the water pump is left to be treated for another time, the second round of labor would be needed for its replacement, which is to say that you will end up paying twice for the labor cost.
Can You Replace a Timing Belt on Your Own?
If you are a mechanically-inclined person, it will prove to be an achievable feat for you. You can refer to the car manual that will explain to you the procedure to carry out the replacement. For some cars, it’s a fairly quick procedure of two to three hours.
But in vehicles that have limited space between the engine and the frame, installation of the new belt won’t be an easy feat. There would be many parts that would be blocking your path. Seriously, you will have a hard time unscrewing some nuts and bolts.
Not to mention that it also takes a bit of expertise to set the timing belt correctly. So, replacing a timing belt is not everybody’s cup of tea.
Timing Belt Replacement Procedure Discussed:
- A mechanic will begin by disconnecting the cable from the battery.
- Then, he will remove the drive belts, hoses, or pulleys that may come on the way.
- Once the mechanic gains access to the belt, he will inspect its condition.
- If a replacement is needed, a new belt will be fitted in the place of the former timing belt.
Important Information: Keep in mind that the functional lifespan of the timing belt coincides with other engine parts such as the pulleys, tensioners, and water pump. Therefore, these parts will also be changed along with the belt itself. So, don’t think that the car technician is trying to rip you off by suggesting that you change these parts at the time of belt replacement.
Final Words About Belt Replacement
Most of the timing belts last long. However, they cannot be taken for granted. The key is to not miss the service schedule because they may not provide any indication of when they are about to give up on you. So, don’t wait for a catastrophic engine failure to alarm you of a failing belt.
Change the timing belt when the makers suggest, even if your car engine is running absolutely fine. Basically, the best time to change a belt is before it fails. It may not be a cheap job, but it’s worth it to keep your car running smoothly for long.
- Do All Cars Feature a Timing Belt?
- When Should you Change the Timing Belt?
- How Much Will I Pay For The Timing Belt Replacement?
- What Are the Symptoms of a Failed Timing Belt?
- What Can Go Wrong if the Timing Belt Breaks?
- What Else Should be Changed When Replacing the Timing Belt?
- Can You Replace a Timing Belt on Your Own?
- Timing Belt Replacement Procedure Discussed:
- Final Words About Belt Replacement